Clean Up In The Center Aisle

I will share this story with you now so that I might dispel any notion you may have that I am perfect, so that you might feel better about your own short comings. Or maybe I just need to confess.

If there is a single struggle that defines my life (and oh if only it were just ONE) it is the constant inner-battle between wanting and not wanting stuff.  Within the space of two seconds I can swing between feeling sickened and burdened by the sheer volume of my stuff to wanting more of it.

So then, the other day I was at Wal-Mart and I was not in a fine mood.  I was just sort of feeling mad at everything for no particular reason.  My cart was all wobbly and really annoying and that was making me mad.  I didn’t like the way my jacket fit and that made me mad.  People were in my way and that was making me mad.  They didn’t have the two things I specifically went to the store to get and that made me mad.  Like Little Critter, I was just so mad. I probably had those two little squiggly vertical lines above my head that you see in cartoons.

But mostly what was making me mad was that everything just seemed really expensive and that was energizing the Want Team.  The Want Team are a bunch of bullies really. They taunt me and poke their bony fingers into my tender self-esteem.  And they are a pack of liars too.  Meanwhile the Not Want Team was off snoozing somewhere.  Like some sort of bulimic shopper, I put stuff in my cart only to talk myself out of it and take it out two aisles later.   Which then made me feel resentful and sorry for myself, and you guessed it, mad.  (Sorry Wal-Mart employees for the Rubber Maid containers, lemon zester and Christmas placemats you found in with the women’s socks.)

Weary of the battle, I gave up and decided to head towards the checkout with my coffee and few other things and head home. As I headed down the big center aisle toward the front, I looked up from my dark cloud to see a young woman pushing a cart towards me.  In the seat of the cart was a little girl.  An older woman walked alongside her, perhaps her mother.  The woman pushing the cart was radiantly happy.  She was enjoying her little girl and chatting happily with her mother.  She was not taking stuff in and out of her cart like a crazy lady, stuff that would ultimately rot away or be eaten by moths.  She was not mad.  She was not mad at all.  She was a picture of  joy.

As I passed her I tried not to stare at her Prednisone-puffed face or the tell-tale dew rag she wore on her bald head.

I wanted to cry.  Not so much for her, but for me, for my sorry state of being.

I offered up a prayer for her as she passed, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing that she was to me, for being the slap in the face that I needed in just that moment.  I prayed that God would look upon her with favor and restore her completely.

I went to the store for groceries, but left with what I really needed — a cleansed perspective.

Chalk one up for the Not Want Team who rallied from behind — thanks to the lady in the dew rag.

34 thoughts on “Clean Up In The Center Aisle

  1. Your gift of painting vivid word pictures has allowed this post to rattle around my brain ever since I read it, AM. (I couldn’t respond initially, seeing as the one-fingered typing required while breastfeeding drives me loopy.)

    There is so much grace in the world. Lord, open our eyes that we might perceive it.


  2. Thank you so much for writing this. Most of us…except for my mother in law…struggle with the want team. She does much better than most, maybe because she was a navy wife for 30 years and moved often. When stuff gets broken by the movers it’s sad and lots of paperwork. I work on wanting/not wanting on a daily basis, for there is very little that I need, and I want for none of those things. My husband and the Lord (not necessarily in that order) have taken care of that.

    The part that really touched me was the young woman and her mother. I just returned my mom to my sister after a 3 week “visit”. Mom has Alzhiemer’s and lives with my sister. I just gave her a break for a while, and returned mom so she could keep a cardiac appointment. Mom and I don’t share or have meaningful conversations anymore. Sure we talk, usually a conversation we’ve already had, maybe 5000 times in the last 10 years. Most conversations lead back to the past, since mom no longer has a present. I still call her mom, but really my mom hasn’t been around in years. I sure wish this lady would give me my mom back. That seems to be my biggest want…that and I’m jealous of others who still have there moms. Yeah, sorry this post is a bit of a downer. Guess I just needed to get that all off my chest.

    I do so enjoy your posts and perspectives. We’re all blessed by what God says to us through you.

    * * *
    Alzheimer’s is the cruelest of all. So sorry for the oddly shaped void it has left in your life.


  3. I feel you are a metaphor for modern society. Stuff, stuff, stuff, is the message, which we love, but also have just enough self-knowledge to hate. You are a microcosm.


  4. Sometimes that “Not Want” team just sneaks up and gives you a good wallop upside the head. Gotta go now, need my hankie.


  5. By now, I should know better than to read your posts at work!!! Tears streaming. Thanks for re-aligning my perspective and strengthening my “Not Want Team”….it needed reinforcements today.


  6. My wife helps me keep things in perspective.

    Just the other day, I was feeling crappy about my bad day.

    And she had a case in her ER. The young man had been feeling “bad” for a while. Felt “worse” today, so he went to the ER, “just in case.”

    He had metastasized cancer in both testicles. Worse, when they put him under for surgery, he died from an undetected brain lesion that went blewie.

    To sum up: work up with the “flu,” went under anesthetic thinking he was going to lose his wedding tackle, and then DIED.

    No – I have not had a bad day all month.


  7. Thanks for the lesson that we all need to be reminded of…
    (I love litte critter…we used to play the game…where’s mouse with our son, Sean!)


  8. Oh dear sweet AM…thank you for the reminder that we are SO SO fortunate! Your gift is a blessing to so many. But for today….thank you for reminding me that prayer for others really benefits US!!!


  9. My pastor’s sermon Sunday morning was about how taking every thought captive is worship. I think that leaving random stuff in women’s socks qualifies as captive, even if the not want team seemed to be down. I struggle here too, wanting Him to be my focus instead of the stuff, and the wanting, and the fight to keep Him first. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It is encouraging.


  10. 🙂 I love that you have your eyes open to the gifts that God strews on your path daily. . .little bread crumbs of love and reality and truth that you so generously share with us. Thank you.


  11. “… bulimic shopper…” INDEED!

    My want and not want struggles sound much like yours. I can tell when I’ve sunk to new levels (in my own inner struggle) when I start to think about people I know who are “good christians” who have more stuff than I do. As if I could begin to justify my wants that aren’t even remotely needs… Lord help me.


  12. Oh my friend, you are so NOT the person you accuse yourself of being. This post proves it. Most people would have just moved along, feeling sorry for the woman in the dew rag, but you took the time to really see her and to see yourself as well. You are the best at keeping things in perspective.


  13. Thank you. My fortune cookie paper said I would have a good journey. After reading a very touching and remarkable speech given by Lt. Gen. John Kelly, USMC, only days after his family was notified that one of his fighting sons was killed in Afghanistan, I am humbled and ready to Want Not again. Thanx for sharing your moments with us!

    * * *
    What sorrow. God bless Lt. Gen. John Kelly and his family. ~AM


  14. I had a bad case of the wants this weekend too. I tried to find any and every excuse to go to Hobby Lobby and just bask in the isles of Christmas. Thank you for sharing this story, I need to read it too.


  15. I love the way our Father gives us what we need, when we’re not looking for it. I have had several similar experiences, and I’m always humbled by them. I think it’s awesome that He used this woman, without her knowledge, to bring you a bit of peace. I’m always praying to be the answer to someone’s prayer.


  16. Thanks for sharing this. Just this morning I went all the way to the final step of purchasing two pairs of crocs sneakers for two of my kids before having some sense and leaving them in my virtual shopping cart. They don’t need the shoes, I just liked them. This season can be especially challenging of course. I need more perspective.


  17. Beautiful. And it serves to prove what I have long held as true, that Wal-Mart really does have the answers to all of life’s problems.

    * * *
    I don’t know about that, but I do know that it is a fascinating study in humanity. ~AM


  18. Wow. I just had a tantrum because I realized I was supposed to have the window shades cut to size at Home Depot and couldn’t do it myself.

    Thank you for needed perspective.


  19. In a few minutes, I’ll be offering up a prayer of thanksgiving for the slap in the face that I needed this morning. I’ll be headed out to Wal Mart, myself, in just a bit. But I think my perspective may be a little better after reading this.


  20. I love a good dose of perspective. I was having a conversation with a group of friends just last week in which we all started to wallow – we discussed the difficulties of the economy, the strain of trying to decide how to spend money… when to save, when to buy, where to invest, if investing is even an option, how to manage when houses won’t sell, or jobs can’t be found. There are things that each of us are struggling with at the moment, and that can’t be changed, but good grief was the conversation ever a downer! Before we left, the woman on my left, said, “You know what, we really ought not complain. We are so fortunate to live here in this country. I’ve been to Ecuador,” she said. “There are women there who have nothing.” Then we talked about women in Ecuador that don’t worry about whether or not they will have food stored up to eat next month. They worry about feeding their family dinner that day, or breakfast tomorrow. They don’t worry about mortgage payments and retirement funds… they just try and survive the best they can, with what they can. And you know what? I bet they are happier than a lot of women in this country that are so burdened by stuff. Just stuff.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I know I’ve been there before too.


  21. Either humanity is not as different as we like to think, or we are kindred spirits AM. Your words never fail to speak straight to my own heart.


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