A few years ago, one of our children woke up with a stomach virus on Thanksgiving - so we scrapped our plans for the day, got my mom to drop off some Turkey on her way to the family event in New Jersey (where around 40 people gather, so she had made an extra turkey breast because women do these things), and I went to the grocery store to buy a few things for our little homegrown Thanksgiving. Stuffing, potatoes, applesauce, ginger ale - the basics for just us and three little picky eaters.
When I got to Acme on Thanksgiving morning, it was not that busy - but the customers that *were* there were mostly older men holding a basket with a handle and a list with three or four things written down on it. They were stymied. They were in produce looking around, and no one was there to help them. Their wives had sent them to pick up the three things she forgot and the spices she was running low on when she got up that morning and they had no clue what to do with themselves. This was not the parade on 6 ABC and this was definitely not the NFL channel.
I think because I looked capable and like I had ovaries, they knew I could help them. First, it was eye contact and if I smiled, they swooped in like eagles. “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but is this rosemary?” “Do you happen to know where I could find scallions?” and my favorite - “what’s a baguette?” (for the record, this man was pretty sure it was a kind of bread. He just didn’t expect it to be so long. Who needs this much bread, he wondered.) Did I know where he might find puff pastry shell? Another man nearby quipped “yeah, and what it is actually used for.” They all laughed, my little merry band of khaki-wearing gray haired gentlemen. Bless their hearts.
I’m here to tell you this: if you are looking for a way to pay it forward this holiday season, if you are thinking that small acts of kindness go a big distance, get yourself up early and go spend an hour in the produce section of your local grocery store. The men who arrive looking lost and clutching their lists will thank you, and they will get home in a speedy fashion and their wives will thank them, and those wives will put together a beautiful meal and their guests will thank them and the gratitude and appreciation goes on and on, while you just did your part of telling that gentleman over there that no, that is not scallions, that is bok choy.
It’s the season of gratitude. Pay it forward.