Education in the Checkstand

Last Friday morning we did our usual — grocery shopping. We’ve shopped at the same Safeway store since it was newly built a few years ago. It’s within blocks of our home and so convenient. We’ve made many friends among the staff.

Image:  Mattieb @ Flickr

Image: Mattieb @ Flickr

One of our favorite checkers retired three years ago. Gene had suffered a heart attack and had to have his aortic valve replaced. He took a lesson from that and decided to retire early. Customers missed his jovial and warm personality, and I often wondered how he was doing.

On Friday, there Gene stood.

In the checkstand. Checking out customers and their groceries. I wondered if he was filling in for someone’s vacation or an illness. When it was our turn, I asked him what he was doing there.

“Retirement was no fun.”

I’d heard that refrain before from people who said they struggled with boredom, had nothing to do, and so they went back to work.

Gene began talking, as he has always done, and explained his dislike of his three years in retirement.

My wife became very ill, and I took care of her until she died last year. It was a miserable illness and death, and I miss her so. And the year she got sick, I lost my son unexpectedly. So, after all that, the days in the house alone, with no one there but me and the cat, became really long and lonely. I just couldn’t stay there.

The words just tumbled out of him. No sense of seeking sympathy. Just telling it like it was.

It was obvious Gene was extremely lonely and sad. I reached my hand out to his arm and asked if I could pray for him. I got a smile.

He responded that prayer was all anyone could do, and yes, please pray.

All we have to do is be present in the moment and listen for the lessons wherever they are — the checkstand, the doctor’s office, the walk around the neighborhood, over coffee with a friend.

Are you present in the moment?
Are you listening for God’s lessons in each moment of every day?
What lesson might you have learned recently that God put in your path?
Won’t you share with us?