The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back
By: Susan Naslund
This past week, my grocery store rearranged the items on the shelves. Food storage products are now where the pasta used to be. Baby wipes are displayed where I would typically find mayonnaise. For someone like me who makes her shopping list based on navigating the store in a westerly to easterly direction, this was a cruel move. I am already nervous about spending too much time in the market during the pandemic, and zig zagging down the aisles in search of specific products added to my anxiety. When I could not find my 3.5-ounce bar of Lindt dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt, I sought out the manager for help.
As I said the words, I could hear the ridiculous nature of my request. “Where is your gourmet chocolate now?” I asked with concern. When she was also unable to locate it, I resigned myself to leaving the store without dessert, fighting stupid tears.
Back in the car, I did a mental wellness check. I have enough money. I live in a nice home in a safe neighborhood. There is plenty of food to eat. I have reliable transportation. My health is very good. There is no shortage of loving family and friends. For heaven’s sake, I even have plenty of toilet paper. Why was I crying?
We cannot know the quiet toll the news about illness, devastation, racism, and political quarreling takes on our souls. Our fears of the corona virus are legitimate – not manufactured by the media. Our energy is sapped by adapting to new circumstances – not because of the adjustments we are asked to make, but because of the accompanying worry for the safety of others. Our minds and bodies are weary – not because we aren’t faithful, but because we don’t even notice we are carrying the weight of deep emotional burdens until the chocolate disappears. At least that was the final straw for me.
Every Saturday at the Bethlehem Food Pantry, we greet our brothers and sisters who don’t have enough, and I try to see the world through their eyes. While that makes my burdens seem lighter, it also makes me utterly aware of the heaviness of theirs. Their worries are made worse by being on the brink of hunger, unemployment, and even eviction from their homes. They are very close to the edge of despair.
My experience at the grocery store makes me an empathetic servant, and I am reminded that our response to all people right now is to offer an abundance of kindness. We must lend an ear. Offer a smile. Give grace. Even the slightest, albeit unintentional, tone of harshness on my part could evoke anger and tears. I don’t want to drop that last straw into someone else’s tote bag.
Please join me in being compassionate. Better yet, be compassionate when it isn’t deserved. Be generous with the outpouring of your care. Then, the Lord will surely dwell within us, God’s light will shine through us, and we will make the world a better place.