I went to the grocery store yesterday. Most people would not consider this much of an accomplishment, but, lately, my mobility has been more restricted than I would wish. The drive, the cart, the very size of the store each represent something of a challenge to my uncooperative joints. That being said, I was there. I held my list in one hand, my car keys and wallet in the other. As I pushed the cart into the vegetable and fruit aisle, I felt the familiar surge of excitement. What would I find on this expedition? What I found surprised me. As I slowly pushed my way through each aisle, I had conflicting feelings. On one hand, I had a sense of pleasure at seeing all the products neatly stacked and arrayed; on the other hand, I was burdened by an overwhelming fatigue. I was mentally calculating what I could do to shorten my list, thereby shortening my trip. As I turned
into the cookies and crackers aisle, I noticed the entire length was empty except for one elderly woman clinging to her cart. Even at my letting-the-paint-dry pace, I caught up with her. She came up to my shoulder – she must have been less than five feet tall. She needed help reaching something and I offered to reach it. She declined and suggested that I go around her because she is too slow moving. I laughed, and said, “You’re the first person today who has been slower than me! I know how big this store is. Where are your children, anyway?” Of course, I meant why weren’t they helping her. She made me laugh aloud when she responded, “They are all in Hatfield. All nine of them! That’s why I am this way.” Her eyes glazed over for a second while she went somewhere in her distant past. She went on, “There we were, my sister and I, turning over the cold, barren soil looking for potatoes. I sent the kids to pick dropped apples. As soon as they were old enough, off to the fields to pick cukes. We all worked real hard.” Then she followed up with pride in her voice, “Nine kids and never once did I turn to welfare. I kept my kids fed and dressed. No, none of them went very far after that.” As I angled my cart to veer around hers, I touched her shoulder and said “Can I tell you something?” She nodded assent. “It is a real pleasure to meet you. You inspire me with your spirit.” As I left this petite slow-moving doll of a woman, I had no doubt that, with her determination, she would get exactly where she wanted to go.