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The truth is that all of us will need a little help along the pathway of life. It’s also true that some of us are fortunate to have families who can help. Others aren’t so fortunate so let’s have a little more compassion and give others the benefit of the doubt.


My path of healing

The almost two years since leaving full-time pastoral ministry have been a time of immense healing. It started with grief at what seemed like a failed call. And then mellowed into a sense of loss and periodic anger. And then, almost unlooked for, a calm peace began to settle deeply into me. I began to notice the hard edge that I had allowed to grow up around me as emotional armor became to soften. This truly is God’s gift and I am thankful for it. I feared that my soul had been permanently wounded in my last call, but God proved stronger.

A look of pure spite

It was in this heightened sensitivity that I stopped at the store this evening. I jumped into a line that looked short only to find myself behind a woman in some distress.

English was clearly not her first language, which sounded like it might be Polish or Ukrainian. She was attempting to pay for her grocery order with cash and also with an Illinois WIC card. Like many people she found herself at the check out with price tag higher than her cash and card. Unlike others she clearly was limited to a very precise amount.

She struggled with the cash. She fumbled with the card. I wouldn’t have known it as a WIC card (ignorance of such things is a clear sign of my fortunate personal history) except that the cashier loudly told her “you can’t pay for that with your FOOD STAMPS.”  And as she said it, she turned to me and rolled her eyes with a look of pure spite. I did my best to ignore that eye roll.

Raise your voice

In that moment I decided that should she (that is, the cashier) say anything to me about this other woman I would gently remind her that she might want to cut this other woman some slack. She didn’t so I didn’t.

What’s in a stare? 

I’m no arbiter of social exchanges and there’s a good chance that I read too much into all this.

All I know is that at the cash register I was sure of two things.

The first is that no one–regardless of their language, gender, nationality, or economic status–deserves to be embarrassed, shamed, or worse, abused in any way. 

The second is that those who are in pain (the cashier here) often inflict that pain on others. 

I don’t have any policy proposals, but I do know that we have to work to cultivate communities of compassion and social support networks that can help those who don’t have the same resources some of us have.

The truth is that all of us will need a little help along the pathway of life. It’s also true that some of us are fortunate to have families who can help. Others aren’t so fortunate so let’s have a little more compassion and give others the benefit of the doubt.