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Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/

I went smile hunting today. You know, last minute Christmas grocery shopping. Had to park out close to Kingshighway at Schnucks. Smiled at people as I was going into the store and they were coming out. They all looked serious and determined to get to their cars without smiling. I almost felt like I was back in New York City when I was there on a youth outing back in the ’60s—–a place where I quickly learned strangers didn’t smile back at you.

When I got in the store, I had to navigate through all the traffic. There were slow movers, dead stand still shoppers, speed through the traffic with no heed to bumping others shoppers, and people like me who would wait courteously and smile. A few smiled back, and that felt good. The friendliest smile of all, was that of the man shaking the bell and collecting money for the Salvation Army. His smile was warm and genuine regardless of whether donated to his red bucket or not. Another man was sitting at a table in the deli area, and he actually initiated a friendly conversation with me. Like me, I think he was aware of  and responsive to the people around him.

The “ask attendant for help” guy in the self-checkout area was also friendly and helpful. Good thing, because that is where the shortest lines were. Simply put, the aisles throughout the store were chaotic.   I think the fast movers who ignored everyone else in the store could actually be dangerous for an older person unsteady on his or her feet. The overall “ambiance”  reminded me of the “help, it’s going to snow and I have to get groceries” crowd—-only this crowd, for the  most part,  seemed less friendly. By the time I was finally escape to outside, I still smiled at people—-only it was harder, and I understood the “shell-shock” type affects I had encountered earlier on my way into the store.

Where am I going with all this? I don’t really know except to say I am certain this mad and determined grocery driven rush I encountered while shopping both inside the store and in the crowded, car honking-filled parking lot when I tried to navigate my escape home is not what God had in mind when Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph so long ago. I am sorry to say I succumbed to some of the “bad vibes” and found myself thinking a few “bad words” or phrases once or twice. Thankfully, I was able to redirect myself with a chuckle and the thought, “better watch it, or you’ll become like all the other ‘Grinches’ and ‘Scrooges’ roaming the aisles!”

It wasn’t until I got home, unpacked, and put away my groceries that I was able to sit down, take a deep breath, and realize, that with that intake of air I was once again attuned to the God within that loves us all. The feeling of quiet serenity that comes with prayer and “being” with God in relationship was a welcome relief, and I am very grateful for that gift.  It can’t be found in crowded stores, or anywhere else , as far as that goes, unless one consciously seeks it out.

I want to close by thanking God for being there and allowing me to feel his spirit regardless of where I am or what I am doing. I am also asking him to help me get better at it in crowded, busy places where I can sometimes forget to acknowledge, accept, and welcome his presence. My God bless and keep you.