Notes from Jan

Take Along Mercy

January 1, 2016

Just hurry it up.  Get in and out of the grocery store, then pick up the Grands at the frozen yogurt shop and get home.  So I whipped my  shopping cart with exactly 15 items into the 15 or fewer items line. Whew! Just two ahead of me but almost immediately, quite a few behind me.  An old woman (probably my age!) kept the line at bay while she s l o w l y counted out bills, most looking freshly minted.  Five, ten and more minutes stuck in place while she counted out more than $1200 for lottery tickets.  Then the cashier needed to count them.  Next, he called the supervisor to help him figure out what to do with all this money and how to ring up the lottery tickets. The man in front of me with a mere bottle of coke and a take-out sandwich  seemed nailed to the floor.   Behind me the growing line pulsed with mounting frustration.

Part of me wanted to cry for her, another part wanted to cry out,”Stop!” But I did nothing but stand still and wonder at what drove her to do this.  Where did she get the money?  What consequences if she didn’t win? What if she did?  Mercy.

Eventually, the checker shoved my fourteen items into one paper bag.  The large package of toilet paper filled the rest of the space in the shopping cart as I wove among the crowd, out the door, through the rain, towards the car, muttering as I went.

At the car, I fumbled with the keys, locking a foot around one wheel of the cart  so it didn’t take off into the parking lot.  Why wouldn’t it when nothing much seemed to be going the way I’d planned? While I grumbled internally about having to walk the grocery cart back to an assigned corral, a woman dressed in jeans, hair in dreadlocks, smiled and asked,”May I return your cart for you?” That should’ve alerted me that this was no ordinary shopper. “May I…?”

I, relieved and grateful said,”Thanks.”  And in that instant I recognized the woman as Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors.  I stammered, “I know you.”  Where did that come from?  I’d never met her before other than through her books.  In an instant I seemed to be jumping up and down like Will Farrell as ELF, ecstatic at learning that Santa Claus is coming to the NYC department store tomorrow morning where he works.  I’m like Elf squealing,  “I know him!  I know him! ”

Thinking that I needed to say something while we stood holding opposite ends of the shopping cart, I blundered on,” I love your books.  We required one of them in our First Year Sem course back in New England, where I’m from.  Tender Mercies.”

She smiled a kind smile, the kind I didn’t deserve.  It flashed through my brain that she’d probably prefer  cleaning her oven  or flossing to talking with me, so I released the cart along with any pride I may have had.  As Anne walked away she smiled and said,”Thank you.”  That left me with a split second to realize the error of my ways so I blurted out to her back as she moved swiftly towards the store, “Traveling Mercies.  It was Traveling Mercies not Tender Mercies.” Like she didn’t know.


I could use some.

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  • Reply Wendy Lane January 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Oh my goodness! I would have been beside myself behind that lady at the grocery store!! I do tend to get behind the slowest person a lot of the time – I know God’s trying to teach me patience! He sometimes gets through and I pray for the person responsible for making me S L O W D O W N… but far too often I just get irritable! Aaargh! Hurry up and wait!

    And I have to say, I’m impressed you recognized that author, and remembered half the title correctly! I don’t think I could have done that. Unless it was you. 🙂

  • Reply Russ Bishop January 1, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Wunderbar! Nice way to start the New Year bumping in to Anne Lamott. Patience rewarded!

  • Reply Mark Taylor January 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    What fun! I read this essay aloud at the breakfast table to my wife and mother-in-law–all of us part of your extended Gordon College family.

  • Reply Jim Trent January 1, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I just read this piece in cold, snowy New Hampshire, first with smiles and then with a big laugh at “Tender Mercies.” Annie Lamont is special.

  • Reply susan January 2, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I love Anne! she has helped me out so often throughout the years, most recently in using her idea that one only needs 3 prayers:
    Thanks, Help, Wow. Her title helped me organize our farewell party for Bishop Curry with (of course) no budget! We had tons of food left over after serving hundreds and the folks at Urban Ministry were well fed the next day.
    I would have been tongue

    tied meeting her, too. she is honest in sharing her life and not that ucky pious stuff that puts me off our own church so often. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!!xxoo

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