So I was at the supermarket the other day with the kids, and something happened – something small…but it really had a big impact on me and I’ve been thinking (and tearing) about it all week.
Anyway. anyone who knows my older son, knows he will talk to a hole in the wall. 🙂 So every patron of the supermarket is fair game when we go out. As we’re making our way through the aisles (and I make sure Jibs doesn’t take off his shoes and throw them in someone else’s cart), I notice an elderly man in one of those motorized chairs. Not a wheelchair but one of those chairs with the basket, but he obviously had some sort of handicap. He was older and looked a little unkept, which made him stand out a bit since this supermarket was in a nice area, but for the most partI honestly didn’t think much of it at the time.
Maalik, of course, was fascinated by the chair and trying to talk to this older gentleman, and I keep trying to pull him away because I don’t want him to get in the gentleman’s way or get run over accidentally (he kept stepping right in front of it). And honestly, some people don’t want to humor a 4-year-old who can’t stop talking 🙂
Anyway, in one of the moments I went to pull Maalik away, I realize the older gentleman’s face was kind of disfigured and it just caught me by surprise. With his unkept clothes and his disfigured face, he just looked a little – scary. Not deliberately, but I noticed myself rush through the rest of the aisle because of my slight discomfort. But, after passing a few more aisles, I was struck with a sense of guilt…I don’t even know how to describe what it was I felt. Stupid perhaps? I mean, this poor, elderly gentleman with some sort of facial disfigurement that I’m sure brings unsolicited attention, and I feel uncomfortable??? If he has no one to do his shopping for him, his clothes were probably unkept for the same reason – because he has no one to help him dress or wash his clothes.
So as we stood in line, the older gentleman comes up behind us, and I realized that the disfigurement in his face is a result of severe bruising, and I honestly had to hold back the tears at that point. I just wanted to cry. Cry because of all the different ways I thought he may have gotten those bruises, cry because he was struggling alone to get his groceries and didn’t have someone to do it for him and probably didn’t have someone available to do a lot of things for him, cry because I felt so guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t more helpful. So I resolved to help this gentleman, partially to alleviate my own guilt, partially to set an example for my son and to the cashier looking on, and partly because, it’s just the human thing to do. I offered to put his items on the belt, bag his items and get them in his vehicle and made small talk until we finished.
A few things struck me about the whole situation. The first being the innocence of children – subhan Allah, because Maalik just kept trying to talk to him like he would talk to anyone. Nothing phased him – not the clothes, not the bruising on his face, nothing. He didn’t notice the external elements most adults would notice instantly. And I realized that sometimes things make us uncomfortable because it’s a reminder of how thankful we should be (and aren’t). And that just kills me – that I might just be like that. I think about it and it hurts my heart and soul. It’s uncomfortable to see others in a state of hardship, or poverty, or illness, or loneliness, when we’ve been blessed with so much, and many times are so wasteful and ungrateful, and so…unaware. So it’s just easier to turn a blind eye and keep on living in a bubble – our sanitized version of the world.
I realized, I need to do more to be around things that remind me of my humanity, that soften my heart. I need to be humbled more often than I have been. It’s never really a pleasant experience but it’s so important to be able to keep life in perspective. And it really helps you see the beauty in things you would normally miss…