A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
September 16, 2021
Yesterday, I was having a frustrating morning. Things weren't happening the way I wanted them to happen. There seemed to be too much to do and not enough time to do it all. But I had to buy groceries, so I headed to the nearby Publix. I have a little ritual I do every time I go to Publix. As I drive into the parking lot, I ask myself, out loud, "Do you have your sense of humor?" This always reminds me, like in my days of working in theatre, to leave my troubles outside the door so I don't take them out on any of the wonderful people inside.
I found the grocery items I needed and saw that my favorite cashier was working that day. I got into her line. When it was my turn to check out, I told her how good it was to see a friendly face. Her eyes showed that she was smiling beneath her mask. That little exchange helped my mood to brighten and helped me let some of the frustrations of the morning fade away.
Smiling under my mask, I headed to the parking lot. A woman with a small child was parked near the store, in one of handicapped parking spaces. There were so many helium balloons tied to her shopping cart I wondered why the cart wasn't floating away. She was starting to untie the balloons. She was untying with one hand and holding the untied balloons with the other hand, while keeping an eye on the small child and fighting the breeze which was blowing the balloons. I asked if she needed any help. She smiled and said "No, thank you." We laughed about the balloons and I went on my way.
After I loaded my groceries into my car, I had to pass the balloon woman again on my way to the designated area for empty carts. I saw that the balloons were getting wrapped around the signs for the handicapped parking spot that she was in. Again, I offered to help. This time, she did need help. "Are you taller than me? Can you reach the ribbons that are wrapped around the sign?" Unfortunately, I could not. I told her I would find a manager and see if the store had a step stool. On the way back out to the parking lot, I noticed a large bin of pool noodles. I grabbed one, hoping it might be a good tool for freeing the stuck balloons. As I rushed back to the car, others were gathering around. One man had gotten his sun shade out of his car and was trying to reach the tangled ribbons with it. Others were helping the woman stay calm, and helping to keep the child entertained and out of harm's way in the busy parking lot. The store manager came out with a step stool. Soon the balloons were free. After we all gave a big cheer, I headed back to my car while the manager and two other store employees helped the woman get all those balloons into her car. The balloon woman and I waved at each other as I drove by.
The group that helped were Publix employees, local customers who live nearby, and tourists who were staying in the area and happened to be in the lot when someone needed help. Nobody walked by. Everyone stopped and helped. It really was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. For that brief moment, we were all neighbors. I drove home with a big smile on my face, feeling like I had just attended a beautiful church service. I had experienced "love your neighbor" in action.