“The Holy Spirit helps us to view others with fresh eyes, seeing them always as brothers and sisters in Jesus, to be respected and loved.”

– Pope Francis

I once took a personality profile that aptly described the way I look at the world as “one giant game of Frogger, where you constantly look to navigate around obstacles and barriers.” It’s true in my work, it’s definitely true in my driving, and I find it to be true even in one of my favorite weekly activities – grocery shopping. Over years of navigating the aisles of my neighborhood Wegman’s, I have become quite adept at knowing where to position my cart, the optimal times to avoid crowded aisles but ensure stocked shelves, and the sequence of sections that allows for the ideal checkout and bagging scenario. I was making record time last Sunday morning, even impressing myself at my efficiency.

As I parked my cart to grab my coffee for the week, I noticed a woman staring at the plethora of ground beans from which to choose. The only problem was that between where she was standing and the positioning of her cart, she was blocking 75% of the section and was right in front of my go-to morning brew. I bristled and chalked up this barrier to the shopper’s complete lack of awareness - a pet peeve of mine in stores, airports, and generally anywhere humans gather. I pivoted to pancakes and decided I would return to the aisle once the woman finished making what seemed like the biggest decision of her life. I passed the aisle again, now noticing that she was peering even closer at the labels. I went to grab my usual four boxes of cereal, confident that on my third attempt she would be gone. Still there. What was this lady doing? Deciding that I now needed to interrupt her and ask her to move, I started walking toward her as a college-age woman came from the other side of the aisle. She put her hand on the woman’s shoulder and then they hugged as the older woman began sobbing. “We don’t need coffee anymore,” the woman cried. “I don’t need to make him coffee anymore.” I heard the younger woman tell her mom that it was okay. I decided I didn’t need the coffee either. They needed that space more than I did.

As I placed my groceries on the belt, my heart broke for the woman, and I felt more than a little guilty at how I had assumed she was simply clueless or rude. I wondered how often in my life or leadership I see people who are stuck as barriers to navigate around versus brothers and sisters who need care. Can I step away from my efficiency or strategy long enough to see the encounter that the Lord might have in mind? Does the patience with which I believe God waits for me imbue how much I am willing to give others? While the world needs problem solvers, it needs true Christian witnesses more. Witnesses don’t seek to get around challenges, they bring a recognition of the Lord into them. Is my outcome simply to get through life or to see Him in life and to help others to do the same?

Loading my car, I saw the mom and her daughter walking arm in arm out the grocery store door. I hadn’t gotten everything on my list, but I left with much more than I expected. Prayers that you do not miss the perspective He's placed on the shelf for you this week.

by Daniel Cellucci

September 29, 2023

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