Yesterday, among the weekly supermarket circulars and coupons, there was a one-sheet announcement. A large nearby store, part of a chain that has been recently sold to another company, announced it was closing and would hold a “liquidation sale” beginning today (Wednesday). The announcement said there would be discounts of 10-90 percent, so it sounded like a very good chance to pick up bargains, something that even those without chronic illness can appreciate. However, the experience was not quite as good or, rather, easy, as it sounded, and it leaves me thinking quite differently than I did before I went shopping, reusable bags in hand.
With nearly every available parking space taken, and only a few stray shopping carts in sight, I expected a buzz of activity when I went into the store. Quite the opposite; the atmosphere was subdued, more akin to a wake than a buying opportunity. There was plenty of produce, packaged foods, and other items, and discount signs posted all around attested to the savings to be had. But as I walked the aisles, I heard snatches of conversations, customers speaking with store workers saying good-bye. They were sad exchanges. “I’m going to miss you.” “It won’t be the same.” A small huddle around the deli counter spoke about appreciation more than salami, and a woman shopping the meat department wished the butcher and his wife well and “hoped” to see them again sometime.
I asked four separate employees if they would be employed by the company at another location. One said, “Yes.” One said, “No.” One said, “We don’t know yet,” and the fourth was silent until he bagged my last item. Then, he looked at me and said haltingly, “I worked for another store for 16 years. The same thing happened there. I don’t know anymore.” My heart ached.
The closing of a grocery store or other business that has served a neighborhood for years does more than provide food and other items for daily living. It really does become a hub, a meeting place, a place where friendships are forged. No wonder the atmosphere was somber. And no wonder that, in other places, people are nursing sadness, loss, and the same kind of heartache I still feel as I type this.
I told the employees I met today that I will pray for them, as I do all those good people who are finding their lives very difficult. As many of us with serious illness know, the loss of productivity is horribly hard to deal with, but I take comfort that prayer can unite us and give us strength, and that God does indeed care more for us than the sparrows and will hold us up and find other ways for our collective and individual lights to shine. Does that sound foolish? Naive? Immature? No. I have seen struggle turn to success and night turn into day. Nothing is impossible with God.
Today, I got something more valuable than any “bargain” could bring. I got to see how precious our good sense of fellowship is, how important it is to see beyond the superficial to find God’s grace, even on a bad day, and how much of an honor it is to be present to bring even a little of God’s love into an unexpected place.
Blessings for the day,