I go grocery shopping nearly every day. We go every two weeks for a full order, but it seems I always need something just when I am about to prepare dinner. I'm not sure if I'm just absent-minded, or if I really go to the store because I meet people there. A little of both, I guess.

This day would not disappoint me. I was trying desperately to find a tomato that looked like I just picked it off the vine in my garden. In reality my garden failed miserably this year. It was all my fault. I just didn't take care of it. But now I wish I had. The prices of fresh vegetables are high and the quality low.

In frustration I finally grabbed the best one I could find. Backing away from the counter with my meager selection in hand, I wasn't paying attention.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" I said as I nearly fell over a woman in an electric scooter. Many stores have started providing them as a courtesy to those who have difficulty getting around. I see them everywhere.

Well, except for this one, and it was right behind me.

"Oh, that's okay. I'm used to it. They need to put horns on these things," she said with a smile. "We are positioned a bit lower and somewhat out of view. They are also so quiet that often times people just don't hear us coming. But I don't know what I'd do without one."

"I was so wrapped up in trying to find a good tomato," I said.

She nodded. "The prices keep going up, too. I used to grow my own. The best in the neighborhood. But this year I just couldn’t do it any more." 

"Well, I grew cherry tomatoes this year. They weren't supposed to be. They were Big Boys that never grew up," I said, laughing. She then maneuvered her way closer to find one for herself. "I'm sorry for your challenges. It must be frustrating," I added.

"Well, it all requires a change in attitude. I could spend my time thinking about what I can't do any more, or spend it on what new things I can do."

Then backing up and turning her cart so she could face me, she continued. "Sure, I loved gardening. Besides my vegetables I also planted many flowers. I learned all the tricks of the trade to make them bloom bigger and better each year. I thought my garden would look so bleak, but it's wonderful. You see, even though I can't do all the things I once did, the flowers can. The perennials keep doing what they know how to do best. They came back again all on their own. All those years of love and attention kept them strong, so my work paid off. It's like raising my children. I did all the work and now they will take over from here."

"I love your attitude," I said. "But tell me, what new thing have you discovered? You said you need to focus on new things you can do."

"Well, I can go to the grocery store and make new friends by running into perfect strangers with my cart," she said, grinning.

"Or they can fall over you when they aren't paying attention," I put in.

"What I've discovered is I can't grow flowers any more, but I can paint them. Since I can't get around as much and they are just sitting there, we are a perfect match. The annuals, the flowers I won't see in my yard because they need to be replanted each year, are as much a part of my memory as the sunsets."

"Oh, another sunset lover."

"Yes, but the great part about sunsets is, you not only remember how beautiful the sunset was, you remember when and where you saw it."

"And the flowers?"

"When I hang my flower paintings on the wall, the fresh scent lingers in my soul from years of loving them up close. Again just like raising kids," she said.

"Just like meeting you, my friend. You added beauty to my day and will brighten the dark corners of my memory just when I need it most," I told her.

The tomato was perfect with dinner. 

Bob Perks, an inspiration columnist for Beliefnet, is a professional speaker, author, and vocalist. His website is

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