She walked toward me, gently pushing the shopping cart up the aisle. Her body was frail and her skin wrinkled, from the many years she had walked this earth. Her pace was slow and each step was taken carefully and with purpose.
A few feet ahead of me, she stopped to place an item in her cart. Normally I wouldn’t examine another person’s food selection, but today was different. Inside the large shopping cart was a small bag of rolls, sour cream and raspberries. Given her position in the store, her shopping was likely coming to an end.
The items in her cart got my attention, because of how few there were. A large cart designed for carrying food for an entire family, was now holding three small items. This may have been because she couldn’t carry a basket, but what if it was because she didn’t know how to shop for only herself?
It was obvious by her facial expressions, body language and lack of motivation, that she was in no hurry. It was as if she had no where to be. No one to go home to. By all appearance, she was shopping for one.
Further down the aisle was an older gentleman, with a shopping basket in his hand. He was scanning over the frozen dinner choices and placing his selection into the basket.
Upon seeing him, I stopped in the middle of the aisle and carefully took notice of everyone around me. There were shopping carts flooded with food, being pushed along by seemingly happy people on a mission. Then there were others, with hardly no food at all, being guided down the aisle by shoppers with somber expressions.
“It’s so hard shopping for one. What do you cook for just one person?” My mother said this recently, and caused me to see people that I would normally just pass by. How many people are lost in the store, as my mother often is, desperately trying to learn how to shop for one?
Many of us don’t enjoy shopping, especially for our entire family. It can be expensive and very time consuming. What we don’t take into consideration, is what a gift it is to have people to shop for. Several people don’t have anyone, but themselves.
My mother went on to say, “It’s easy to spot them. They’re usually the ones who only have a couple of items in their basket, or shop solely in the frozen food aisle.” After losing my step-father last year, that’s what she does, so she knows this from personal experience.
As I looked around today, I learned that she was right. With ‘new’ eyes, I saw them, just as she had said I would. Lonely people everywhere, shopping for one. I wanted to go up and hug each of them, but at the risk of having the police called, I held back.
When a person’s spouse passes away, it makes a significant impact on every aspect of their life. They’ve spent several years living alongside someone else, and now suddenly they have to learn how to live alone. They don’t just wake up alone and come home alone; they do everything alone.
What can we do to make them feel less lonely? A kind word, a conversation, helping them, or buying them a flower are all simple ideas, but each one could bring a smile to their face. A smile that could possibly be their first in days, months, or even years.
It’s the simple things in life that mean the most. Showing kindness and love to someone only takes a moment, but its impact can last forever.