I shopped for groceries today to fill up my stomach and instead filled up my heart.
I’ve been a regular at Sunshine Produce Market at Third and Chesterfield once a week, for the last ten years or so. As a vegetarian, almost all my groceries are bought here; broccoli, Romaine lettuce, field tomatoes, organic bananas, even olive oil and raw nuts. I love my little produce market.
I don’t even know the owners' names but we greet each other warmly. “Hello miss, hi hi hi, how aaaawe you?” says the older Asian woman as she pulls strawberries from a gallon-sized bin, trims the stems and gently places them into one of six smaller green baskets. She has the cutest, little raspy giggle when I hold up a jelly-filled Asian snack and ask, “so, how do I eat this?”.
“Bohks or bag, miss?” she asks and then giggles when I answer, “Ah! Na! I’ll be right back,” and dash out the front door to grab my cloth bags from my car parked out front.
It was about 4 o’clock one afternoon as I plunked an overflowed basket onto the counter as she asked “Hi, hi, how aaaawe you, miss?"
“I’m hungry!” I said as I grabbed the chocolate bar from among the three bunches of spinach and stuffed it in my pocket.
“You wok-ing all day?” she asked as she weiged my red peppers.
“Yeah, running around with errands and I didn’t have any food at home,” I said.
She finished packing up my bags and handed me change from my forty dollars.
As I stuffed the change into my pockets, she grabbed two packets of individually wrapped Asian snack crackers from a green plastic basket sitting on the counter.
As I pulled my hands out of my pockets to gather up my bags, she cupped my hands and pushed the crackers into them.
“Here miss,” she said.
“No, no, no, that’s okay,” I said as I pushed the crackers back.
“Yes miss, you hunn-gwee,” she said as she held them in my hands. “Please. Take.”
I looked at our hands. I looked at her. I looked down.
I paused and thought of my 2012 Guiding Principles. #2 Say Yes and #4 Connect Daily.
“Thank you,” I said.
I loaded my bags into my car, shut the door and sat.
My chest tightened. My left hand covered my mouth. And I burst into tears -- and then, laughter.
I thought of my Guiding Principle #1. Go Slow.
Why was I reacting so strongly to this tiniest of gestures?
Yes, I was hungry. But she saw that I had bought two bags of groceries. She saw that I even bought a chocolate bar to stifle immediate hunger pangs.
Yet she reached out and gave me crackers.
40 cents worth of crackers.
My first reaction had been to deny them. Deny her gift. I'm good at giving myself gifts but I find it hard to allow in gifts from others. I feel uncomfortable.
How often do we refuse gifts from others?
And an even better question is, why?
We don't feel we deserve them.
We don't feel worthy of them.
This first came up in my Stanley Park experiment and where I first learned how to tell the difference between my heart speaking and my sneaky little mind. (see Day 17 of 30 Days in Stanley Park). It takes practice and the crackers were another lesson, another opportunity. Once I paused, I knew that it was only my mind saying I was unworthy and I chose not to listen to it.
I accepted the crackers which squashed my chattering mind and allowed my heart to speak.
Yes, accept them, you are worthy.
It was even stronger because it was food. Food is a core need. I was hungry and she offered to share her food. While I had already included her in my community, I now felt a part of hers.
Part of giving is receiving. We cannot give from a place of emptiness and if we give without receiving, from ourselves or somebody else, we become empty. Giving is easy, and genuine, when it comes from a place of fullness.
The circle of giving and receiving with others creates connection. Creates community. If we refuse gifts, we deny ourselves, and the giver, of connection.
Yesterday, I would’ve helped my giggling shopkeeper unload a vegetable truck. Today, I'd give her a kidney.
I laughed. All because of crackers, huh?
Photo by Orphanjones