I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. My heart was pounding and my stomach was in knots.
What made this unusual is the fact that I rarely cry. It’s not something intentional. I’m just not wired to be a crier.
It started out as a typical Monday. Everyone was slow to get out of bed, but the kids and my husband made it to school and work on time. I’d packed lunches, fed the dogs, tidied the kitchen and was ready to head out for groceries.
For small lists, we shop at a nice neighborhood store near our home. But when it’s time to really stock up, I head to WalMart for a major haul. Today was that day.
I cruised through the aisles like a grocery shopping ninja. Crossing things off my list. Planning meals in my head. Tossing things into the cart with ease.
The end was in sight and I headed for the checkout lanes. I began to get frustrated with the people who were sauntering down the middle of the aisle like we were in a park.
Instead of tossing them a dirty look, I chose to dial back my Type A tendencies. I reminded myself it wasn’t slowing me down that much.
As I scoped out the lines and evaluated the size of each order, a large slovenly guy turned to me and grumbled, “The line hasn’t moved in 10 minutes!”
I looked at him with a slight grin and a we’re-all-in-this-together look and said, “Then it ought to be our turn any minute now!”
I turned and headed toward the lane I’d chosen. I began piling my groceries onto the conveyer belt, trying to catch the cashier’s eye to give her a smile.
And that’s when it began. Yelling. Swearing. Accusing. Less than four feet from where I stood, the scruffy man I’d just spoken to was getting in the face of a thirty-something woman wearing slippers and pajama pants. Not to be outdone, the woman was all up in his business, too.
Rather than standing in line, they were side by side, vying to be the first one checked out. It reminded me of kids in line for recess. Except these big kids were SHOUTING obscenities and indignities, and were on the verge of a physical fight.
Shoppers around me glanced toward the altercation, but hesitated to look too long. No one stepped in to stop the situation and it continued to escalate. No store personnel took action.
It’s important to note that I’ve never been afraid of people or situations. I don’t hide and I generally deal with tough situations head on – all 4 feet, 11 inches of me.
But today I felt something deep in the pit of my stomach. The anxiety began to build. If either of those people, in their highly agitated state, pulled a gun, then we’d all be in danger.
A rush of questions flooded my mind. If I was hurt or killed, who would pick up my kids from school? Who would contact my husband? How would they find out what happened? What was the last thing I said to each of them today?
It seemed to take forever for my groceries to be scanned and bagged – all 22 sacks of cereal, snacks and lunch supplies. My eyes continued to scan the area, I silently offered up prayers for protection and my mind began to form an exit strategy … just in case.
After what seemed like an eternity, I pushed my cart out of WalMart, while the hate-filled shouts continued and a manager finally headed that direction.
I loaded the groceries into my car quickly. Locked the door. Turned on some “Jesus music” and fought back tears. I lost the fight.
Then I got angry.
Where has our sense of decency gone? Why has our world become so violent that news anchors get shot on the air? Why are students being killed while trying to pursue an education? Why must drivers fear being shot on the highway? Why can’t I feel safe buying food for my family? WHY?
I know that some people who read this will think this is a gun rights issue. From my perspective, it isn’t. (For what it’s worth, my husband and I don’t own any guns, but the rest of my family does.)
It’s truly not about guns. It’s not about bombs. It’s not even about mental health. It’s about basic good manners. Patience. Kindness. Empathy.
It breaks my heart that this is the world my kids are growing up in.
And while I can’t solve the world’s problems on my own, each day I’m going to ask myself, “What can I do to make this world a better place?” I hope you will, too.