Blessing My Day

Praise be to the not-nearly-a-girl anymore
clerking at our local grocery outlet
since junior high. Single mom, moved up
after a decade of customer service
to manage four well-ordered aisles
of hairsprays, lipsticks, and youthful glow
in glittering squeeze tubes. Familiar
red-headed, brown-eyed, gap-toothed
smile. Willing to put aside her boxes of chores
to chat with each of us she names by heart.

I forget if she’s Mary or Alice or Jane.
Fine, I answer after she asks, How’s
your day? And driving my sacks
of next week’s meals home, I wonder
why she rises from her labors to greet me,
why she straightens her smock
where it’s pulled up a bit and rides her hips.
Tucks in place a loose wisp of curl.
When I walk by, what does she want to know,
when she asks, How’s your day?
I wonder why so seldom I’ve asked it back.

~Lowell Jaeger “Praise Be” from Or Maybe I Drift Off Alone.

Did you find everything you were
looking for?
 Julie, the magenta-haired

checkout girl, asks, and no, I think,
I didn’t find inner peace, or answers to

several questions I’ve been mulling,
like are we headed for nuclear war and

does the rest of the world think America
has gone bonkers and also, by the way,

I could not find the tofu bacon, and
the chocolate sorbet shelf was empty

(I did find canned pumpkin in aisle four)
but I am silent and smile at Julie who

seems to know what I’m thinking anyway
so I hold back and muse on the view

of the bay this morning when we walked
the dog and the parsnip soup we’ll

make for dinner and realize that total
fulfillment probably jades the senses and

the bagger asks if I’d like help today
carrying my groceries out to the car.

~Thomas R. Moore, “Finding Everything” from Red Stone Fragments

He was a new old man behind the counter, skinny, brown and eager.
He greeted me like a long-lost daughter,
as if we both came from the same world,
someplace warmer and more gracious…

…his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning,
coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register
which were still and always filled
with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.
Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,
these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips…

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water
and he returned my change, beaming
as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees,
as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,
and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime
over the counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips.
This old man who didn’t speak English
beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death
so that when I emerged from his store
    my whole cock-eyed life  –
    what a beautiful failure ! –
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.
~Alison Luterman from “At the Corner Store”

This week as I shopped in one of our local grocery stores, I witnessed a particularly poignant scene. As I waited in the check out line, the older man ahead of me was greeted by the young cashier with the standard
“Did you find everything you were looking for?”
He responded with:
“I looked for world peace on your shelves, but it must have been sold out…”

She stopped scanning and looked directly at him for the first time, trying to discern if she misunderstood him or if he was mocking her or what.
“Did you try Aisle 4?” she replied and they both laughed.
They continued in light-hearted conversation as she continued scanning and once he had paid for his order and packed up his cart, he looked at her again.

“Thank for so much for coming to work today – I am so grateful for what you do.”
He wheeled away his groceries and she stood, stunned, watching him go.

As I came up next, I looked at her watering eyes as she tried to compose herself and I said to her:
“I’ll bet you don’t hear that often enough, do you?”
She pulled herself together and shook her head, trying to make sense of the gift of words he had bestowed on her.

“No – like never,” she said as she scanned my groceries.
“How could he possibly have known that I almost didn’t come to work today because it has been so stressful to be here? People are usually polite, but lately more and more have been so demanding. No one seems to care about how others are feeling any more.”

She brushed away a tear and I paid for my groceries, and told her:

“I hope the rest of your work day is as great as that last customer. You’ve given me everything I was looking for today…”

And I emerged from the store feeling blessed, like I had scored a pot of gold like a sunset after rain.

Today a while it rained I washed the jars
And then I lit a flame set the water to start
And at the end of the day lined up to cool and seal
Twelve pints of spiced peach jam twenty jars of dill beans canned
From an old recipe that my mother gave to me
Because it’s good to put a little bit by
For when the late snows fly
All that love so neatly kept
By the work of our hands

Lay hands on boards and bricks and loud machines
With shovels and rakes and buckets of soup they clean
And I believe that we should bless evеry shirt ironed and pressed
Salutе the crews out on the roads
Those who stock shelves and carry loads
Whisper thanks to the brooms and saws the dirty boots and coveralls
And bow my head to the waitress and nurse
Tip my hat to the farmer and clerk
All those saints with skillets and pans
And the work of their hands
Work of their hands

Laid out on the counter pull up out of hot water
The work of our hands so faithful and true
I make something barely there music is a little more than air
So now every year I’ll put by tomatoes and pears
Boil the lids and wipe the lip with a calloused fingertip
And I swear by the winter ground
We’ll open one and pass the thing around
Let the light catch the jar amber gold as a falling star
It’s humble and physical it’s only love made visible
Yeah now I understand it’s the work of our hands


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3 thoughts on “Blessing My Day

  1. Thank you so much for trying to make every day special! I believe that having faith is efficient enough to carry us through each day but your message gives me an extra lift! Wonderful that people still care and try to make a difference!

    Liked by 1 person

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