A Trip to Costco and a Lesson on Grace

by Rachel Blackston, M.A.

Our cupboards were bare.  I had just fed Hannah the heel on a loaf of bread with a small smidgen of peanut butter scraped from the bottom of the jar.  I was avoiding it…a trip to Costco.

We were on the brink of nap time so I knew the risks as I loaded Norah (7 months old) into the carrier and Hannah (age 2) in the large section of the cart.   “I’ll just run in and out in 30 minutes,” I said to myself as I gently tried to calm the part of myself that was overtaken by anxiety.

Earns CostcoOnce in the store, I knew I was headed for a danger zone when Hannah spotted the section of merchandise from Frozen.  “I’ll just let her out of the cart for a few minutes,” I thought to myself.  Fifteen minutes later, she was running up and down the toy aisle singing, “Let It Go” with a toy microphone.  I braced myself for the transition to move from the Frozen section to the frozen food section.   I attempted to share my rationale with my 2-year-old.  It was a total fail.  As I hoisted her back into the cart, she kicked and screamed, “I want Elsa, I want Elsa, I want Elsa.”  Being a good therapist, I tried to validate her emotions.  Her screaming only intensified.

With Hannah back in the cart, I began surrounding her with bulk items including a hot rotisserie chicken and an oversized box of diapers.   In my attempts to appease her, I opened an enormous package of animal crackers while I ran through the freezer section that felt like a walk into an arctic blast while my baby was dressed in a onesie.

I must have looked like a spectacle, and people weren’t shy in offering their comments.  Some just looked and said, “You have your hands full.”  Others offered parenting advice or looks of contempt.   Some people had nostalgia in their eyes.  One older gentleman said, “You are lucky.”  With Norah’s now overtired screams, I asked him more and he told me of his grandchildren that he’s never met because of an estrangement with his daughter.  I was touched by his openness, and my heart was moved as I saw the sadness in his eyes.

On a normal day, I would have felt shame when others looked at me in these moments when I wore my need and failures as a parent all over me.  However on this particular day, I decided to embrace my inadequacy.  I allowed myself to be present with others, taking in their kindness and practical help.  I had people offering to hold my baby and load items in my cart.  One particular interaction with a Costco employee brought me to tears.  Nearing the checkout line now 77 minutes into our trip, I mentioned to a man in a red Costco vest that I forgot the toilet paper and wondered where I could find it.   When he pointed to the back corner of the store, it felt like heading back there would be scaling Mt. Everest.  As he saw the look on my face, he nonchalantly asked my brand preference and proceeded to retrieve it for me.  I was stunned by his kindness.

Finally, as a stranger offered to help me load the van, my eyes welled with tears as I thought of the humility and love of Jesus.  I didn’t deserve kindness on that day.  My parenting was subpar, my boundaries were poor, my toddler wasn’t buckled into the appropriate section of the cart, and the trip was poorly planned.   I was a mess, but I left feeling loved and connected.  As I was reflecting on this story, I thought of words on a recent Lenten blog by Ann Voskamp,  And it all comes round like a circle — His grace that you accept for yourself — is the same grace you then extend to others — which then graciously circles back to you.”  God used these strangers to remind me of His radical grace and commitment to me, despite me.  

Categories Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on February 16, 2015

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