I was slow to get moving yesterday, drinking coffee, waiting for laundry to dry, reading blogs and Facebook posts after taking our daughter to the bus. There was upsetting news about the government shutdown. About people not getting paid for their work. And about programs like WIC running out of funding until the shutdown is over. I thought of all the days we’ve relied on WIC to provide healthy, nourishing food for our family. I thought of how those who are food insecure would get a little more insecure with the news. How going to the grocery store is drudgery for me, especially when I’m using WIC checks because they take more time and there’s almost always a delay or a problem.
I left for the grocery store bearing burdens too heavy for my shoulders.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
I pulled my van into the Aldi parking lot and dug out my quarter for the cart. I was mercifully alone on my grocery errand, the boy at home with his dad so I could be quick about restocking our shelves. I opened the hatch to find our reusable bags when the man with the broken English approached.
“You are going into the Aldi?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Come, follow me. I give you my cart free.”
I closed the back of the van and followed him to his car. I briefly wondered if this was wise but the parking lot was full and it was daylight. I watched him unpack a few things into his car. He gestured for me to take the cart. I held out my quarter and he shook his head.
“Thank you,” I said. “Have a great day.”
I walked into the store a little lighter for the kindness.
The days may be dark, but here was a glimmer of light.
I filled the cart, checking it against my list, grateful for the chance to take my time and make decisions slowly. I was halfway through the store when I noticed her. She was agitated and looking for her friend to borrow a phone. With her Access (food stamp) card in one hand, she furiously dialed and punched in numbers to check her balance. I’d made the same call a day earlier, checking to see if our monthly allotment had been distributed in the chaos of government bureaucracy. I’m forever fearful that I’ll get to the checkout with a cart full of groceries and not be able to pay because of a technological glitch.
I watched out of the corner of my eye as she was visibly upset with the result of her call. I don’t know the circumstances or lifestyle of the woman but I know what it is, at least in part, to stare at empty pantry shelves and wonder when and how you’re going to put a meal together.
My mind immediately leaps to the worst-case scenario, and as I looked at my cart, I wondered if maybe there was a problem after all and maybe I wouldn’t be able to pay for my groceries.
I walked on in faith, paid for my groceries and bagged them, grateful that another trip to the grocery store was done.
When I got to the car, I checked my phone. Even though it’s October and I’ve had less than a handful of calls from our daughter’s school, I’m still paranoid that she’ll need something during the day and I’ll miss the call.
I saw an e-mail instead. An urgent prayer request. A tragic loss.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I said the words out loud.
In the beginning there was darkness. And there was light. And I wondered if God could have made a world without darkness.
I tire quickly of the darkness. I avoid the news. I keep to the safety of the neighborhoods I know. I shut my eyes to the horrors of the world because it is too much to bear. Too much darkness. Not enough light. Never enough light.
I tire quickly of my darkness, the black parts of my heart that seep out through my words and actions. I forget that the story doesn’t end with darkness.
You are the light of the world.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
In the beginning there was darkness. But the Spirit of God was moving. Light was being born.
There is darkness, yes, but there is light and it is us, and we are pushing back the darkness one kindness, one act of love at a time.