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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Abundance (06/08/06)

TITLE: The Checkout Line
By Jen Davis


Standing in the checkout line at the grocery superstore, three carts deep on a busy Saturday afternoon, I regret not finding time earlier in the week to get my shopping done. My stomach growls as I consider opening one my kid’s snack packages to hold me off. At least for the moment I abstain from the temptation. Looking at the people around me, I glance into their carts and realize that you can tell a lot about people by the items in their grocery cart.

Directly in front of me is a mother whose cart is overflowing with all kinds of stuff: food, clothing, toys, and more toys. The arrangement of the items alone seems to bear witness to her busy life. Items are thrown in as if she made a mad dash through the store. Considering she has two children with her, this is understandable. Her infant, nestled in a carrier and having been entertained by an array of toys dangling from its handle, has begun to grow restless. Her toddler hangs off one side of the cart crying. He wants more of something, but only his mother can understand. All I can make out is “I waaa…na.” I’m afraid if the mother puts one more item in her cart it will topple over with the children in tow.

A man, casually dressed in shorts and t-shirt, is checking out in the express lane next to mine. I watch as he pulls out his items from the small basket he has carried throughout the store. He has selected something from the butcher, wrapped in brown paper…olive oil…lemon…fresh asparagus and a loaf of hot bread fresh from the bakery. He has bought all that he needs for the day.

At last the woman in front of me begins to place her items on the conveyer belt. Her child is still screaming. Now he wants the candy bars that line the checkout isle. She tries to reason with him, but to no avail. The child goes into meltdown. Out of complete exasperation the mother does the only thing she can think to do to quiet her child: she gives in.

Looking at the items in my own cart, I notice that a person could learn a good deal about me. Likes to garden: flowers fill the storage area underneath my cart and two hanging baskets are hooked to the outside. Spoils her dogs: three bags of doggie treats, 1 bag of rawhide bones and two dog toys. Over forty: reading glasses. Make that over forty-five: that’s a four-pack of reading glasses. I have advanced from the stage of needing them occasionally to needing a pair for every room in the house.

In addition to having items in my cart that I do need, there are many others I do not. Most I have bought on impulse. I have come to the grocery store hungry. My children know this tendency of mine. Often when I announce to them that I’m hungry they will respond: “Go shopping!” The hungrier I am, they know, the more junk food I will buy.

As I glance from cart to cart many items seem destined to further complicate life. There are items which will likely lead to conflict, clutter, and hours of cleaning. Still others that will soon need to be repaired, replaced, or even returned. It’s easy to get confused about what we want versus what we need. Much of the culture today has become like the little child who wants more but never seems satisfied.

As I continue to wait in line, I realize my shopping experience is sort of like my relationship with God. When I neglect feeding myself spiritually I am more likely to try to fill that void with things I don’t need and that will never truly satisfy. When I take time to nurture my relationship with God and appreciate the many blessings in my life, then I am truly satisfied. While I have come to the store for groceries today, I have found much more than that. I have been reminded that my needs are simple and that I am already living a life of abundance.

At last I finally reach the checkout counter. After the cashier and I exchange greetings, she asks me the same question she asks every other customer in one way or another, “Did you find everything that you were looking for today?

“Yes,” I answer her with a smile, “I did.”

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This article has been read 887 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ann Grover06/15/06
"...I have been reminded that my needs are simple and that I am already living a life of abundance."

Wow... I just finished reading an article about Mother Theresa and the condition of the people she ministered to... we are SO blesssed materially, and so often don't see it. But beyond that, God blesses us with an overflowing spiritual LIFE... and often we don't avail ourselves of it.

Excellent writing. Clear, concise, drew me in.
Jan Ackerson 06/15/06
Very nice--a devotional disguised as a narrative, and beautifully done. (I once saw a fellow buying 6 bunches of bananas and a bag of corn chips. Sent me into hours of speculation...) Very readable "voice."

Teensy suggestion: re-write the 2nd person reference in the first paragraph.

I like the bits about the reading glasses and the junk food--that's the sort of thing that keeps your reader reading until they hit the pow! moment.
Marilyn Schnepp 06/17/06
Very, very interesting. You CAN tell alot about people and their shopping carts! An "of" was left out in Kid's treats, but that was forgotten after delving into your creative thoughts about people, God and our abundance...Very nicely done. (As for Jan's speculations about the bananas and corn chips...the man was going to visit a zoo).
dub W06/19/06
Almost a narrative. You tell a good story. To liven it up a little add dialog to make the essay active. Without the dialog it is a long devotion.
Sherry Wendling06/20/06
I really enjoyed this and can identify, being a people-watcher in checkout lines myself! A real good read.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/21/06
This is wonderful and very thought provoking. I loved it.
Edy T Johnson 06/21/06
My favorite line:
"Much of the culture today has become like the little child who wants more but never seems satisfied."

We do learn so much, just keeping our eyes open. I like your entertaining approach to the topic.
Lisa Vest06/27/06
Great job! This immediately drew me in with the down to earth, conversational tone. I love the way you ended it..."did you find everything you needed today?" Great way to wrap it up and leave the reader thinking. I really enjoyed it.
david perez12/20/06
There's lots of good puzzling to be had at the checkout counter. Like a slice of someone else's day or life. I like that the author brings out the connectedness we all share in such places.