I needed to pick up a few things the other night and some of those few things were at the TSC farm store that is located right across the highway from Wal-Mart. That was just downright convenient because the other things were available at Wal-Mart. As I walked by the flower cooler (at Wal-Mart, not TSC), I picked out a large bouquet for Randa and then made my way to the checkout. On the way, I added a small bunch of bananas.
A woman in a plain dress and wearing a thin shawl was taking her things out of her cart and laying them on the counter. A man was with her but not helping with the unloading. He seemed to be around forty years old and gave both the appearance and behavior of someone who had Downs Syndrome. He wore thick glasses and had very thin hair. His jeans were too long; the bottom of the legs folded against the top of his thick-soled shoes. He shuffled from one foot to the other, looked at the magazine rack and the candy rack, and then moved slowly to the front of the cart.
As the cashier began ringing up the last few of their items, the woman took two twenties from her purse and handed them to the man. “Here, Michael, give the woman the money.”
He reached out his hand hesitantly, took the money and then clenched it in his hand. He looked from the older woman at the cart to the younger woman at the register and then looked back at the money. “Michael,” the older woman repeated, firmly yet gently, “You have to pay for our stuff. Give the woman the money.”
Michael took two small steps toward the register. The cashier, who appeared to be about forty, smiled slightly at Michael. He stretched the money toward her and she smiled again, “Thank you.” Michael stepped back and looked again toward the older woman. I could not see her face but I could tell that she nodded at him. In a bit she said, “Michael, you need to get your change.”
He kept staring at her. “The woman is going to give you some money; you have to get your change.” He looked back at the cashier who was taking change out of the drawer and stepped back to the counter. The older woman pushed their cart around him and began picking up their bags, putting them into the cart.
The cashier smiled at him again and stretched the money across the counter, “Here’s your change. Thank you.” Without a word, he took the money and the receipt.
“That’s good, Michael. Now, put the money in my purse.” For the first time, I could see the woman’s face. Her hair was white and her face slightly wrinkled. There was a gentleness in her eyes that matched the grace that was in her voice. I marveled at her peace and patience with Michael. I thought surely she must be his mother and thought about the long years of her patient loving.
They headed toward the exit and the cashier and I exchanged looks, simply nodded in acknowledgement. Nothing was said about Michael.
I paid for the bouquet and the bananas and then headed toward the door myself. I was still marveling at the gentleness and grace of the whole scene I had just witnessed: the woman’s quiet control, Michael’s humble simplicity, the cashier’s comfortable sincerity. It felt almost like worship, like sitting alone in a small quiet chapel and feeling the touch of God.
I should have bought bouquets for all of them.