Last night, I was in Blacksburg coming out of Kroger, where I had eaten a delicious baked salmon and veggie dinner. It came with a fountain drink and I had chosen water, but saved it for the road and had it sitting in the cup-holder in my cart. So, as I’m walking out the door, the water gets jostled, falls on the ground and spills.
A Kroger employee who was getting off for the day happened to be walking out at the same time I was. He stopped and looked at my drink spreading out on the concrete. “Oh, sh**, he said once. And then again, “Oh, sh**.” clearly upset and concerned for my loss and inconvenience. As I looked at him, I felt myself wanting to make him feel better. “It’s OK, I said.”Its only water,” But it wasn’t only water. I actually needed to drink one more water in the next hour, while I was driving home to Floyd, for health reasons.
In that moment, this man who was clearly of Middle Eastern descent and who no doubt was tired, and I’m guessing, wanting to get home to his family, was standing there worried about my needs. And I, who really needed my water, was comforting him! In the back of my mind something shifted in that split second. I flashed back to an NYC visit to see my son two weeks post 9/11, when I am ashamed to admit, I was feeling distrustful and afraid of folks who looked like this man. I’m sure they may have felt the same distrust and fear of pale faces like me, many of whom were acting out in random acts of violence and revenge. There was a lot of fear floating around. The moment of mutual empathy zapped the memory and washed my mind clean and fresh. He spoke again, “Please go back in and get more water,” he said. “It will be all right.”
“Thanks,” I said, “I’ll do that,” He went his way and I went back into the store to get a new container of the precious liquid.
I’ve been sitting here,drinking water in a tall blue glass. Now I’m going back to sleep, dreaming of a time when we remember that we all drink water and we all love our children.