Saturday, October 23, 2010
Free Grapes and Other White Lies
I dashed into the grocery store, my sick two-year old pressed to my chest as I tried to protect us from the bullets of hail that spit down from the black sky. Really Lord? Anything else? I managed to make it through the automatic doors without serious injury, just the residual sensation of hard, wet kisses on my face.
I stuffed Lily into the seat of the carriage, pulling off her hood to reveal a crust-laden little face with bleary eyes.
“Ok, pumpkin. We’ll make this fast,” I consoled her.
Grocery shopping was by no means what we needed to be doing right now. I should be taking my little one home, soothing her with a warm bath and slipping her into her coziest pajamas. But the refrigerator was screaming for food, pleading for milk that had not expired and eggs that had not solidified into a hard gel. I had managed to forego these basic necessities for several days, instead seeking out those “pushed to the back of the shelf” items that no one liked but that were still viable as human sustenance.
I hurried to the produce section, determined to get some fresh fruit and vegetables rather than frozen replicas. Yes, the family needed fresh, healthy everything…maybe that would cure the rampant colds that had plagued us all for the last four weeks.
I stopped at the center aisle display, seeking out the Red Delicious apples among the Macintosh and Golden. I spied them at the end of the display, right next to the rounded end-cap that supported the display of green, purple and seedless grapes.
I paused before the apples, pulled a single plastic produce bag from the turnwheel, and began to sort through the Red Delicious for six perfect specimens. As I did, my eye caught the sight of the two older women standing before the grapes.
One was in her sixties to be sure…the other maybe mid-fifties. They were unremarkable…just ladies out to the store to pick up a few provisions. What held my stare was not the older one’s oversized, owlish glasses, or her wild gray hair, but the fact that she was unabashedly filling her mouth with grapes. I watched as she pulled the plump, purple bodies from the stem, popping one after another into the dark hole of her mouth. She chewed, her mouth full, protruding squirrel-like from the bounty within. A spot of purple juice appeared on her face, seeping out between her lips and collecting in the deep corner of her mouth.
She looked up mid-chew and caught my stare. There was a momentary slowing of her chomping jaw. I wanted to say something.
“Oh, are the grapes free today?” my mind asked. But my lips did not move, and I looked away.
She returned to her banquet, now putting a few stems of grapes into a plastic produce bag for her purchase, all the while just popping and chewing.
I moved away, bothered. Annoyed. Aggravated.
My inner dialogue began.
“Why does this bother you so much? Who cares if she eats the grapes? It’s not your place to say anything to her. Stop being so judgmental,” my inner voice scolded.
“Because it’s not right,” the opposing voice retorted.
Yes, the inner argument had begun.
“It’s not your business.”
I passed the bananas and picked up a bright, yellow bunch and place them in the carriage.
“Well, you’d never see someone stand in front of the bananas, peel one back and begin eating. You’d never see anyone open the prepared fruit trays and take their pick of the carefully squared pineapple, or strawberry halves. And never would you see someone open up the two-pound bags of pre-cooked chicken wings and begin lunching.”
“Why is that different?”
“Grapes are small.”
That was it, I thought. It’s because they are small that she felt it was no big deal. It wasn’t stealing, it wasn’t taking. It wasn’t any big deal at all. After all, no one usually noticed someone with a little grape in their hand. Or, that hand reaching up to one’s mouth and popping something in to it. After all, who really knew what they were putting in their mouth. It could be anything.
It occurred to me what a parallel this was to my life…our lives. It’s all the little white lies we tell ourselves that finally undermine us.
It’s ok to have that one little drink even though we’ve already had too much. Who would know? No one was there sitting next to you in the dark.
It’s ok to tell that little white lie about why we can’t do something…or about something that occurred. It wasn’t a big lie…itsy bitsy.
It’s ok to take the extra change that the store clerk absentmindedly gave you. After all, it’s just a dollar. What’s a dollar in the scheme of things?
This was my lesson.
Grapes are not free. They have a cost. There is a price to pay for each one. Just as the little white lies we tell ourselves. It’s all cumulative. It all adds up. And although popping a few grapes doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, in fact it hurts everyone, as we’ll all end up paying for it sooner or later.
Our souls are sensitive, of too much value to be pitted by the tiny lies we tell ourselves on a daily basis. One black mark on the soft matter of our spirit may not look like much. But add them up, day by day, year by year, and soon we run the danger of becoming black spirited altogether.
Take control of your spirit’s happiness and well-being. Begin looking at everything you do as either good for your soul and in alignment with your values or not. Every time you consciously choose to follow the path of truth…your spirit shines a little brighter. A lifetime of this and your soul will be so bright…your reflection of such goodness…that the world will not be able to overlook your loving presence.
For everything you do…for everything you want…there is a price to pay or a reward to receive.
Just remember sweet souls, grapes are not free.