There isn’t much more chaotic than my down-the-street Kroger on a Wednesday afternoon on a warm summer day.
Typically, I avoid the grocery store like the plague unless it’s after dinner, or early in the morning. But in this case we’d been mostly out of town for six days and the cupboards, they were bare. As the Curly Girl put it, “We don’t even have chocolate milk!” Gasp.
We survived the actual shopping, and so I (mistakenly) thought we were home-free. As we headed across a busy parking lot, loaded down with cart full of bags, I heard a voice say, “Hey ma’am, you know they’re selling these again, right?” I turned to see a young man, Kroger-uniformed, hanging by a bunch of a carts. And in his hand was…wait for it…a fidget spinner. (If you do not know what this is, all I can say is Lucky. You.)
I nodded my head, and (I thought) nicely, said, “Yes…thanks,” and kept moving the cart, the girl-child and me along.
“Wait–you don’t want one?” I heard, and I turned again–this time the young man was walking towards us. I shook my head, kept moving. And then he said, louder, “What? You don’t support these? You a teacher or something?”
At which point I stopped. Took a firm grip of CG’s hand, lodged the cart against one foot, and turned, holding up my other hand, and said (not nicely), “I am not interested.”
As we turned and moved quickly away I heard him swear under his breath and let out a, “FINE!”
I could care less about fidget spinners–for or against. I mean, sure, they’re trendy and fun and whatever but honestly I’ve got a million other things on my mind. I was annoyed at the parking lot hard sell for sure, but more than that, I was struck by his word choice, “You don’t support these?”
Support? A cheap piece of plastic and metal? Um…no. I support equality for all people. I support my daughter’s school. I support the nonprofit where I work with both time and money. I support my friends and family in their efforts to live meaningful lives.
I do not support a toy. Of any kind. Such things are not causes to support, but products to be consumed. And to paraphrase my hero (and my daughter’s namesake) Madeleine L’ Engle, “consumer” is really an awful word if you think about it. “Cancer consumes,” she once wrote, following the death of her beloved husband.
We consume a lot in these United States. But what frightens me the most is that lately, what we seem to consume most is each other. And we do so by labeling. But pitting us against them. By any of many assumptions we make about each other based on any number of outward appearances. And…by making what one “supports,” their sole identity.
I could hear it in his voice, “What, you don’t support this super fun and trendy thing? You must be a total buzzkill.”
Sort of like, “You vote Democrat? Ah, you must be a bleeding heart leftist who cares nothing about individual responsibility or morality.” Or, “GOP? Well, then you must hate poor people and women. Gay people too.”
Or, “You’re a Millennial? Well, you must be selfish and lazy.” Or, “Baby Boomer? You must only care about money.”
We do it all the damn time. Over a million things. If you support X, you must be Y (You know I’m wound up when I start hinting at algebra in writing…sheesh!) And yea, I know the cart guy was probably just bored and maybe just wanted to start a conversation and perhaps needed a wee lesson in boundaries (READ: Do not continue to approach a mom and young child in a parking lot when said mom is actively walking away from you.) But everything about it reminded me of how we pigeonhole each other to death in this country.
We’re in a damn mess, y’all. Politically, spiritually, environmentally and otherwise in this country. And I know that any of you who happen to read what I write regularly will not be surprised at what I’m about to say, and are probably real tired of hearing me say it, but we stand no chance–NO. CHANCE.–at any healing and whole way forward unless we do so together.
For the love.
Look, there are beliefs I hold dear. That I would fight for if necessary. That I stake my life on. And that I am convinced with every fiber of my being are the “right way.” And mostly these things have to do with compassion and equality and how we treat each other as human beings.
There’s also this: I am a Christian. And for me, that means doing the best I can at loving God and following Jesus. Even though most days I fail miserably at this. But here’s what keeps me in the game: Community. Real, true, binding-to-one-another community. Community that you can’t find your way out of it because it holds you so close to its heart.
In my church, we celebrate communion every week. And everyone is welcome. Because we believe that’s how Jesus intended it. We believe that God’s love as expressed in that moment is for everyone. Everyone.
That means that every week I share a deeply spiritual experience with all sorts of people. Many of them people that I disagree with vehemently when it comes to politics or social issues. Many of them people that I would not necessarily otherwise be in relationship with. All of us people who have made mistakes, hurt other people, fallen short of what God has called us to be. And yet…there we are. Same moment. Same bread and cup. Same God. And I don’t even pretend to know how each of us processes it or experiences it, but I know that it matters. And that some weeks, it is all that keeps me from giving up entirely on this world of ours.
Because we belong to each other. We simply do. By sharing the same air and walking on the same Earth we belong to each other. My own faith calls me to take that up a notch and add, “And because the same force of love and goodness created us all…we belong to each other.”
If I could etch this on all our hearts, write it painstakingly across all our souls, I would. Because I believe with all that I am that it is the only way.