Have you ever been to a box store on “Sample Day”? At every aisle there seems to be a delicious clear plastic cup available for the mere cost of 50-500+ calories. If you play your cards right, you can eat close to a full meal – or at least enough to calm the hunger monsters for the remainder of your shopping experience.
Personally, I hate shopping, even for food, but there is something enticing about being served – about others giving you a slice of undeserved goodness. Further, it is a treat when that which is offered is something that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to purchase. In our hearts, however, I think we all have come to learn that nothing in life is truly free, whether or not the cost is known to us.
Last Saturday, our family was just excited to be out in the world. My son had been battling his first sniffles of the season, and my daughter had recently decided that sleep during the day is no longer important. We escaped our little town and headed to the big city. I really wish that last statement wasn’t so painfully true.
After a four-hour adventure to find my son a new pair of shoes, we ate lunch and felt compelled to spend at least $200 at the region’s warehouse grocery store. When you have children, sadly, this amount feels like it gets you little more than diapers, wipes, and hand soap – yes, lots of hand soap.
Lucky for us, it was Sample Day, and the sweet older women behind their respective counters were practically throwing food at us.
“Did you taste the grapes? Look at this French bread portion! Cheese inside meat – you’ve got to be kidding me!”
Somehow it was as if the samples, within seconds of reaching my fingertips, had turned me into the most annoying stereotypical American, and that is when it happened. In the midst of the tastes and fun, I let it slip.
I decided that the chips my husband picked out were not good enough. I wanted the ultra expensive blue corn made-from-tiny-pieces-of-heaven brand. My husband resigned: “Here, Sweetie, I’ll take her while you go get the chips you want.” And, with that, I departed from my daughter’s stroller with my eye on finer things.
When we reconnected a few aisles away just three minutes later, I felt giddy. “Let’s look at towels next!” It was there, while touching plush cotton (of which I would never fully understand or appreciate the origin) that I realized there was no stroller.
Despite the wave of irrational scenarios that flowed through my head as I sprinted back to the meat section, I found our daughter just where we had left her – still fast asleep.
In this experience, I realized that, if we aren’t careful, our temptation for things can prevent us from keeping our eye on the present. Perhaps most disturbing about the whole incident was the scene in which I found our daughter after the scare. Although several men and women were shopping in that same aisle, their attention was solely captured by items on the shelves. No one had even noticed the abandoned stroller.
In a season of masks, money, and material things, I think pondering our external desires and how they influence our behavior is important. I’ve learned that nice things at a minimal “cost” rarely benefit you, the consumer, and there is always an impact felt somewhere by someone.
In the end, our fright was short-lived and I was reminded that we only stand to gain when we decide that less is more. And sometimes scariest of all is not what we buy, but who we become when what we want is within reach.