The Joy of the Wobbly Shopping Cart

August 23, 2016

A few days ago I went to the grocery store to pick up a few items. I had a rather small window of time so I was focused and on a mission. I was barely aware of the other people in the parking lot around me when I got out of my car, but I soon snapped out of my daze and realized a young man was talking to me.


“Ma’am. Ma’am? Hello, Ma’am,” said the young man walking toward me with his shopping cart.


“Hello,” I said, shaking off the solitude of my car.


“Would you like this cart? The right back wheel’s a little crappy, but it still does the job.”


“Yes, I would. Thank you. Have a good night,” I said, bidding him an assumed farewell.


“Oh, I’ve got a long drive ahead of me. Driving up north to help a friend.”


As this young man, somewhere in his late teens or early-twenties, continued to tell me about his destination and the likely events at the end of his day, I couldn’t help but smile. A genuinely nice person had crossed my path and I felt invigorated by his energy and kindness. I always appreciate the moments that make me stop and wake up from the more-often-than-desirable feeling of auto-pilot in which I find myself some days.


When he had finished his story to his satisfaction, he waved good-bye and walked to his car.


“Save travels,” I said.


“You too.”


But I was just going to buy some groceries. His comment made me remember that we are always travelling on our own journey, whether on a routine errand or a new, grand adventure. Each encounter we experience along the way keeps us company and guides us in the direction we go next.


My next direction was into the grocery store. The young man was correct; the right front wheel really was crappy. As it ka-thunked its way across the parking lot toward the store entrance, I smiled. Every time it ka-thunked, the shopping cart shook and landed with a crash.


But I did not exchange the cart for a smoother one on the way in. I kept the wobbly shopping cart. After all, it still did the job. The door to the grocery store slid open to welcome me. The store was undergoing some remodeling and all of the floors were torn up, making them bumpier than the parking lot. The crappy wheel seemed to scream with joy as it trekked up and down the aisles.


My wobbly shopping cart announced its presence with each turn of the wheel. Fellow shoppers turned to look at the commotion as I travelled by them. I was compelled to smile at each one. Some smiled back; others did not.


I collected my items, checked out, and walked back out to the parking lot. As I ka-thunked my way back to my car, I smiled, wondering how far the young man had gotten on his drive north. As I thought of him I was reminded that so many things that aren’t viewed as perfect (or even adequate) still work, and all of the various kinds of joy that cross our paths every day, many passing without notice.


I took the cart to the corral in the parking lot to return it. A woman walked toward me.


“Hello, would you like a cart?” I asked. “ It’s a bit wobbly, but it does the job.”


“Yes, thank you,” she said.


“Have a good night.”


I wish you uncontainable smiles in the experiences that cross your path along your journey today.


Share a wobbly shopping cart. Spread the joy.


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© 2014 by Wendy P. Jones.