I believe in always returning your shopping cart at the grocery store- and I don’t mean rolling it over next to the curb, or near the cart vestibule, but returning it so it’s secure; where it belongs. I realize how silly this belief might sound, but I believe this little act of courtesy embodies the basic components of respect, responsibility, and personal accountability necessary to create a healthy community.
I feel a strong sense of community is missing in many towns in the United States, perhaps because of tourism, perhaps our communities are too large, or perhaps because even our small communities are too stratified into smaller communities based on religion, race or wealth. But no matter our divisions, we all have to shop- whether there’s one IGA in town, or several large chain grocery stores; sooner or later we all end up at the store. And when we do, how we treat each other there is a reflection of how we treat each other on the streets- will I cut in front of someone as they search the shelf for a box of crackers, or will I wait and offer a smile; if I do cut in front of them, should I apologize? Will I move quickly past the gentleman in the wheel chair trying to find plain bagels, or will I take a moment to stop and help him look? These simple choices to help the people around me in the store carry over to choices I make to help people in my community. The more I can be patient, courteous, and helpful to the people in my community, the more this community will feel like home, will be a better place to raise my son, and perhaps, encourage others to strive for the same qualities.
I admit, sometimes it’s hard to return that cart! Living in Maine with a two year old son, there are days in the winter when taking that cart back is a hurdle- pushing those loose wheels through the slush and driving snow, slipping as I carry my son back to the car, having to maneuver the car around other abandoned carts in the lot- I ask “Is this really worth it? Will anyone know that today, this once, I didn’t return my grocery cart?” But I look at my son, smiling through the snow, and I know the answer is yes, it is worth it, because at least I didn’t create an obstacle that someone else had to maneuver around- and isn’t that what community is really all about?
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