Supermarket Shoppers

The supermarket is busy this morning. And this feels like old times.

During the pandemic, this store was an empty test tube. Employees used to stand by the entrance and take people’s temperatures with radar guns. Cashiers wore Darth Vader masks. Most shoppers hurried through these aisles like they were rushing for the last chopper out of Saigon.

But today, everything feels almost normal. I can’t begin to tell you how nice this feels.

I am in the vegetable aisle, translating the mysterious hieroglyphics my wife calls a shopping list when I notice a woman nearby. She is mid-thirties. She clutches the arm of a silver-haired woman who is pushing a buggy.

The younger woman wears Velcro tennis shoes and shuffles her feet without lifting them, and although it is summer she wears a stocking cap.

She addresses the older woman. “Mom, I need my grapes. Don’t forget my grapes.”

“Of course not, honey,” says Mom.

“You promised me grapes, Mom.”

“I know, sweetie. You’ll get your grapes.”

“Don’t forget.”

When the daughter sees an employee nearby, she makes eye contact. She shows a brilliant smile and waves. She waves with her whole body. “Hi!”

The employee waves back.

The daughter practically shouts. “I’m Cheryl!”

“Nice to meet you, Cheryl.”

Cheryl is all smiles. “Okay! Bye!”

Mother and daughter leave the produce department.

Meantime, I am dutifully following my wife’s list, which carries me to the tomato sauce aisle where I am staring at roughly 32,384 varieties of canned tomato products.

In a few moments, mother and daughter enter the aisle. The daughter is still holding her mother’s arm and moving forward with a labored stagger.

The daughter is saying, “I don’t like orange juice with pulp, Mom. Please don’t buy that kind again, it’s yucky.”

“Please lower your voice, sweetie.”

“I don’t even know what pulp is. What is that gross stuff anyway, Mom?”

“Ssshhh. Inside voice, please.”

The young woman spots a customer nearby. “Hi!” Then she frowns. “Hey, what’s your name?”

So the guy gives her his name, which seems to please the woman greatly. And I’m grinning, too.

Soon, I am wandering through the store without aim. Seals and Croft are singing about summer breezes over the store radio. This is followed by the Bee Gees singing “Jive Talking,” a melody which has been scientifically proven to cause human buttock muscles to involuntarily twitch in perfect rhythm.

When I reach the meat department, I am inspecting a plastic-wrapped ribeye when I hear a screaming voice in the adjacent aisle.

It’s the young woman. She is weeping loudly. I can see her embracing her mother, and she’s bawling.

“But, Mom!” she screams, “you said I could!” Her voice isn’t angry, it’s laced with confusion, or maybe fear. “Mom, please!”

Her mother uses the canonized voice of patience. “Sweetie. I need you to use your indoor voice.”

“Mom! Please! You said that I could…!” More tears.

The mother looks exhausted. You can see total fatigue in her wilted posture. The daughter has completely lost composure, she is not only weeping, but now her face is tucked into her mother’s chest and she is full-on wailing. “Don’t leave me mother!”

The mother holds her daughter in the aisle, squeezing her tightly, kissing her hair. “Nobody is leaving anyone, sweetie.”

The noise attracts a scant crowd of onlookers. Including me. The mother holds up a hand and invites all us well-wishers to kindly let her alone.

She pets her daughter’s face. “Ssshhh. I need you to calm down, sweetie.”

More crying.

“Ssshhh. Breathe, baby.”

The day is saved when a teenager in an employee uniform comes waltzing down the aisle. He is brandishing a grab bag of candy, like the kind you’d buy for Halloween. He’s a man on a mission.

The employee is maybe 15 years old, with longish hair and lean features. He approaches the weeping daughter and says, “Would you like some candy, ma’am?”

The crying daughter releases her mother and the tears have ceased. Her telegenic smile returns. She wipes her slick cheeks and reaches into the bag to remove a handful of miniature-sized confectionery delights.

“Oh my God,” she says. “Mom, look! Candy!” The daughter then hugs the grab bag like it’s a Teddy bear—as though she has never held anything more dear. “Oh! Thank you!”

“Hey, it’s no problem,” the young man says. “It just sounded like you could use some.”

“My name’s Cheryl!”

The teenage employee places a palm on his sternum. He says, “I’m Jason. You can keep the whole bag if you want to, we have plenty of candy in the break room.”

“Oh! Thank you, Jason! I love candy!”

The tired mother gives the boy a genuine look of appreciation. “Thank you.”

He smiles. “Hey. No problem. Have a good day, ma’am.”

And it is my sincerest hope that Jason’s mother might read this and be proud of the young man she raised.


  1. Connie Griggs - June 28, 2021 6:52 am

    I hope Jason’s mother reads this too. There is still HOPE!

  2. Peggy ALEXANDER - June 28, 2021 7:01 am

    May we all have compassion

  3. Christa Gettys - June 28, 2021 7:34 am

    As the mother of an autistic son with ADHD (I’m autistic myself with the ADHD to boot and bipolar so we are both a mixed bag of fun) He’s gonna be 20, I’m gonna be 51. I can tell you tho, After raising him and going through what that mom did…a million times in 20 years, I feel more like I’m 99 with one foot in the grave.
    Now see, my son, and his antics, never bugged me one bit… it was all the JUDGEMENTAL people…EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! I finally made ‘business cards’ explaining about my son’s autism and that HE WAS NOT a spoiled brat, as I had been shouted at more times that I could count or asked why did I even bother to breed if this was the result, or I’d NEVER let my kids, or treat my kids, or do that to my kids………..I figured that at some point me threatening them with murder would catch up to me, so I began to hand out the cards…and they worked to shut them all up!!!!!!!!
    My son is my life, he drives me crazy as all kids do, he loves me very much as i do him. He was my miracle baby. We were both supposed to die during the birth. Doctors had no clue how he was so healthy when they swore he’d die right after (10 pounds of miffed baby boy squalling in the OR after the cut him out of me) So I cherish him beyond words.
    It’s all the people out there .. and Karma bit my arse a good one cause I was one of them, Thinking to myself how anyone could let their kid act that way. I can now with pretty good accuracy tell the difference between a monster brat (they are VERY few and far between), and an overtired, overstimulated, over everything and done kid.

    How many time, millions perhaps, would I have given my eye teeth and a prayer to anyone kind enough to help me. I’ve read all the stories like this, of the ‘hero’ that ‘saves’ the mom and soothes the kid………..never once did that happen. Maybe cause I live in NY State? I don’t know. I;ve helped out as often as i felt it was wanted. I make eye contact with the mom, tilt my head a bit, and it has to be in my eyes, I GET IT, I’VE BEEN THERE, I’M HERE TO HELP IF YOU NEED IT.

    If you’ve read this far (cause it’s over 280 letters) please, never ever ever judge a parent. even if the kid is indeed a brat and the mom is a monster… until you are in her shoes and her life and live it for a while, DO NOT JUDGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It kills us that we are trying, and you don’t give a rat’s kidney about that. You can walk away from the screaming kid and crying mom, She has to do everything in her power to help her child… next time you hear of a mom who did the unspeakable, DO NOT JUDGE!!!!!! What happend is horrific, and she will have to stand before GOD, but HE is the only JUDGE, YOU need to pray. And in every prayer every day, pray for all the moms and dads and caretakers who think that they won’t be able to make it one more day………..pray for them and pray for yourself, that YOU can be more humble, loving and understanding!!!!!! We are all God’s children.

    • Norma Den - June 28, 2021 8:19 am

      Christa. I’ve never been in your position, thanks be to the Grace of God, but I’m with you all the way. You have put into words the whole situation and all people should count their blessings instead of being rude and passing judgement. God bless you.

    • joan moore - June 28, 2021 12:56 pm

      Thank you for sharing this with us ❤️ You know it was not an accident that you witnessed the act of kindness, God wants to plant a seed in all of us and He used the perfect Sower…

    • Suzi - June 28, 2021 5:36 pm

      Thank you Sean for hanging around for “the rest (and best) of the story.
      And Hats Off to all the Christa Getty’s and others of this world who struggle every day with special needs children and adults and the stigma that can added by society.
      God Bless the “Jasons”of this world♥️

  4. Norma Den - June 28, 2021 8:13 am

    Walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins before you judge. God bless Jason & may Cheryls Moms spirits be lifted by the kindness of strangers.

  5. Steve McCaleb - June 28, 2021 8:19 am

    May God shower his blessings on Cheryl, her stalwart mother and young Jason for what The Book refers to as his “tender mercies.” It’s a shame that kindness and basic humanity aren’t as contagious as the covid. Maybe Jason will start a pandemic of kindness. Maybe……any way it’s a good start. Stars in your crown son….stars in your crown

  6. Don Dowling - June 28, 2021 10:10 am

    Thank God got the ‘Jason’s’ of the world – and also for Sean for sharing these magnificent stories each morning!!

  7. Barb Edwards - June 28, 2021 10:59 am

    Your columns always end up touching me in some way. God bless that young man that had a tender heart, compassion, and stepped in to help the mom out. May God give continued strength and patience to the mom of Cheryl and may God continue to protect Cheryl and bless her.

  8. Rhonda - June 28, 2021 11:32 am


  9. Jan - June 28, 2021 12:01 pm

    Amen and amen!

  10. Leigh Amiot - June 28, 2021 12:16 pm

    Like Cheryl, I prefer the orange juice without pulp. Hope they had some in stock!
    God please bless Cheryl, her mother, Jason, Sean, Jamie and Ms. Mary. Amen.

  11. Jo Ann - June 28, 2021 12:23 pm

    Bless Jason that he instinctively knew what would calm Cheryl. I don’t know that many of us would know what to do, even if we really wanted to. Thank you, Sean, for another story about a good person, one of many out & about.

  12. chip plyler - June 28, 2021 12:32 pm

    Jason, you are a fine man, caring and compassionate – Thank you! Your Father is proud of you…

  13. Nancy Crews - June 28, 2021 12:33 pm

    ❤your writing. Bless this mother who child will never grow up. And people like Jason who sees someone in need and takes the time to help.

  14. Joe Fowler - June 28, 2021 12:54 pm

    Excellent post and reminder to all of us to be kind.

  15. Heidi - June 28, 2021 1:25 pm

    I think that most people are concerned & don’t know how to help in these situations. God bless that sweet young man for knowing and his mama for raising him that way. Kindness matters.❤️

  16. Cathy - June 28, 2021 1:35 pm

    Wow!!! If you have ever dealt with a family member who suffers with emotional issues you felt every word of this column with your heart. Overwhelming is one word I would use to describe for all caretakers. We are all Gods children and he made each and every one of us. Jason stepped up because he was sensitive to Cheryl and her mom. I can say from personal experience that having dealt with a family member who suffered from mental illness made me a more compassionate person. I feel sooty for anyone who judges a situation in public. Walk in their shoes for just one day and you will fall to your knees. If I have taught my adult children nothing else, I hope it is compassion for those who are less fortunate. If not, I would feel a total failure as a mother. Great message for a Monday. Thank you Sean and Jason❤️🙏🏻

  17. Suellen - June 28, 2021 1:50 pm

    I got married when I was 19 not because of any plan but because I “had to”. I had my first two children by the time I was 21 and both are developmentally delayed (doctors now are saying cerebral palsy). Blessedly my third child that I had at 24 was not only normal but gifted. The thing is I took on all this responsibility when I was still a kid myself. My then husband decided he hadn’t signed on for any of this and spent his time playing pool and holding up a bar stool and eventually the woman behind the bar. I was terminally exhausted. Trying to work and go to school and take care of these three on my own. I remember many trips to the grocery and to church that went a lot like this. I remember telling the kids more than once that if they didn’t behave we would be on the news “Woman goes berserk in Kmart”. I got a lot of judgmental looks and comments and sometimes found it hard to leave the house. I will forever be grateful for those who stepped in and helped. The ones who did were usually the ones who had a shed load of problems themselves and recognized someone at their wits ends. My older two children will always be children though physically they are now 46 and 45. Thank God for people like Jason. He probably doesn’t even realize how his small act of kindness was huge in the eyes of that harried mother.

  18. Mary Ann Ludwig - June 28, 2021 2:29 pm

    I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Happy tears, but nonetheless I am incredibly moved by the gesture of this young man toward someone he does not know. Once, when I was at my wit’s end and my infant daughter was in the midst of a tantrum while waiting in a chekout line, a beautiful woman made a similar gesture and made the sun come out on my cloudy and rainy day. I have been forever grateful to that woman whose name I never knew. I will try always to hold on to that attitude and never forget that just because someone is creating an uncomfortable scene in a public place, there might be something I could do to imiprove the day for that person and those with him or her. Thanks, Sean, for a lovely column.

  19. Christina - June 28, 2021 2:39 pm

    God bless all the precious ones like Cheryl and their moms. And kudos to Jason!!

  20. Debbie g - June 28, 2021 2:51 pm

    Blessed by your act of kindness Jason. And blessed by you Sean for sharing. love to all

  21. Nell Thomas - June 28, 2021 2:54 pm

    A note to Jason’s mom: You have a precious son.

  22. Bren - June 28, 2021 3:32 pm

    Sean and Christa…….Peace, Love and Joy……..Cheryl, you also and especially !

  23. Sharon Ollis - June 28, 2021 4:22 pm

    Beautifully told!! 🥰

  24. Jenny Young - June 28, 2021 4:40 pm

    There are so many great young people in this this story.

    It reminds me of a funny story. When my son was a teenager he had a friend who worked at the local grocery store. His friend was the happiest, most helpful kind young man I’ve ever met. One day when I asked him how his job was going he replied…’It’s good. I got my work evaluation. I only had one mark against me. They said I was too helpful.’ (I can’t do emojis on my desk top so imagine a shocked face here!) When customers asked where something was he went the extra mile to help them. The boss said he needed to stay on task & just tell the people what they needed to know, not go the extra mile. This teen boy just turned 30, is married with two precious kiddoes & still goes the extra mile.

  25. Dina - June 28, 2021 6:04 pm

    Love this!

  26. MAM - June 28, 2021 6:39 pm

    I guess we all have a similar story, probably about 50 years ago. I remember one day when a brat (yes, you can tell the difference!) was throwing a tantrum in an aisle of a grocery story, the mom swatted the kid’s rear and after one more screech, he calmed down. In the next aisle, a judgmental woman huffed: “Did you see that?” and I said, “yes, I did, and the kid deserved it.” She huuumphed away. (I guess I was being judgmental, too, as I believed the kid did deserve it and believed the mom took the correct action.)

  27. Cindy Foster - June 28, 2021 6:51 pm

    Awwwww🥰 sweet story!!

  28. Chasity Davis Ritter - June 28, 2021 7:09 pm

    God Bless Jason and Cheryl’s mom too. 💚🙏

  29. Mark Daigle - June 28, 2021 7:48 pm

    Have you ever heard this song by Emi Sunshine?

  30. Linda Moon - June 28, 2021 8:14 pm

    Old times. I recently began to live again in now times. Like you and a worldful of others, I feel nice about it. I honestly wondered if the return to people and places I’ve loved would be like going to Heaven after our stint on Earth. The placeful of people I returned from earlier today WAS like Heaven as I can imagine it. Jason’s mother did a good job, and Cheryl’s mother is doing a good one, too. I know and love a mother and her son, who is a lot like like Cheryl. He successfully works in a grocery store, and his mother is proud. Your mother is no doubt proud of the young man she raised, Sean!

  31. Barbara - June 29, 2021 2:33 am

    Thank you. I wish I could give you a ❤️ like on social media.

  32. Chip Carter - June 29, 2021 2:55 am

    I love your column! I’ve just finished reading (3) of your books, and have read through (1) of your essay books. Thank you for being both authentic and vulnerable. And an incredible observer of life. I’m grateful for you…

  33. Bill Harris - June 30, 2021 1:13 am

    Thank you Sean


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