It was around 1:00 in the afternoon on a typical Wednesday afternoon. For no apparent reason, I stopped at the store to get something I didn’t really want or need. It was only afterward that I recognized that time itself had seemed to pull at me.
Wandering the aisles, I picked up and then put down various foods, turning them in my hands to then ignore the nutritional information emblazoned there. My mind was clear and although I had entered the store with the urge to buy something specific, I felt no urgency or recollection of that which had drawn me inside.
I turned to head to another aisle and saw a relatively young man standing near the canned vegetables. His clothes were dirty and even his shoes didn’t match. His posture indicated a rough life, one filled with arduous work and commensurate pain to accompany it. I think he was doing the math of hunger in his head, dividing the contents of his wallet between as many cans as possible. He had two different cans in his hands, studying them. As I neared him, I took out a twenty-dollar bill from my own wallet. The young man looked up at me and smiled.
As we made eye contact, I handed him the $20 and said, “It will not always be like this.” It’s not what I expected to say and even though I said the words, they were a surprise to me.
“Thank you, sir.” The young man spoke and even though his voice lifted at the end, no further words were offered. He continued to smile as I waved at him and turned the corner, losing him from my field of vision.
I stopped in front of the soups, randomly picking one from the shelf as my eyes welled with tears. For a few moments, I blindly turned the same can of chicken soup in my hands.
A hand tapped at my right shoulder. I turned to see an older black man looking at me with apprehension. His hair was as silver as any I’ve ever seen. He was wearing a blue suit with a matching blue shirt. The effect was both startling and calming.
The stranger cleared his throat and then said, “That profound and elusive clarity wherein what we already know is revealed to us in a burst of obvious truth.“
I looked back toward the shelf to place the can of chicken soup in its spot. When I turned back, the older man in the blue suit was quickly walking away from me, his cane echoing on the floor as his arms moved.
I moved to catch up to him. When I cleared the end of the aisle, I could no longer see him. Instead, I found myself in front of register 4. The young man I had helped was carefully loading at least a dozen cans of food onto the conveyor belt.
In that moment: clarity.