For more than a decade, I have been doing most of my grocery shopping at my local PriceRite and Aldi’s. They have good products, and are considerably less expensive than other markets, and I’m always looking for a good bargain! One of the other things that I liked about each of these stores was that there was an incentive to take your shopping cart back to the cart rack when you were finished shopping. Both stores required you to “rent” a cart by putting a quarter into the cart prior to taking it. You got the quarter back after shopping but only if you took the cart back. There were no carts left in the parking lot!
But then one day (many years ago now) I noticed that PriceRite had done away with the cart rentals. Suddenly, carts began filling up the parking spaces at the store. Many people weren’t taking their carts back anymore. Arghhh! I told the management that I wished they had kept the old system, but they told me that many people had complained about it.
While I was complaining about the carts scattered around the parking lot, I realized that my complaining wasn’t doing any good – for me or for anyone else. It was time to do something. What I decided to do was to begin putting away some of the carts myself. After I packed away all my groceries, I put my cart in the cart rack along with any other carts that I passed on the way. It got to be a habit. One time I was pushing two or three carts along when I heard a person call out. I looked around and saw a person pushing a cart towards me. As they went they picked up another cart and brought it along. Both were passed to me with a pleasant, “here’s another two other carts for you.” I realized that this person thought I was the cart “putter-away-er,” so I replied, “thank you, very much” with a smile. It was a small thing to encourage someone else in doing good.
Now why write about that? Because, now that I think of it, I realize that my shopping cart experiences have a lot to do with how we might live out our Christian faith. There are a lot of things in this world that aren’t right. We are a divided people; divided over race, over health care, over economic status, over education, over theology, over sexuality, over violence, over solutions to all of these problems and more. Sometimes that happens in our Presbytery, too, and that hurts. We complain about these divisions, sometimes to the appropriate people and sometimes not. It sometimes seems that there’s nothing we can do. But my shopping cart story reminds me that there is something more that we can do.
We can do something, even something small, to begin to make things right.
If I dislike how people are often not acting honorably in today’s society, well, then I can (and should) go out of my way to act honorably. If I complain about an epidemic of cheating, well, I can be scrupulously honest in my dealings with others even to my disadvantage. When people aren’t listening to people they disagree with, I can listen. When I see so much “Fake News” being touted, I can make sure to only put out researched and considered opinions. When someone condemns others because of a different skin color or sexuality or vocation, I can practice love (and sometimes tough love). If I don’t like how people aren’t supporting their community…well, you get the picture.
There are lots of things that we don’t like, things that rub us the wrong way. We can complain and just get more and more depressed and angry about them, or we can do something positive and make a difference for the good. And just maybe, someone else will see the good we’re doing and be encouraged to do the same and more. Someone else might see that we are Christians doing good and see Christ in a new way. The only problem is that we might end up with fewer things to complain about, but that’s a price we all can pay.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” ~ 1 Peter 2:11,12. (NIV)
May you all be blessed, united and strong in Christ,