A Familiar Cart

The other day I had to pop into a big box store to grab a few things, five items to be exact. No big deal. It was early in the morning so I would run right in and right back out. Naturally I got in the express checkout after collecting my stuff. You know the one. The lane that is clearly marked for people with “20 Items or Less.” I was fourth in line.


The man standing at the front of the line had a cart full of bags and more on the conveyer belt. To top it off he was waiting for a price check on something. I started reassuring myself that it was no big deal and he probably had a very good reason to abuse the posted limit. Then my eyes shifted to the person behind him. I couldn’t get a good a look at her cart but she appeared professional, like she stopped at the store on the way to work. The person directly in front of me had 27 items, mostly prepackaged items for breakfast, lunch and after school snacks. Oh wait, make that 28. She grabbed a box of Krispy Kreme’s while we waited.

Call me a control freak, a compliant, a rule follower, or just a plain jerk if you want, but I was getting steamed. Why do so many people consider themselves as the exception to such a simple rule? As I stewed, the checker finished up with ‘full-cart price-check guy’ and we all stepped forward. ‘Professional lady’ started unloading and I started counting; 18, 19, 20, with a handful of items still in her cart. “Her too? Come on!” But before my simmer became a rolling boil I started noticing the contents of her cart instead of their number.

  • Cleaning supplies, a trashcan, mop, a set of pots and pans, a set of dishes, paper towels, garbage bags, and a few kitchen utensils.

I recognized the cart. I’m pretty sure she was starting over.

Instantly I was confronted with how judgmental I was being. Then the question in my mind went from, “How can people arrogantly thumb there nose at something so clear as, ‘20 Items or Less?’” to “What are the people around me going through?”

That’s probably a question we all need to carry with us. It helps us focus on what’s important: people, and it leads to other better questions.

  • Is anyone walking through whatever it is with them?
  • Do they have needs we can meet?
  • Has anyone spoken the truth to him or her in a loving way?

But the question followers of Jesus need to be asking is, “What is the good news for this person right now?” Sharing the gospel doesn’t always mean presenting a plan of salvation, sometimes its giving grace in place of judgment, smiling instead of glaring, offering help rather than staying at a distance.