Saturday, September 08, 2007

Story #3: Rice

This story is actually something that happened about a week and a half ago. We generally buy most of our groceries from Kosher Store #1, which is right up the block from us; sometimes we get stuff from Kosher Store #2. Kosher Store #1 is great because it's close by, they deliver if we order early enough, and most importantly, they put our money on account. We give them a check every couple of weeks for the previous weeks' groceries, they hold it until our own money clears, and then they cash it. Kosher Store #2 is great because while they're a bit expensive, they're open until 2am and somehow have just about everything in a store the size of my living room.

Last Thursday night, we placed an order with KS1. They didn't have a few of the items in stock, and it was too late to have it delivered, but that wasn't a big deal: I'd just drive over, pick it up, and head to KS2 for the rest. I drove over to KS1, handed them a check for about $140 (for 2 Shabbosos' worth), took what I needed, and drove to KS2. In KS2, I picked up the rest of what we needed for Shabbos - Grand Total: $47, including chicken, rice, soda... whatever else we needed for the weekend and some staples to last a while. As the cashier rang up and began bagging the food, I pulled out my wallet to use my debit card, then changed my mind and started writing out a check quickly so I could get home. While I did this, I glanced at the person behind me in line - and froze for just a moment.

The lady behind me was glancing at me with detachment, clutching tightly to a few dollar bills in her hand. In front of her was a boy - about 2-1/2 years old - in what looked to be a decent stroller, sitting pretty quietly; clearly her son. She was Hispanic, looked to be about 30, and had just one item to pay for: A large bag of rice. I couldn't help but think what she must be thinking: Here's this Jewish kid, mid-20's, holding a set of car keys in one hand, writing out a check for $50 seemingly almost as an afterthought, a box of rice among his groceries... and here's her, just scrounging together a few bucks to buy a large bag of rice, which may be all she's serving her family the next day.

The whole incident made me extremely sad, picturing what her family's economic situation must be - perhaps not too bad, as evidenced by the newish, non-umbrella-style stroller, but certainly not all that great. More importantly, it made me that much more appreciative of my own situation, no matter the difficulties we face. True, we're certainly not living it up, and we almost certainly have more debt than this woman, but we also know that we (thank God) have the incomes and ability to pay that debt off rather soon and live a decent lifestyle without worrying about whether we'll have enough food for the next week. We can afford to host all the people we do without problems, we can get Elianna everything she needs.

Reminders of what we have often come from places where you'd least expect it - whether a cab driver, a woman in line at the local grocery, or maybe even a random blog post. Have a wonderful week, and a Shana Tova U'Mesuka (Good, sweet New Year) to all!


  1. Ezzie, my first thought do you know?? You've made up a whole history for this woman just by looking at her! The good news is, your supposition made you think about and be grateful for your circumstances, as a tzaddik would do! But the bad part is, you projected a lowly status for someone who perhaps might deserve greater respect. Interesting story, and thanks for the insight into food shopping in Queens!

  2. Ah, a fair Q that another friend asked me earlier tonight.

    I guess you had to have seen the lady and how she was clutching the dollar bills; her clear incomprehension of most of the English words flying around her; how she was dressed, how she was acting, etc.

    Could I be wrong? Certainly. I hope so! But as I said to this friend, while stereotyping and projecting has its (major) flaws, it's also often quite useful. In this particular case, I'm merely utilizing it to learn a lesson for myself, to think about others' plights a bit more, so I see no issue with doing so.

  3. No mention of kosher store #3 where you claim you shop at, even though it is expensive ;-)

  4. LOL. I don't shop there, but I was invited! I had to.