We Must Continually Choose Love
A woman customer really pissed me off recently in the grocery store where I work. She was tall, I remember, but, most importantly, she didn’t have a mask on. It is passing strange to see any one’s entire face these days. There are a few new team members whose faces I have never seen, even after working there for months.
I noticed my anger rising, along with all these accompanying adjectives — righteous, offended, right, judgmental. I did think briefly and maturely about questioning my assumptions, but I was also enjoying that very familiar feeling of outrage. Outrage that I let rise a few more degrees when I had to page a member of our “clean team” several times for a glass and liquid spill in seafood.
There’s something about righteous indignation that just feels so right and justified and powerful.
I thought, my God, does she have her unmasked face and head up her ass or what? Has she been under a rock for the last night ten months? I kept stewing about it, then I went upstairs to do some other work and try to let go of it. I didn’t want to be around her on the sales floor, since she didn’t have a face covering, and was hoping maybe she’d have left the store by the time I returned. I couldn’t really confront her about it, because I didn’t have the authority to ask her to leave the store if she refused to put on a mask. So I just hoped she go away.
I came down and she was still in the store a few aisles over. I was fuming about it and I finally said “Fuck it, I need to deal with this rather than just let it eat at me.” So I went over and talked to one of our guys in store leadership and I got the whole story.
He said, “Oh, is she the pregnant one?”
I said “Can’t tell. She’s tall and has that scarf thing around her neck.”
“Yeah, that’s the one. She’s pregnant and she took the health survey (I didn’t know there was one), including her temperature, and she’s OK being in here without a mask. Though I did suggest she only shop without a mask on between seven and eight (that’s when only high risk customers and people over 65 are allowed in).”
I’m glad I got the story straight after the fact, but I got to take a look at how I was being and how much I like to wallow in that space of outrage. I thought about how I had a chance right then, in the moment, to observe myself. It’s like being on a ropes course, where you see that how you do anything is how you do everything. How I judge people constantly on cell phones and how I do politics and how I do gun control and science denial and believers in gigantic pedophile rings.
Or the occasional maskless customer.
I remember the old bumper sticker, “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.” I’m not suggesting that some good old-fashioned ass-kicking outrage is always inappropriate.
I am saying that I often enjoy it too much. I let it burn a little too long and make up a few too many stories.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler said, “We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.”
Choosing love is often the harder way.