Lessons from the supermarket

It has been a while since I was last in a supermarket, I’ll admit… my wonderful wife does nearly all of the shopping for the family and so has had to face the hoards of stockpiling assassins for a couple of weeks now. A fabulous job she has done!

I am no stranger to the supermarket however, and was reflecting on a few things we could all learn from our experiences there. 

Lesson #1 – Put your trolley back when you’re finished

In my student days, our university campus was close to a large supermarket. The staff were all too aware of the havoc unruly students could cause with their shopping carts. Often they would be seen trying to take them back to their student digs, or even using them as a primitive form of transport. 

I remember once being approached by a member of staff, reminding us that we could not take the trolley off of the premises. I was a little indignant, as I had not planned on stealing the precious cart. I recall we took it to the very limits of the property before said member of staff came trotting after us to ensure we went no further. 

Put your trolley back when you’ve finished with it. Once you’ve unloaded it into your car, think of someone else and take it back where it belongs. Don’t just dump it wherever suits you, and definitely do not prop it up against someone else’s vehicle. That’s not ok. 

Believe it or not, it really isn’t the supermarket’s job to go around collecting up trolleys that have been left all over the place. Take a moment to realise that at the moment in particular, they have bigger things going on. 

Lesson #2 – Put any unwanted items back where they belong

Not dissimilar to lesson one, if you pick something up that you later decide you do not want, please put it back where it belongs. 

We’ve all seen it, if not done it, where we pick up an item and then three aisles later realise we no longer need it. Rather than go back and replace it,, we just put it on the most convenient shelf. That’s how you end up with cauliflowers mixed in with detergent. This, also, is not ok. 

Think of the person who has to sort that out later. Supermarket staff have a job to do, and chasing after you to put back things in their proper place is not generally covered. It’s rather lazy and selfish to just leave things lying around for someone else to pick up. 

Lesson #3 – Don’t take more than you need

In the UK, we are extremely fortunate to have so much choice and abundance in our supermarkets. On a “normal day” we can pop in to even small supermarkets and get everything we need, and usually have a choice of items. We don’t know how fortunate we are! 

In recent days, we’ve seen so many people stocking up in case of shortages. Toilet rolls have been a particular prized item, and we all saw pictures on the news of people loading up shopping carts full of hundreds of rolls! 

How many toilet rolls do you need exactly?

In times of isolation, it is perfectly reasonable to pick up a few extra items to ensure you don’t have to shop more often than required. But when you take so much all in one go, it usually means someone else will miss out. And there is a possibility that that person needs it far more than you do. 

If everyone just took what they needed, and no more, then there would be plenty for everyone.

Lesson #4 – Be kind

Be kind. Just be kind. 

I saw a story on the news this week about a member of staff manning a checkout. A customer wanted several of the same item, but the member of staff told they there was a policy of only three items per person. There was an exchange, and in the end the customer spat at the member of staff. I need not say how utterly disgraceful such behaviour is. 

Be kind to your fellow shoppers. Don’t push them around or cut in front of them. Be kind to members of staff who really are working hard to ensure everyone can get what they need. 

Is this biblical?

“This is all very well, Andy,” you might be thinking. “But what does this have to do with the Bible?” 

Actually, I think it has a great deal to do with the Bible. 

The Bible is not a book to be studied academically. It isn’t just interesting. It is a guide for how God wants us to live (among other things). We must turn the Bible’s teaching into practical action. 

You could sum up the above lessons into: 1) Don’t Be Selfish and 2) Be Kind to People. there is clear Scripture to support these two points. 

Turn my heart toward your statutes, not toward selfish gain.

Psalm 119:36 (WEB)

And also:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,[a] 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (WEB)

To name but a few. 

The point is, how we live and act in the world is a witness for Jesus. It can be a good witness, or it can be a poor one. 

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, let’s do our best to represent God well in the world. We are His ambassadors. 

We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (WEB)

Let’s act like God is watching, because He is. Let’s act as though the world is also watching, because they are too. 

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