2 Sep 2011

Reflections Of A Christian After Shopping in Darkness

This afternoon I headed to a Target discount store with L., our 11-year-old, to pick up some khakis, dress shirts and ties for the boys to wear at a bar mitvah we are attending tomorrow. Imagine our surprise when, halfway through the visit, most of the lights in the store went out. It turns out that Milltown, NJ has been without power since Hurricane Irene. The store never closed, but has been operating with generators ever since. It is slowly trying to ease its way onto the small town's tenuous power grid. Today, managers shut off all but one generator while we were shopping there.

Last week, Hurricane Irene brought tragedies to hundreds of thousands of families: death, the destruction of homes and communities and livelihoods. My inconvenient shopping trip has led me to thinking that the rest of us, those who suffered slightly flooded basements, the temporary loss of electricity or phone service, need to quit complaining. We are, after all more than the sum of our modern conveniences. We are the Body of Christ, dagnabit!


We take conveniences for granted, considering phone service, well-lit stores and passable roads our entitlement, when in truth, they are luxuries. The vast majority of people on this planet do not expect such realities at their fingertips.

Our whining does a disservice to folks from the Caribbean to the state of Maine who now are mourning irrecoverable losses in the wake of Hurricane Irene. If we're so busy grousing about the electric company, how do we find time to pray for others?

Also, what message about our spiritual lives are we sending to our children, who model what we do, not what we say we believe?

Freaking out over a closed road or nonworking traffic lights teaches our children that when life doesn't go our way, we panic, despair and, in some cases I have witnessed recently, become hysterical.

Seriously people? Is this what we want to teach?

Back to our shopping trip. Except for the cash registers and the main aisles, the store was plunged into darkness. I kept shopping. We'd already picked out the pants our older son would wear. My younger son stood in a central aisle, while I headed into the mens department, selecting oxford shirts and various ties and bringing them to him so he could check them out under the light. When it came time for him to try on his pants, we saw the fitting rooms were pitch black. Not a good situation. So I suggested L. try the various pants on in a darkened aisle, over his basketball shorts. That worked out well. 

The loss of electricity at Target showed me how much I have become accustomed to electricity, how I assume it will be a constant presence. For example, when we headed to the register, my son and I put our purchases on the back of the conveyer belt. The clerk smiled and reminded us that belt runs on electricity. We had to pile up our clothes within his reach. Then, as we were leaving the store, I pushed the cart to the exit doors. Oh. They don't open automatically.

I started to wonder what would happen if we, as a culture, decided to stop using so much electricity? If we did away with electric conveyor belts at stores, we'd have to interact with store clerks more.

What if stores and offices stopped using doors that open with electricity? The world wouldn't end; it might improve. 

Consider this: as we headed to the parking lot, our son opened the exit door for me so I could push our cart through. He held it open for several other shoppers, all of them either older women or mothers of young children.

How sweet to hear someone say, "Thank you, son."



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