Every block of stone
Has a statue inside it.
It is the task of the sculptor
To discover it.
“BettyJane, I am running to Trader Joe’s to pick up some fruit,” I say to my wife as I pick up my keys and head toward the door.
“Why are you going all the way over there for fruit, we have a fruit store right down the road?” she asks.
“Something is telling me to go to Trader Joe’s,”
I inform her.
She knows me well enough by now not to ask any more questions as she knows that I don’t have the answers just yet.
As I walk into Trader Joe’s, I notice him.
It isn’t the first time I’ve ever seen a person begging on the street, yet this time the age of the young boy doing the begging, strikes me in the heart.
I’m sure it has to do with the rash of overdoses and deaths of young lives I’ve seen over the last year.
Good kids, athletes, kids I would have bet my life on that would have gone on to do good things in this world and would’ve been an asset to any community, just suddenly and tragically gone.
How did this young boy get to this point, I wonder?
I thought about giving the young boy money on the way out, something that would give him a little enthusiasm, to provide a spark for a new start and put him on a path for a better life.
I was thinking $5, $10 or maybe even $20, god knows I’ve spent more on much less important things in my life.
As I am thinking of doing my good deed for the day I eavesdrop on a conversation between two patrons.
One patron says to the other,
“Let’s give him something on the way out, he is so young.”
And the other replies,
“Why? So he can go buy heroin with it?”
And just as he finishes his sentence he taps the Trader Joe manager who happened to be walking by and says,
“Do you know there is a heroin addict outside your store harassing customers?”
I decide to buy the young boy some food instead of giving him money.
I pick up some oranges, some bananas, some
Cliff bars and some ice tea for him.
At the register, I tell the cashier to pack the items in a separate bag.
The cashier obliges and says, “That will be $48.24”
As I reach into my pocket to make a payment I realize all I have on me is a $20 bill, as I must have left my debit card at home.
I didn’t have enough to pay for both bags.
The cashier, noticing my embarrassment asks,
“Would you like for me to put one bag back?”
“Unfortunately, I have to,” I say.
I hand the cashier my lone $20 bill and she hands me my one bag.
As I walk out of the store I give the bag to the young boy, and I go home empty-handed.
In Holly Rutter’s podcast on ‘The Moth’, she tells a story of her first online grocery shopping experience.
She describes how she once put an apple in her online cart to reserve a delivery time with the intention of coming back to her cart later in the evening to make her real order.
To her dismay, she got sidetracked and it wound up that she got back to her cart after the deadline for her to be able to make changes to her order.
Thus, her final order was for a .40 cent apple.
It would be delivered to her in the morning.
For a $6 delivery charge.
When she realized her dilemma she attempted to call customer service.
There was no answer; of course, as it was after midnight.
She then emailed customer service hoping that they would receive her email before the lone apple was put on the delivery truck.
They did not.
The next morning, she looks out her window and she sees the delivery person pull up in front of her house and take off the truck a single apple.
She is mortified.
“Cleary this is a mistake. Yes?” the delivery person says as he hands her the apple.
Embarrassed, she tries to explain that this wasn’t supposed to happen.
The delivery person quips,
“I was saying to myself, who in their right mind pays $6 delivery for a .40 cent apple.
It made no sense.”
He recommends that she call customer service and explain her situation, he is sure that as a courtesy they will undue the delivery charge.
They do not.
“What if everyone called to get their delivery charges refunded, we couldn’t possibly do that for everyone,” the cold hardass customer service rep replied.
When all was said and done and the transaction was complete, Holly paid a high price for a single apple.
But the online grocer paid an even higher price, they lost a customer for life.
Wouldn’t it be nice if in life we were able to call customer service and get a compassionate person on the line whenever we have made a mistake?
It makes a world of difference.
“Obviously, this wasn’t your intention.
I know it was a mistake as no one in their right mind buys a .40 cent apple and has it delivered for $6. I’ll help you out…”
That was possible.
We need to be that possibility.
We need to be the person we would hope to get on the other end of the phone if we put a single apple in our cart.
Nobody knows someone else’s life and what causes someone to become an addict.
The best definition of addiction I ever heard came from Dr. Gabor Mate’ when he said, “Addiction is trading short pleasure for long-term pain because of an inability to solve a problem caused by trauma in one’s life.”
We think we know people.
In David Foster Wallace’s infamous commencement speech, “This is Water,” he says,
“A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.”
He goes on to describe the mundane and annoying process of checking out at a grocery store,
“You can choose to look different at this fat, dead-eyed over made up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she is not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who is dying of bone cancer.
Of course, none of this is likely, but it is also not impossible.
It just depends on what you want to consider.
To really learn how to think, how to pay attention that is real education.
You get to decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.
If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. “
Maybe, the young boy begging outside Trader Joes had such a traumatic life experience out of his control which caused him to put a single apple in his cart, get distracted and get back to it passed the point where he could make changes?
No one in their right mind would make the transaction he has made – it has to be a mistake.
Maybe he reached out for help and no one was available.
I’ve seen one too many young souls lose their lives to addiction.
They change and become unrecognizable.
Look past the changes and keep in your heart the person you know is in there.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it.
It is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Even after they change, we need to see the person we know they are, not the one taken over by the addiction.
If we don’t, they will ultimately die.
When you see a young person who put a single apple in their cart and got back to it after they could make changes and are about to pay a stiff price for their mistake let us be the compassionate customer service rep that takes care of it.
It’s not what they intended to do.
Nobody in their right mind would make that transaction.
We all know the accumulation of small straws breaks the camel’s back.
So then it makes sense that a small act of kindness is like taking a straw off of a person’s back.
When we have the opportunity take a straw away from someone’s back, we must.
You never know which straw will make the difference.
But I do know that one straw will.
You may not realize it at the time, but the straw that you take off someone’s back just may be THE straw that makes a difference.
Take a straw away today.
When you have the opportunity to take the $6 delivery charge away, do so.
Who knows, you may just keep a customer for life.
As I got back home from Trader Joe’s and I walked through the door empty-handed, BettyJane asks me,
“John, did you get the fruit you went there for?”
And I replied,
“I was mistaken.
I didn’t need to get fruit,
I needed to be the fruit.”
This is a chapter excerpt from
“Synchronicity – A Divinely Orchestrated Journey”
To be released in early 2018.
All of JohnA Passaro’s books are available at: