Lessons from the Supermarket

Note: This is actually an old note that for whatever reason didn’t get posted. I nearly didn’t post it but with all the craziness that’s going on right now I feel it is still relevant, it still express my feelings whenever I go to a supermarket even today. So here it is. 

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Have you ever burst into tears upon seeing rows and rows of fully stacked goods in a supermarket? Last week I nearly did just that. I was already planning to do my grocery shopping after work at the supermarket near my home. But because my last class was cancelled – the student called in sick and it was a class of one – I decided to go to the one near the college instead. I just finished reading an update of the Somalia famine in the  Time Magazine during my lunch break. Then I went to the supermarket. Big mistake.

The supermarket near the college was a huge hangar style supermarket.  It has a large selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, a fully stocked meat and poultry sections, frozen goods and all the usual supermarket stuff.  Not only local brands, it also has a huge selection of imported goods, I could just as well be in the middle of Ralph’s or Star Market, and of course it is stacked full from top to bottom with assorted goodies. And I nearly cried.

I look at the rows upon rows of goodies and the pictures from the Somalia famine flashed into my mind. I go to the meat section and remembered the village, not very far from us who needs to chip in collectively for a kilo or two of meat. Here I am standing in the middle of a gleaming fresh supermarket, populated with well off shoppers, in a capital city of a developing country. A country so rich that some of its population need to save up for a year to eat meat.  Then across the continent there are people who are starving to death. Babies and infants that has no chance of survival. How could they when their mother don’t have any food? I nearly didn’t shop.

I wander around the aisles, taking in all. Sorting out my thoughts. How can one shop when others are in misery? But why should I not shop? My family certainly needs to eat. Do they need to starve too?

Then something my Quran teacher always told me came floating back, “Things happen in pairs. Bad things happen so you can appreciate the good ones.” Of course! If all you know are good stuff, good things, how can you learn to truly be thankful and grateful for all the blessing that you got? If you never got sick, how can you appreciate being healthy? How could you learn moderation when you lead a life of excess?

Yes bad things happen. Yes it sucks. No it does not mean you should break down in despair, it merely meant as a challenge to yourself. So the world is fucked up. What are you going to do about it?

I am reminded by yet another advice from a friend I nicknamed Gus. He said that you may not be able to save the world right now, but you can certainly still do something. If you can save the world, that’s great, go and do it. But if not, go save locally. Whatever it is, do something don’t just mope about feeling depressed. That’s not gonna help anything or anyone.

I took a deep breath. I can’t starve my family, what good would it do? Not to mention gross negligence like that would be criminal actually. Keywords; be grateful, be mindful. One thing at a time. I have to do grocery shopping, so do that now but be mindful, buy only what’s needed. When that’s done, be grateful and help others. And that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

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