I did not want to be in the check-out line at the grocery store that afternoon because it was so very crowded. Yet, Easter was the next day and I had family coming to dinner. I attempted to move my cart a few inches to the right, hoping to find more space. Yet, there was no space to my right or left because the line had morphed into people pushing their baskets beside each other instead of front to back. This was going to take a while.
Somehow, a man I did not know had moved to the front of his basket, maneuvering himself to my immediate left. Without an introduction, he began moving his hands all over some of my food, then began fondling my basket handle as he said, “You want to have a good time tonight?”
“I’m happily married,” I answered.
Yet, that had nothing to do with his intentions. He touched my shoulder, saying, “Not all the time, are you?”
Quickly, I moved my shoulder out from under his hand. I was absolutely, completely mortified to the point that I had trouble even answering him; my breathing became shallow as I began to unavoidably go into a shock-induced fight or flight mode. After another quick but firm no, I looked to my right again, hoping to find space to get away from him. There was none as another basket was inches away. However, there was space in front of me, if only the elderly lady would move her basket forward a bit. Because she was sorting her coupons, she had not noticed that the basket in front of her had been emptied and the clerk was checking out the shopper.
“Excuse me,” I said, my voice quivering slightly. “Do you mind moving up a little bit?” I either had to move forward, get the manager, or leave. Moving forward was my first choice, for I truly needed the groceries. I wasn’t prepared for her answer.
“If you are so rude, and in such a hurry, then you just move ahead of me!” she immediately screamed. On she went, her voice getting louder and louder. She called me names, she talked of the rudeness of some people, and she began to speak in a harsh voice about me to the clerk, who had by this time pulled her basket forward to empty it.
Frankly, I did not know what to do. People were beginning to stare at us, shaking their heads at me, the woman who had been rude to the older lady. Not wanting to match her intensity, I tried to explain to her in my gentlest voice that I was not in a hurry, that I only needed space, but she would have none of it. I was not comfortable trying to explain to her why I needed the space. Besides, when the older lady started screaming at me, the man I was afraid of quickly moved away. She never saw him.
The more I tried to explain, the worse she reacted. Quickly, I realized that nothing I could do would make one bit of difference to her. The manager had come over, but her presence had no effect on the older lady. By this time she was pointing at me, announcing in a loud voice to all around that I was the rudest person on earth. The clerk was moving in warp speed, trying to get the older lady checked out so she could leave. She looked at me several times, shaking her head while wondering why I had been so rude.
What in the world was I to do? I already was in borderline panic mode because the sexually aggressive man had frightened me so. And now I was being screamed at in an accusatory tone. How was I to handle this?
I did what I always do when in trouble. My prayer was quick, short, and to the point. “Help me, God. Tell me how to handle this.”
Immediately, the intuited answer came to me from a place beyond me, yet connected to me. “Stay in a state of Holy Love. Claim the feeling of Holy Love. Surround yourself in Holy Love and let it radiate around you.” I breathed deeply, allowing Holy Love that is readily available for each of us to take over my emotions, to calm my temperament, and to support me. I could feel it in every cell in my body. I even was aware that it was radiating out from me. Even though I had been on the verge of panic, I now felt like I was sitting by a woodland stream watching a gurgling brook swish over smooth rocks while butterflies flitted near and ancient oaks dipped their leafy wisdom toward the stream. I could not have been in a more peaceful mode if I tried. Meanwhile, the older lady raged on, shaking her finger toward me. Her words just passed me by.
Thinking back to this incident, I understand now that the man has his own issues to manage. The older woman may have not understood my situation, over reacted, or perhaps she was aging in non-optimal ways. Maybe she reacted to the underlying horror in my voice. I have no idea.
What I do know is that each of us was quite human in that moment, with our own issues. I chose to move beyond my fears, claiming Divine Love in the situation. As I was paying for my own groceries, the same clerk asked me how I was able to remain calm. I simply told her the truth.
“Divine Love is stronger than fear, rage, and misconduct. All we have to do is claim it for ourselves.”