I was enjoying myself until I walked up on the checkout lanes and the only thing open was the self-checkout. That happens sometimes at the grocery store I cannot tell you how much it annoys me. Instead of being rewarded for shopping at a low traffic time, you get to serve yourself! I really don't mind if I have 10 things, but more than that is ridiculous because you've got to fit it all on the narrow table where an automated voice yells at you if something you scanned is not immediately laid to rest on it.
My cart was full of little things (for example, 13 individually priced fake flower stems) and it was taking me sweet forever. A worker - the first to speak to me since I'd been there - came over and helped for a minute. I got finished and realized that there were no bags to put all this stuff in. She told me matter of factly that I had to purchase my bag, but by then I'd completed my transaction. Then she reminded me that to get all my loose items to the car, I had to wheel the cart to a loading area, leave it there for anyone to take, and go get my car. The next step was to gather as much junk in my arms as I could and make five different trips from the loading area to put it all in the Jeep.
I kept saying to myself, "What kind of store is this? You can hardly figure out how it works!" It's a good thing none of the employees said a word to me or looked me in the eye because I might have said it out loud. Then...then, dear reader! I realized exactly what kind of store this was. A European store! Or more specifically, a southeast Texas interpretation of a Swedish store!
All the memories of my head exploding while we lived in England came flooding back to me. Standing at the check out line at Asda, just twittling my thumbs or making jokes with Curtis while everyone in line wondered why that American chick wouldn't get to bagging her own groceries. (I forgot!) Having to put a pound in the grocery cart at Sainsbury's to be able to use it. Ordering popcorn at the theater and forgetting to specify that I wanted salty popcorn, not sweet. Having to ask and ask and ask for our drinks to be refilled. Accidentally getting two tickets for driving in downtown London without a permit. We thought there would be a toll booth or something and boy were we wrong. Learning that at age 24 I apparently did not know how to stand in a queue correctly.
It had been a long time since I remembered the insecure - and sometimes maddening - feeling of living in another country and not knowing how things work. You'd think England wouldn't be that different from America, but it is. And we were in the northeast, which meant it took a long time before we could understand what anyone was saying.
During those five months I often thought about what immigrants must go through when they come to the United States. It must be so hard. It's very humbling to be placed in an environment that makes you question your capability to do basic things like stand in a line. Being misunderstood - whether culturally or verbally - is also a horrendous feeling. It gave me a lot of compassion for what people go through when they come to our country. As Americans in England, I'd say Curtis and I received favor, or at the very least a decent amount of respect from British people. But I don't think one could say the same for immigrants in America.
Hard. That's all I'm saying. It's hard to leave your culture and adapt to a new one. Let's remember to have compassion on people who are new to our country.
And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’