It was just supposed to be a quick grab and go. Fridays can be tricky at Trader Joe’s, so I was prepared for an aisle or two of three-lane traffic. What I was not prepared for was the gaggle of senior citizens mingling in every entry aisle and passageway as if they’d rented out the bread & muffin section for an octogenarian birthday party.
In the place where impatience usually rises up in me I found myself instead leaning in. Their wizened faces were alight with joy as they chatted in thick accents. “Russian Jews,” I thought to myself. Russian Jews at the end of life telling stories and smiling and entitled in the best possible way to be clogging the aisles of the neighborhood store.
What could they teach me about slowing down? About recognizing that, in the end, when all the suffering is behind you, that there is nothing else but this: to delight in the company of one another.
Just this morning I had read in the Benedictine devotional Always We Begin Again these words: “Every day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven; have the courage to expect good from it.”
For a moment they were like icons to me: windows into the realm of the sacred, the holy. Although depression, anxiety, and isolation is epidemic in this country, there were no shadows on these faces. Some were in wheelchairs. Others had walkers. By virtue of their advanced ages, all would have known heartache and illness and loss. The fact that they were all together told me that they had arrived that way, likely a field trip from a local senior center. I reached for a loaf of Ezekiel bread.
“What is that?” one of the ladies asked. She was 5′ tops with a cropped shock of red hair. In a brief conversation, she had confirmed that they were, in fact, all Russian Jews from a local day care.
“Oh, it’s very healthy,” I told her. “No flour. See here. Ezekiel 4:9. It’s the same recipe one of your prophets gave us.”
“Ah,” she said, and smiled.
I continued on with my shopping, carrying inside me a new shade of meaning for “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4).
I was loading up my trunk when the seniors finally began heading out to a large van. Driving away, I looked in my rearview mirror. On the side of their shared vehicle I saw the words Nazareth House. And smiled.
One of my favorite promises from Jesus is this: “In my father’s house there are many rooms,” (John 14:2). Today I’m grateful to have had a glimpse of this one.