Since my "retirement," my wife (who works full time in a demanding job) and I have shifted roles. I now do a good deal of the food shopping, and have just begun to prepare meals as well. (To be honest, I am not very fond of cooking! Eating, however, is another matter.)
We are blessed with the proximity to many wonderful food shopping outlets which offer the buyer everything and anything, catering to the widest culinary needs from the "glatt kosher" to the strictly "vegetarian" . While food shopping is essentially pedestrian and not terribly exciting -for many it is an unavoidable burden- I have tried to transform these tasks into moments of adventure into gratefulness.
As I step into this fantasy-like planet overflowing with produce from the four corners of the world, I pause to thank, aware of a flood of sumptuous sights and smells. I recite a silent prayer of gratefulness-"Ha-zan et ha-kol"- Who sustains all life, for having so much within my reach. At that moment an image flashes through my mind, of a visit to Romania 10 years ago as part of a rabbinic mission to transient Russian-Jewish communities in Italy, a memory with a broken heart, the empty, desolate shelves of grocery stores throughout Bucharest. Needless to say, the awareness of the millions of children who go to bed with aching, empty bellies weighs heavily on my soul as well.
I approach the coffee stand, eager to get my regular soy latte. Alongside a woman in front of me, perched on a seat on the edge of the shopping cart, is an angelic looking child, smiling with delight at the excitement of her new and changing surroundings. "BABA," she gurgles.My heart melts as I take in the joy of witnessing the innocent pleasure of a little girl babbling in a supermarket. I chat with the mother who tells me the child's age and her as yet primitive language abilities. I extend an honest compliment about her child's adorableness, and am profusely thanked. My coffee arrives, and the first sip adds a further coating of contentment to the lingering light-heartedness of the little girl's enchanting smiles.
Another store, another profusion of plenty. In my world of abundance, each outlet provides a different sought after item. An ebullient smile greets me from behind a counter at which a cheerful and most charming gentleman with a foreign accent-I later find out that he is Belgian-offers me a sample of a new breakfast product for that day. Several moments of undistracted delight are spent with this man, and I continue my search for a food not available at my first stopover.
My adventure ends with a casual conversation with a pretty cashier, who when asked perfunctorily how she is , proceeds to quietly but buoyantly tell me of her joyful tiredness, her being a mother at the young age of 22, grateful to be energetic enough because of her age to not only work but have the strength to spend special moments with her child each day after work.
I return to the car, and catch myself still smiling. So much has happened in the course of this simple, ordinary food shopping day. So much of the bounty of life has spilled over into my awareness, generating a sense of gratefulness that converted the effort of finding certain foods into an excursion toward the fullness of life.
I can't wait to go food shopping again, sometime soon!