Christian charity consists essentially in loving our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. This involves seeing the presence of God himself in each person, and therefore recognizing that they have intrinsic dignity which must be respected with delicate kindness on all occasions.
We often think of Christian charity with a certain solemnity, as in heroic and inspiring acts of helping those in need or sacrificing oneself for them (think Mother Teresa or St. Maximilian Kolbe), but this is only one aspect of loving our neighbor. Christian charity is a habitual attitude of seeing Christ in all people and treating them with the deference due to every child of God.
And this applies equally to ordinary, everyday circumstances, such as in traffic, waiting in line, family life, at work, on vacation, at the supermarket.
We especially have to remember that it’s not about having a warm feeling towards other people. Rather, it’s about performing specific actions where we take others and their needs into account even when it may inconvenience us or at least require that we exercise self control.
Focusing on that last example, here are three suggestions of possible bad habits to eliminate specifically when going to the supermarket, with the purpose of always being attentive to treat our neighbor with greater attention and conscious care. This will help us to improve more and more our constant practice of charity everywhere and towards all people.
Good habit 1: Don’t leave the checkout line to get other products
It may happen that we’re already being attended to at the check-out counter, or about to be, when we remember something missing from the cart. And it also may happen that we go to get this item and leave the cashier waiting for us, thus making other customers wait in line longer until we return. Such a sloppy attitude is disrespectful to the cashier, to other customers, and to ourselves: As a consequence our lack of organization, we are affecting other people.
Once we get in line at the checkout, let’s make a commitment to respect the time of others – and if we realize that we’ve forgotten something that isn’t urgent, we should make the selfless act of saving it for next time, out of respect for others and as a small penance for disorganization.
Good habit 2: Leave room for others to pass by in the aisles
In general, supermarket aisles aren’t wide enough for more than two shopping carts to pass at a time. If we leave our cart carelessly placed while we decide what to buy or while we roam up and down the aisle looking for a specific product, we can cause a traffic jam – especially on busy days when there are many customers shopping.
A good gesture of consideration for other people is to keep our cart out of the way as much as possible. If we need to stop in the aisle, we can leave our cart to one side, keeping the passage clear for other customers. Even in that case, we shouldn’t leave it parked in one place for too long because we’re blocking access to products someone else might want to buy.
Good habit 3: Don’t return products to the wrong place
Sometimes it happens that we put a product in the cart and then change our mind about taking it. It can also happen that, out of laziness we don’t go back to the shelf from which we took it, but choose to leave it on some other random shelf, hoping that some employee will notice the item out of place and put it back where we ourselves should have put it.
If we really need to change our plan and return an item, we should try to practice the kindness of putting it back in the right place.
What other good habits should we practice in daily life? While driving in traffic, family get-togethers, or days at a public beach, just to name a few?
Small actions may seem of little relevance at first glance, but on the whole are good habits of awareness and self-discipline that not only make the lives of others better, they also make our own lives better.