Something happened to me this morning that I walked away thinking, “I’m going to write about this.” But I instantly realized that there are two things from that one event that I want to write about, so this is sort of a double column.
I was at a grocery store buying milk and a few canned goods. I knew that I was going to need to say something when she put the gallon of milk (which has a built in handle) into a plastic bag. So I said, “Let’s use as few bags as possible, fill them up.”
Her response was the same as I always get, “Are you sure?” So after some assurance from me she continued bagging the groceries. Then I had to remind her when she instinctively tried to double bag the canned goods.
Let me jump out of the story and get on my first soapbox.
I am not a scientist or an engineer, but my understanding is that those plastic bags are made out of petroleum (oil). You wouldn’t think it, but they are. In fact, the petroleum used to make 17 bags would drive your car one mile. With the price of gas right now, I’m sure you see how this could be an issue.
Stores would like to use less bags to cut costs. Our pollution problem on this planet says pretty clearly that it would be good for us to use fewer bags.
But the thing that makes this an easy decision for me is the thousands of lives that have been lost in wars and terrorist activities surrounding the oil in the Middle East. Our nation is attempting to get out of a war right now that has been going on for almost all of this millennium; and, if we really get down to what the root cause of the war is, it is petroleum (I know that Afghanistan isn’t a hub of oil production, but the war is an overflow of interactions that are mostly driven by western powers wanting the oil in the Middle East and how we have interacted with people in that part of the world because of that oil).
It is a tiny aspect of the issue, but haphazardly wasting plastic bags contributes to this conflict. So I make an effort to limit my consumption of plastic bags, and I would like for all of you to do the same.
Now let me finish the grocery store story.
As often seems to happen, all of my groceries were packed but two last cans. The lady was about to throw them in another bag and I told her to go ahead and throw them in any of the bags that were already full.
Again she resisted and again I assured her and that is when she said, “Just don’t yell at me if one of the bags breaks.”
My response was, “I wouldn’t yell at you even if it was your fault.”
This cashier isn’t crazy or paranoid. She isn’t a pessimist or exaggerating how a customer might react in a grocery store. She was so used to anger and disrespect that she was afraid I might yell at her if my decision to not double bag proved to be a bad one!
We, as a society (but especially those of us who follow Jesus) have to treat people better. Somehow in our world we seem to have drifted to this place where if we are interacting with a person at a business then we think that we are somehow their boss; and, worse, we think that they are somehow less than a person.
I fail in this way myself. I recently had an issue with a hotel clerk that got me off the rails. In the midst of my bad attitude it became clear that the issue was caused by me. I had made a mistake. But in truth, there was no reason for me to behave angrily or poorly even if I was in the right and the person across the desk had made the mistake.
I need to do better. We need to do better.
The call of God is to follow Him and to help other people know and follow Him too. How could we ever hope to accomplish that if we don’t have a default setting of kindness when we interact with people?
Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. They meet in person and online every Sunday. You can also watch their services on Roku, search for New Cumberland to find our channel. For more information please visit www.newcumberlandnazarene.com