I was at the grocery store, walking the aisles, busily checking things off of my list, when I happened to look up and notice a lady loitering around the grapes in the produce aisle. She looked around suspiciously, and then I watched as she plucked a handful of grapes from one of the crates, and stuck them in her pocket.
Was I really seeing this? I looked around to see if anybody else had noticed. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of those candid camera deals. I stood there, wondering what I should do.
She was a black woman, probably in her sixties. Her clothes were old and worn. She looked very poor. (I tell you this merely so that you can picture the scene.) I wondered how long she’d been stealing from that store.
The lady strolled away from where she was, and wandered down another aisle. After standing there dumbfounded, literally looking around for anybody else who may have witnessed what I had just seen but finding that I was surrounded by oblivious shoppers, I finally decided that I would just let it go. I kept an eye on her though, as I continued shopping. It wasn’t long before I noticed her back at the grapes again. This time she was picking them off of the stems, and popping them straight into her mouth! I could not believe I was seeing this!
Surely this was a test of my character. I had to do something. I had to at least say something!
Now, I am a totally non-confrontational type of person. I hate causing a scene! I wasn’t sure what to do, or say. I walked over to her and stood about two feet away, obviously staring as she continued to steal. I tried to make my presence known. I’m sure she saw me there. Yet, she didn’t care. She simply kept on eating the grapes, as if there was nothing wrong with doing so.
When I realized that my blatant stare wasn’t enough, I knew I had to speak up. As she reached for one more grape, I quickly stuck my hand out and covered the package she’d been picking from, blocking her from doing it again. I sternly blurted out, “I don’t think you’re supposed to be doing that.” She defensively retorted, “I was just tasting them.” I said, “Ma’am, I believe you have to buy these before you can eat them.” She realized that I wasn’t going to allow her to continue to steal, so she begrudgingly wandered away. I spotted a security guard, and went to advise him of the situation.
When she saw that I was ratting her out, she quickly made her way to the exit. My initial reaction was, “She ought to be ashamed of herself! That’ll teach her to steal!” I was appalled at her nerve! I patted myself on the back for fulfilling my moral obligation.
But then the Christian in me spoke up. What if she was homeless? What if she was starving? Did I really do the right thing? I decided that I’d buy that carton of grapes and give them to her. I went through the checkout line as quickly as I could, and tried to find her again.
I was disappointed when she was nowhere in sight. I drove around the area trying to spot her. I really wanted to give her those grapes! But alas, she was gone.
I went home, proud of my attempted generosity.
But you know, the more I’ve replayed that day in my mind, the more ashamed of my actions I am. When I think of how Christ would have reacted had he seen somebody stealing, I know in my heart that he would have never rebuked them the way I had. My Lord would have kindly told the lady that he would buy those grapes for her, plus anything else she’d like to have.
As a Christian, I was wrong to admonish her. I was wrong to correct her. I was wrong to judge her. I was even wrong to try to buy the grapes for her after the fact. Because in my heart, I felt that offering her the grapes would cause her shame in what she’d done. That it would somehow teach her a lesson.
Shame on me!! Shame on me.
I was full of self righteousness, and forgot to show compassion.
So, why do I humble myself before you and admit my error? For one purpose: that if you are ever faced with a similar situation, you will handle it with the grace that I forgot. Think twice before casting an eye of judgment upon another, and instead think only of sharing the love of Christ. That is what a true Christian should do.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.