I think a solid, even if small, dose of vulnerability would do us all some good. I got one yesterday, in fact. I woke up feeling like death on a Triscuit. Not sick, not anything tangibly wrong, just overall bad. I eventually dragged myself out of bed, showered, and decided to grab food on the way to work. Yes, there was food in my house, but ordering food alone seemed like too much of a challenge. My desire for not breakfast food coupled with time of day meant that I stopped at QuikTrip. (I enjoy gas station food far more than anyone should.) I ordered my sandwich, filled up my drink, then went to pay. Standing at the counter, owing all of $4 and some change, I realized my wallet was empty except for my driver's license.
Empty. No cash. No cards. Nothing. Now, this should have really surprised me. I have a phone case that's also a wallet and it needs to be thrown away. I've dropped cards out of it a few times lately. But really, why bother with something like that until it's absolutely necessary? I was hopefully they had merely fallen out in my car, so I left my drink with the cashier and went out to check. No cards. Because I was in my death on a Triscuit haze and because nothing like this had never happened to me, I still went back in the QuikTrip to explain to the cashier that my cards had not been in my car after all. He just kinda stared at me as I told him I'd have to go home and look for them. I'm not sure what else I expected him to do. This was not one of the best moments of my life.
A woman standing in line--a line which was now long by QuikTrip standards--said, "Oh, you need to pay for your snack? I'll buy your drink." So I thanked her, grabbed my drink, and headed back home in search of the cards. When I pulled into my parking space, I suddenly knew the exact moment the cards had fallen out. It was the night before, when I'd been talking on the phone. Sure enough, there they were, between my bed and nightstand.
I did not return to QuikTrip for my sandwich.
I don't think any of this would have been so bad if not for another story from that same QuikTrip. It happened not long after I moved to the area. I don't know what I'd stopped for that day, but there was a young woman ahead of me in line. She had a hot dog that she was trying to pay for with her SNAP card. I'd never thought of using a SNAP card at a gas station; just like a grocery store, hot food couldn't be purchased with the card. The cashier turned her away.
I was annoyed by the exchange and the delay in line. I was even more annoyed with her when the cashier called to her as she tried to sneak out the door, "I'll need you to pay for that hot dog." Yes, she'd tried to steal it, instead. Paying for it never entered my mind. For the record, it was all of $1.50.
I've thought of that woman and that attempted hot dog theft many times when I've walked into that gas station, which is one of two that I frequent. I've thought of the friend waiting in the car. I've thought of her black plastic glasses, dirty blonde hair, and don't remember much else. But I didn't consider her vulnerability that day until the last couple of days, even though her vulnerability meant she had only SNAP benefits to pay with.
For just a moment, I'm glad I wasn't the Pharisee in the story. Now that I've found my cards, I think I'd also be kinder to that lady with the hot dog.