A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 22:17 King James Version


Friday morning. As I climbed out of my car at the grocery store, I noticed a young man in an orange vest, collecting carts into the space next to mine.

“Morning,” I mumbled, as I looked for my list and my bags.

“How do you do?” he responded, with a nod and big smile.

I hadn’t heard such an old-fashioned, formal greeting in many years…and told him so.

“They tell me I’m an old soul,” he answered, the smile lighting up his face. “You know, I love meeting people and I just love customer service.”

Wow, I thought, here is a job—collecting carts in the parking lot, bagging groceries and helping people to their cars—I would consider one of the most boring and menial I could think of. Yet he was doing it with joy.

I walked into the store smiling.

And to my delight, he stood ready at the checkout stand. I told him he was the most cheerful “bagger” (that’s what we used to call them) I’ve ever met. The checker remarked he was a delight to work with. We had a great conversation on the way to my car.

His upbeat, friendly attitude lifted me and bubbled over to everyone else I met—a little girl walking out with a big birthday balloon, the people in the next store. My day, my whole outlook was renewed.

The writer of Proverbs was right: his merry heart did me good like a medicine.

For the week had been a little on the tough side for me. Monday saw a flare-up of the allergy symptoms I’d battled with all summer, though I’d taken such care to avoid the milk and eggs I can’t have any more. I felt discouraged, yes, and more sorry for myself than I wanted to be. By the end of the week I’d recovered some perspective but my spiritual bones were still a bit dry around the edges.

So that young man and his merry, cheerful spirit was just what I needed. If he can find such joy in such circumstances, I thought, so can I.

Everyone wants to make a difference in the world, to make their lives count. We think to do that we must do big things on a big stage.

But last Friday reminded me how much small things matter. We can make the difference we long for in the parking lot of a grocery store.

If we bring the right attitude.

FATHER GOD: Thank You for that young man in the parking lot. Cultivate his joy in me. Amen.

To be published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” October 28, 2018.