No, you take it!

Toilet Paper

Today I argued with a stranger in the grocery store over toilet paper.

She was looking for some. The stock had disappeared five minutes after the store announced its arrival. I had one small package in my cart that my family really didn’t need in the next week.

“Ma’am, if you need this, please take it. My family is fine for now,” I explained as I pushed it towards her. She explained that she, too, was okay, but was shopping for her elderly mother. She hesitated, so I said, “Please, take it. Give it to her.”

She grimaced as she said, “I don’t want to take it from you. I’ll keep looking. I’ll find it somewhere, but thank you.”

Still pushing the 4-pack of “soft and strong 2-ply” towards her, I insisted, “Please take this. She needs it. We don’t right now.”

The stranger shook her head. “It’s okay, really. I’ll find some somewhere. But thank you.” And then she smiled at me. Her forehead, which had been creased with worry when I approached her with the pack of toilet paper had smoothed as she smiled at me.

Even though she refused, the mere offer had soothed her somehow. It had soothed me, too.

During the COVID-19 pandemic most of us have worried at least once that we will run out of things. For me it’s been cream, butter, meats, and foods my family enjoy most – foods that I might not be able to replenish each week as they’ve grown accustomed.

Already I’ve begun to eat the foods they don’t like such as homemade chicken liver and bacon pâté from my freezer, as well as pesto that I made in double and quadruple batches and froze last fall. I worry they will want for something. Is the pantry full ‘enough’?

But as I stood in the store trying to force toilet paper on a stranger who was unwilling to deprive me of it, I felt confident that while our favorites might not always be available, we would always have enough.

It is the power of the compassion of the human spirit that reveals itself most during times like these. Yes, there were people with three or more packs of toilet paper pushing carts right by us, but we were two strangers looking out for each other.

The encounter reassured me that when there’s one last 4-pack, there will still also be someone willing to share.

The pantry is indeed full enough.

/ Kristie Sullivan, PhD

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