Saturday, January 13, 2018

Listen to the Melon Man

I've done it many times. I bet you have too.

The stock persons at the local supermarket were stocking shelves, paying attention to align the products neatly across the front. Then there I am, snatching a box of cereal, or a can of cat food, or a carton of eggs, feeling guilty for breaking up the uniform facade the worker had just established. Every time, however, the stock persons seems to take my disruption in stride and replace the items I took without pause, and then go on about their business.

But do they grumble on the inside while they stoically replace what I've taken? I wonder. Putting myself in their positions, imagining that they've had a long day, lifting items up and down off the shelves, arranging, rearranging, pulling to the front, I could hardly blame a grumble. I imagine I'd get a bit grumpy now and again if some random woman haphazardly grabbed items with wild abandon and tossed them into her cart, with no regard to the fact that I'd worked the past twenty minutes to order and alignment.

Not long ago in that same supermarket produce section, I approached the display of cantaloupe and plucked up first one, the another. I poked, prodded, sniffed, and knocked on the fruits, then replaced them back on the counter. While I searched for my next victim, I glanced to the gentleman about five fee away as he worked to arrange the melons.

"Here you are, making such nice, neat rows," I commented, "and here I come along and mess everything up."

He didn't bat an eye. "That is the way of life, madam."

I was a little taken aback. "I guess you are right."

That is the way of life.

There are people who take great pleasure in tearing down what others have spent time building. We stack and align, organize and fix, until we feel safe and secure and well put-together. Just when we get comfortable, something, or someone, comes along and unaligns, unorganizes, and unbuilds. What can we do? Get angry? Throw things? Make excuses? Vow to never build anything again? Perhaps. Or, we can heave a sigh and and go on living. Make plans. Restack. Realign. Reorganize. Like little ants, we keep working.

That is the way of life.

Life is full of promises not kept, contracts broken, and secrets told. In a perfect world these things wouldn't happen--but life isn't perfect. We can choose to go about our days mulling over the ill fate life has dealt us, crying over spilt milk, or wallowing in our own self pity. We can get mad. Throw things. Make excuses. And vow to never trust or love or confide in anyone again.

But it wouldn't get us anywhere.

Perhaps we'd all be better off if we'd simply pluck up another melon and glance to the wisdom of a weary melonkeeper as he goes about his daily business. We'd be  better off to take up the gauntlet and turn the other cheek. To persevere. To realize that life tosses obstacles in our paths, and tears down things we've worked hard to achieve--but we don't give up. Not as long as we have another day to live.

That is the way of life.

Originally published in The Little Stinger, A Community Magazine, July 1, 1996. Revised and edited.

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