Shopping cart friends.

He isn’t my closest friend. Or my oldest. He doesn’t love me best. We don’t even really belong to each other in a relationship sort of way. But in a recent conversation together – one that had taken a rather odd sidetrack off into the weeds and lost horizons of “what ifs” and “I have a fear” – he confided to me that he was afraid he was going to wind up in a home for the crazies one of these days – put away for everyone’s convenience. I responded that if that ever happened, I would come break him out.

“I’d throw pebbles on your window to alert you first,” I told him. It would probably be around midnight, I thought, or sometime in the middle of the night. “Then I’ll come crashing through the doors with a shopping cart. You’ll jump in, and we’ll make our escape into the dark.”

“It’s a plan,” we agreed. And so, I became his shopping cart friend. And, I have long suspected, this is something we all need in our lives.

Shopping cart friends are the ones who believe you’re worth saving. They’re the ones who truly value you, believe in your place in the world, always know you have something to contribute. You never become invisible or lose your viability to a shopping cart friend.

Animals, I know, need shopping cart friends, too. People who believe in them and are willing to break through barriers to get to them and run away into the early morning light or the middle of the night with them to keep them safe.

I had such a dog friend just down the street for a time. Every morning, I would open her gate. I’d chip away at her barriers of fear and frustration. And we’d run through the neighborhood (on leash, but free in our hearts). And then we’d return to her yard. But she knew I’d come again – the next morning and the next and the next. She knew I’d not forget about her, that I’d never stop valuing her. Even though she’s moved away now, I know where she lives. I keep watch. I’ll know if she needs me … and the shopping cart.

I also see the people in the streets with their own shopping carts close at hand. They’re the ones who wear coats even in the summer. The ones who don’t receive birthday cards or sing in choirs or order from menus or carry driver’s licenses to prove where they live anymore. They’re the ones who have no proof that they ever lived. They’re the people we somehow lost track of – lost our value for – lost our sense of belonging with. I wonder if they push their own shopping carts to hang on to their own last possibility of escape, their own sense of visibility, a last remnant of their own humanity.

Mother Teresa used to remind us that we all had responsibility for each other, we all belonged to each other, and when we forgot that, we lost our sense of peace with one another. But then, Mother Teresa was one of the most authentic of shopping cart friends. Mother Teresa understood. She knew.

Everyone needs at least one shopping cart friend. Complete with an extra coat. And pebbles in a brown paper sack to pull out and throw at your window to let you know they’re there. A friend to push the cart through any barrier, to break you out, and revive your sense of relevancy.

I suspect I am one of the lucky ones. I know I have several shopping cart friends – not only those who trust me to come for them, who will jump into the cart and escape into the dark with me … but those who will come for me as well, and will crash through the door for me, and remind me that I am worth the saving.

And neither of those is a small or insignificant thing.


© Marti Healy 2018