Of Shopping Bags And Spilling Goods

LA MESA -- Saturday was Shop Small Saturday, an event sponsored by American Express to promote shopping at local small businesses.  I love the concept, and it's nice to see neighbors walking past my Lifesighs Cards shop and stopping in to say hi.  Some people buy things, some don't, but it is really a splendid day regardless of the bottom line.  This year, my second Shop Small experience, was special, and all because of the bags American Express provided to small merchants like me.

Before I get to the part about the bags, I would like to point out that what happened with the bags relates to my late friend Father Naus's practice of seeing "Make me feel important" on the forehead of every person he encountered, a generous and thoughtful behavior I think is worthy of emulation. In fact, I thought it such a profoundly powerful practice, I wrote about it here on La Mesa Today a while back.   Much to my dismay, my reference to his kindness towards everyone he saw became muddied by comments about seeing "sucker" or "loser" on people's foreheads instead. 

I never dreamed my remarks about Father Naus would be followed up with the words losers or suckers.  I wrote about his kindness because the concept itself took my breath away when I read about it in a letter describing his eulogy.  I wrote about it because it made me think:  "What a simple thing to do.  Treat people with respect and honor just because they breathe."

Now to the bags...

As I looked out the window of my store on Shop Small Saturday,  I saw a fellow struggling across the street.  He had a beautiful guide dog with him.  Apparently as they walked along the sidewalk, the young man got his plastic grocery bags caught on the thorny shrubbery and tore them.  The contents began spilling onto the sidewalk, and he struggled to keep hold of the dog's harness while he attempted to pick up the goods.  Since the bags had ripped on the bottom, his things kept falling through.

"My Shop Small bags!!"  I thought to myself, I can cross the street and help him gather up his things and give him the sturdy cloth bags so he can get his purchases home safely.  I grabbed a bag, ran across the street and together we put his purchases inside.  When I noticed one bag was not enough,  I came back to my store and grabbed another one for him. Everything neatly packed back up, he was happy, the dog wagged his tail, and off they walked toward home.  

American Express provided the bags for my customers, but I think they'd agree a man and his dog deserved the same courtesy.   Fr. Naus's beneficence, his active goodness provided nudge, the opportunity to act.  For a few moments there I was helping a stranger, whose need was evident from across the street because I saw "Make me feel important" on his forehead.  So it turns out Shop Small 2013 was a perfect day. And it had nothing to do with shopping.

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Tags: American Express, Chris Shea, On La Mesa, Shop Small

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Comment by chris shea on December 5, 2013 at 6:59am
Thank you Michael. I'm glad I saw him. And I'm glad I had those shopping bags.
I'm sure someone else would have done the same thing!
Comment by Michael Cargill on December 5, 2013 at 12:57am

Oh Chris it was so good of you to help the poor man with the ripped shopping bag. You have a caring and love for people that I wish everyone would follow.

Comment by Batman on December 4, 2013 at 6:09pm

You're right about those disposable plastic grocery bags Chris. They don't hold up worth a darn! They tear easily and when exposed to sunlight they disintegrate in a matter of weeks. I still use disposable bags for buying groceries though, for sanitary reasons of course.

Downtown La Mesa and its small shops were the economic heart of the city, until La Mesa "got malled" by Grossmont Center in the 1960s. Economic Darwinism at its worst.

Comment by Catherine Hollarn on December 4, 2013 at 4:50pm

Hi, Chris, what a great way to handle that situation!  You sound like such a nice person, I must stop by and check out your store so I can meet you.  I work right down the street at the City of La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center.  I'll visit you soon!  And THANK YOU for sharing your story about your friend Father Naus, what a wonderful testament to him that you remember and treasure his way of treating people.  How STUPID of those that made "loser" and "sucker" comments.....so immature....here at the "Senior Center" we get lots of senior citizens and older adults stopping by and/or calling.  Let me tell you, we treat each and every person with courtesy, respect, and hopefully we make them feel important and valued!  Have a nice evening.  PS for more information on what we do, here's our website www.cityoflamesa.com/R4N and the Adult Center www.cityoflamesa.com/Seniors.

Comment by chris shea on December 4, 2013 at 1:01pm

Thank you David for your kind remarks.  I love being a part of the community.  The other shop keepers are great people and I know now how wonderful the camaraderie between businesses can be. I look forward to the Christmas in the Village again as that is one of the really special events we have each year. 

Comment by David Stanley on December 3, 2013 at 4:40pm

I recently submitted a piece about the "Black Friday" phenomenon. Chris' piece ties in very nicely as I revisit what I had written. "Small Shop" day versus "Black Friday". Here is a lady who embodies what she most recently wrote about: "Make me feel important". Wee people shopping at wee stores and shops. That is the America that is, alas, becoming forgotten, pushed aside.  Much rhetoric is spewed about "Small Businesses" in effort to generate political spin one way or another. But America IS "Small Business". America is Chris Shea in her wee shop. America is Chris rushing across the street to help another wee person in distress. Many years ago my father-in-law spoke of these things with me. Living in yet another wee town in Kansas, he insisted upon and was steadfast in his practice of ALWAYS shopping at the local "Small Businesses". "Keeps the village strong" was generally his response to questions regarding Mom and Pop versus big department stores. "They all know me". Therein lies the America fast disappearing today. Government and big stores have and continue to put the wee ones in peril. I stop to see Chris from time to time, just for a moment's conversation. Perhaps if, rather than rushing to Wal Mart, you could step in and say hello Chris could make you feel as important as she does me.

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