Field Notes

The Little things

Joy can be contagious if we just give it the chance.

Illustration by Morgan Krieg


By Ashley Peters

I shopped at Costco a few days before Easter.

And I know that’s not earth-shattering news. (Nor was it the best timing.)

And, besides the fact that it was busy,

I had a toothpaste stain on my shirt.

My backseat still housed the two giant bags of clothes I’d promised my husband I’d donate four months ago
And the front wheel of my cart didn’t work.

The sample stations were crowded.

The aisles packed with what seemed like a slow-moving line of traffic.

And as I got closer to the checkout line, a thin ribbon of sweat began to accumulate between my shoulders.

Cursing the 50-pound bag of dog food, and the havoc it was wreaking on the cart’s three remaining and functioning wheels,

I had the overwhelming attitude of, “Get me out of here.”

That “throw your hands up and cut your losses” kind of feeling. The “we can just eat cereal for dinner” kind of feeling

The “I don’t like this, I don’t want to be here, I am not changing my attitude” feeling that—if we’re being honest—

We all get, and at times cling to like a badge of indignant honor

And that was me.

Until I met Mike.

Silver-haired, shirt smartly tucked in, jacket halfway zipped, he smiled, checked my receipt, asked me how my day was as he started singing some old classic.

I said, “Fine, thank you,”

Mentally hurrying him as his eyes scanned the paper

And yet he still hummed. Unperturbed.

It made me pause

Like when you’re all set for a fight and, instead of fists, the other person raises a white flag.

It made me hesitantly smile back and ask in return,

“How are you today? You must be well … Look at you singing?!”

And he just smiled as he stood half inside, half out, crowds of people waiting, rushing, parking, heads down, shoulders hunched.

Just like I had been moments earlier.

He just smiled as he stood on a rubber mat, drawing a smiley face on my receipt with a Sharpie.

And he said,
“Well, what do I have to be upset about? Why don’t you sing with me?”

And I guess that’s it. Isn’t it?

A simple choice.

One we can all make.

A reminder I very much needed and it came from a sweet man. With silver hair and kind eyes. Who sang “Brown-Eyed Girl” with me. Who made my day without even knowing it.


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