What’s your hurry?
There’s likely no place where people are in more of a hurry to get out than at the grocery store. Most of us, I’d guess, arrive at the store with list in hand (or at least some idea of what needs to be purchased). We grab a cart—or possibly tempt fate by seeing if we can carry everything with just our two hands. We calculate the shortest distance between the salad dressing aisle and the frozen pizza. And then carefully select whichever appears to be the shortest check-out line that will guarantee a timely exit.
If all of that sounds somewhat familiar, I might suggest to you a new approach to shopping offered by the Dutch grocery store chain Jumbo. A few years ago, they introduced the checkout option labeled “Kletkassa” which roughly translates to “chat checkout.”
A driving force behind the idea was to combat loneliness, especially among the elderly, widowed, or people who otherwise might feel somewhat isolated. For those who would enjoy some human interaction, however brief, they can choose the chat checkout lane with employees specifically trained to strike up a conversation and engage customers. There’s no rush here, as one item after another goes past the scanner. For some, it might be one of the few meaningful conversations they get to have that day.
These special checkout lines have seen such a success that they’ve now been introduced in more than 200 of their stores throughout the country. In addition, “chat corners” have also been installed in a number of locations—where customers can grab a cup of coffee and enjoy conversation with a new acquaintance.
I’m not suggesting that all of us will suddenly slow down our pace the next time we find ourselves at the grocery store. But I do think the Dutch might be on to something here. How much meaningful interaction or enjoyable conversation do we miss out on simply because we’re in such a hurry? Not just at the store but in all sorts of settings.
Just look at the way Jesus went about things in his daily life. To my recollection, of all the instances when someone approaches him with an inquiry, or asks for a few moments of his time, or wonders aloud if he might be willing to sit down and chat, never does Jesus say that he’s too busy.
Instead, over and over again, Jesus pauses right in the middle of whatever he’s doing or wherever he’s headed. He looks the other person in the eye (I’m imagining…) and listens intently.
I can’t quite imagine that there will ever be a “chat checkout” line added to any of our American stores any time soon. But we could still find our own ways to slow down and notice those around us. Who knows what enjoyable conversations might await us.