I walked into the Co-op my shopping bag stuffed with glass jars, some to return others to refill. I pulled out the empty egg carton opened the door to the storage room where they are collected and returned to the farmer who brings the eggs.
I felt myself choke up. What is wrong with you Maria, I thought to myself. An empty egg carton is nothing to get emotional over.
But I knew what it was.
That voice in my head, that was putting me down, was just trying to keep me from crying and being embarrassed.
What I was feeling was actually the opposite of something being wrong. I was feeling an overwhelming sense of belonging. Something I don’t feel often.
At the Co-op I feel a certain level of comfort within the physical space. I also feel well-liked for who I really am. And even though I don’t spend a lot of time there, I feel like the people who I work with once a month know me.
I also love talking to the other people who shop at the Co-op. Even though there are so many different personalities that come through the place there is ultimately a feeling of community.
A community that I am a part of.
This feeling of belonging came to me a few weeks before the coronavirus all but shut the Co-op down.
Two weeks before I was to work my monthly shift, we were told that volunteers couldn’t work anymore. And even though the staff was looking for some parttime help, I decided I couldn’t risk being exposed to so many people because Jon is at risk for the virus.
The small staff at the Co-op somehow kept the place going always keeping us members aware of the almost daily changes to the new hours and rules for shopping.
And those rules are still changing almost weekly. The latest is that there are only five people allowed to shop in the small store at a time. So the Co-op needs members to monitor how many people are in the store.
That’s good news for me because it allows me to work at the Co-op once again.
Today was my first day back. I sat outside the back door of the Co-op keeping track of people entering and exiting the store.
At one point we had a line with two people waiting, which may not have been so good for those customers, but I enjoyed it because we got to leisurely chat in just the way I always used to when I shopped or worked at the Co-op.
It was a beautiful day and the hour went by quickly.
In between keeping track of people I did a drawing of the things I saw around me. But mostly, I was glad to be back helping at my Co-op. I’m scheduled to work next week too. And I’ll keep working if they need me. Like so many things these days, they don’t plan too far ahead.