On the 29th day, I’m grateful we live near great grocery stores, and I’m able to afford to buy the food we need.
In 1958, when my dad was 7 years old, his dad died, leaving my grandmother, a 47-year-old woman who had outlived two husbands, in charge of a house, 40 acres, a 7-year-old boy, and with no skills that were deemed valuable by the marketplace. She couldn’t even drive a car when he died.
She went to work at the small grocery store a mile from her house, and from the land I grew up on. She would walk to work every day and would work many, many hours for a dollar an hour so she could afford to provide for her and her boy.
The store owners went to our church, and so they were accommodating, within reason. Dad would hang out at the store after he got home from school. He was pretty much raised in the aisles of that corner store.
My earliest memory of commerce was in that store, of Dad picking me up so I could reach the counter, and putting sweaty pennies on the counter and being given brilliantly colored penny candy from the jar on the counter in exchange.
Another memory was after my grandmother had died. Mom was buying groceries there, and I must have been 6 or so, because my brother who is five years younger than me was there, and she was carrying him on her hip. I remember we bought some bologna, because the store owner sliced us some out of the deli case, and watching him do that was always my favorite part of the trip.
Mom put her pile of groceries on the counter. He rang it up. I don’t know exactly what happened next – somehow, she didn’t have any money. I am unsure if we were out of money (totally believable at that point in our lives) or she had just forgotten her wallet, but she asked him if she could put it on credit and Dad would settle up with him later. Either way, he said yes, and Mom signed the receipt, and we loaded the groceries in the car. Of course, I was watching everything.
When we got in the car, I said, “When I grow up, I’m always going to buy my groceries on credit!”
“Why?” Mom asked.
“Because then you get the groceries and don’t have to give them any money!”
That was when they explained debt to me, and that it was a thing to be avoided.
Anyway, that corner was the closest groceries to our house when I was growing up, and the store there closed at 7PM every night.
The next step beyond that was “in town”, – town having 800 people and a Big Star grocery store in it. The Big Star closed at 8PM during the week, at 9PM on Friday and Saturday, and 6PM on Sunday. If you wanted groceries after that, it was 30 minutes away and across the state line in Tennessee.
In other words, buying groceries for us required some planning.
I will never forget my first apartment in Memphis, where I lived a block away from a 24-hour grocery store. It spoilt me. Just imagine: Waking up at 4AM craving ice cream, and you can have a carton of ice cream in your hands in 10 minutes, including putting on pants.
Professionally, a lot of my work these days is around working to make sure that people have access to healthy, nutritious food in a way they can afford. Having access to good food you can afford is critical to being able to thrive in all sorts of ways.
We are incredibly fortunate on the side of town where we live. I am within walking distance of both a Whole Foods and a locally owned grocery store the size of the Big Star of my childhood, and there is a 24 hour Kroger just a little bit further. For large purchases, there is a Costco and a Walmart Supercenter in the suburbs, within easy reach.
We are also fortunate that we can afford the groceries we need. We are simple people with simple tastes, but we have never went hungry and have a pantry full of food, and plenty of friends to share it with. And I have never in my life had to buy groceries on credit.