Destroying My Mental Health; One Bowl of Oatmeal at a Time
Every morning I stop at the local health food Store for a bowl of hot oatmeal.
The store is actually a Co-op; meaning you can pay a ridiculous fee in exchange for a two-thousand digit number required upon check-out. Member benefits include 5% off selected items (like thistle and seaweed snacks) once a month for 20 minutes, a special member appreciation day where you drink thimble sized cups of wine and eat slivers of organic apples, and the faint possibility of a 1% refund at the end of each fiscal year. My hippie mother has been a member since before bean curd was trendy. In all those years she has never received any money, just an annual “why we decided to keep your 1%” letter.
Needless to say, I don’t have a number. But I do have an oatmeal card: ten bowls of oatmeal and I get the 11th free. That’s $1.29 savings. Brown sugar included.
I eat creamy, Co-op, never- gonna- see -my -fractions of a cent oatmeal every day. And I think it’s destroying my mental health.
My positive outlook is tainted by the negative marketing strategies. Health food has taken “the glass is half empty” to a whole new level. My children call the Co-Op “the No Store”: no meat, no sodium, no sugar, no msg nor gmos, no texture, no taste, no way. My convictions of fairness and truth are tried by the aisles of dishonesty. They make erroneous amounts of money by claiming the products are free: wheat free, gluten-free, dairy -free, nut- free, chicken feet- free, fingernail- free, fun- free. At the Co-op: fake is the new real. Jerky becomes Tofurky, fruit snacks are healthier when shaped like a bunny (because nothing says healthy like rabbit between your teeth), and that bacon (the one that looks like a dog treat) isn’t really bacon at all.
Not to mention that nothing produces paranoia like a trip to the restroom. To get to the facilities you have to walk down a long yellow hallway, with a phone hanging on the wall. Above the phone is a sign that reads “turkey breasts 20% off get yours while supplies last” It’s been there for months. What exactly are they trying to tell me by soliciting my need for turkey breasts on my way to pee? The inside of the restroom is plastered with signs. There is a sign to explain the flusher on the back of the toilet. Push the right side to flush a small amount, the left when a little is not enough. I always worry that there is some security camera above the toilet. I am convinced one checker keeps giving me the “you used the big flush, didn’t you” eye. The sign on the pull-down towel explains why they encourage the use of pant legs to prevent the spread of germ. You can you use the towel if you really must. Sparingly. Ironically, by the exit is a small box of tissues to use while opening the door (again to maximize sanitation.) The sign above it explains that you may dispose of the tissue in the compostable bucket. But only if your hands are dry and don’t transfer any moisture. I threw a semi-wet tissue in the bucket once. I think they tried to have me banned from the store.
Already pessimistic and paranoid, the check-out throws the final blow with good ‘ol condemnation. If you buy milk, and forgot your old bottles, they make you pay for new caps while glaring and poignantly asking what you’ve done with the old ones. Every bulk item passes the scanner with a sarcastic: “is this your plastic bag with co-op written on it, or did you use one of ours again.” When the final item has piled up I face two options: to either admit that I did not bring my strawberry-shaped reusable (again), or pile the arms of my two small children with groceries.
I asked for a bag once, but it didn’t go well.
If you don’t use one of their bags you get a bean. A bean to then put in a plexiglass box. When the box is full they donate a dollar to the Humane Society. My son loves to put the bean in the box.
So I asked for a bag once and my son still took a bean. The checker slapped his hand and made him put it back. She snarled something to the effect of : “if your mother really loved you, then she would have brought a bag and then that cute kitten on the box would not have to die.”
Yes, my mental health suffers, but still I go. Why? Because I want my free bowl of oatmeal.
Oh the things we will do for free food.
There was this King, named Herod, who understood the oatmeal card. He ruled his kingdom on one simple principle: if he kept the people fed and entertained, then he could control them. He was by all accounts a madman; murdering his own family, ordering massacres, demanding labor for his architectural achievements. Yet his people were well fed and entertained, and so they followed.
Those same people followed another man, Jesus. They followed him across the sea of Galilee and up a mountain. Jesus saw the multitude coming and had compassion on them. He performed great signs and miracles. As evening fell, the people were hungry. Jesus fed all 5,000 with just one loaf of bread and a few sardines.
In the night, He crossed the sea into Capernaum. The people awoke to find Him missing. Again they sought Him out. Jesus looked upon the crowd and with great conviction said, “you only came because your belly was full.” They came for their free bowl of oatmeal, and that is not what He wanted.
Jesus did not want to control them. He had no desire to present Himself as just another political leader. His purpose was never full bellies and entertainment. He came to be the bread of life. The last thing they would ever truly need.
We mistake sometimes a full belly for fulfillment, a full schedule for a full life. When truly all the fullness is in Him.
Jesus may never give me a free bowl of oatmeal, but He also won’t make me pay for the other ten. And He will always give me hope for my pessimism, peace for my paranoia, and mercy for my condemnation.