Everything I need is at Market Basket, from my favorite yogurt to real Greek feta to chia seeds.

I have only been here for eight years, but I can see that old friends and new acquaintances bump into each other, catching up over the zucchini, showing pictures of grandchildren while they wait in line for fish.

We all wander the aisles, pick and choose, squeeze the lemons, check the expiration dates, look for our favorite cereals, pickles, cookies.

This morning, I grab my cart as usual and wheel past the Twinkies at the entrance to make a quick run through to pick up a few things I had forgotten on the last round.

I first see him by the cheese and dairy goods.

The handsome young man in the camel hair coat is blind.

He is perhaps 25, holds his long cane in an elegant upright position with one hand, like a shepherd watching over his flock. He keeps the other hand in contact with the cart. The older woman who accompanies him, leaves the man and the cart to gather needed items.

They are so good to one another, these two – all kindness and gentleness.

They move through the store with a slow dignity, picking and choosing.

I can’t think of anything else as I whisk up and down the aisles, steering my cart around other shoppers, employees stocking shelves, little children crouched in front of candy displays.

To others, I appear to be looking for a certain brand of tea but I am really thinking about what it would be like to be blind.

I seem to be musing over my choice of sausage, but I am lost in thought about the thrill of towering cumulus clouds, sunrises at Joppa, the magic of snow falling in the light of the streetlamp on the walk home from the latest movie at The Screening Room. I am thinking about the elegance of that young man, his poise, the peace he exudes as he stands, one hand holding his staff, the other holding the shopping cart.

My children are all healthy, out on their own, creating their own lives without my help. I wonder at all our lives. How much control do we have over any of it really? We all bump up against challenges, pains and live for the joys, the discoveries.

It isn’t until the vegetable aisle that I see the young man again. I am overcome with emotion. He stands there, like a holy man. I approach and touch his hand.

“I just needed to say hello to you, to tell you how humbled I am at your kindness, your grace in the face of a great challenge.”

He is slightly taken aback, slightly embarrassed. I ask him if he’s been blind since birth. No.

“Retinitis pigmentosa?” I wonder aloud. It’s none of my business really, but I can’t help myself.

“No, my optic nerve just decided to give up one day,” he says with neither bitterness nor resignation. It is just a fact.

I tell him again, that he is so kind, so beautiful. I don’t know what else to say. We are strangers.

He says something like the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“Is this your mother?”


The woman has returned from the peaches and grapes, a slight look of concern, wondering who is talking to her son. I tell her I just needed to say hello, to tell her son how much I admired him.

She says, “He’s a kind, kind man.”

“Yes, I can feel that. And he says the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

I fight back tears as I make my way to the checkout, vowing to be a better person.

Kate Sullivan of Newburyport is a storyteller. She likes to play around with words, music and pictures. To see her work: www.sullyarts.com @sullyarts and @itsadogslife.nbpt.

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