Most of the time, I'm a mellow, laid back guy. Seldom do I get bent out of shape over life's bumps. However, I did get my underwear in a knot on a recent trip to a local Chicagoland grocery store. I stopped to pick up some fruit: a couple of bananas and couple of pounds of grapes. I figured that my heart-healthy order would run about $5. While checking out, Christine, my cashier, asked, "Do you have a preferred super shopper's card?"

"No," I replied. I hate those little cards and have refused to get them although of the half dozen local groceries, all but two of them have the little plastic annoyances. I added to my response to Christine by explaining that I didn't want to be bothered. After all, on a $5 order of fruit, what would I save?

Christine smiled questioningly and told me that my total was $11.75! That was a lot for some fruit. She handed me my receipt and said, "If you decide to get a card, return this sales receipt, and you will receive the savings which you would have gotten had you had a card today."

As I walked to my car, I looked at the receipt. To my shock, I realized that had I had a preferred super shopper's card, I would have saved $4.86! What's this all about? Being Scottish, I am a little tight with my money, but I had to pay twice what I thought that I would have had to pay because I didn't have a preferred super shopper's card.

As I drove home, I got more and more upset with the store's policy. One of the things that annoyed me was having to have a card to take advantage of sales. I would have rather received preferred super treatment by not having to play the game with the card every time that I shopped. I wondered whether the marketing person realized that at least this non-preferred shopper had a real negative attitude at his store. One of the things that draws me to a grocery store is finding lower prices without having to flash a card to get the savings.

As I drove on, still boiling at this market's absurd policy, I wondered what other stupid things we do that don't make sense to others. While mulling this over, I noticed Christmas decorations. One brightly-lit sign proclaimed: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All." Then it hit me. Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the Good News of God's love and forgiveness revealed two millennia ago to all creation. Then I realized that sometimes we do precisely what the grocery store did to me. Some of us announce God's saving acts to all, but we often insist that people be a card-carrying believers of our particular view on religion. If they don't believe in our particular way, then we withhold God's love from them.

As you prepare for this festive season, take a serious look at your life and see whether you are like the grocery store. Do you express forgiveness and acceptance to others without them having to jump through your hoops? Do you accept God's Good News of love and reconciliation during this season and place restrictions on others? Do your actions in giving saving forgiveness get expressed the way the grocery store saved me money?

Each time I pass that grocery store or hear their commercials. I recall how foolish that policy is and how much I resent it. In the grand scheme of things, it is unimportant that I got upset with a grocery store. However, your harmonious relationship with your friends and family is vitally important. If I got upset with that way the store treated me, I wonder whether any of my family or friends ever feel that I do the same thing to them by the way I give them my love and acceptance. We could all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Millenium if we apply my grocery experience to our lives. Show your unconditional preference to those around you.

This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on December 16, 1999.