Thinking about your Thanksgiving toasts? Making a list of all the things you’re grateful for?  I’m adding new entries this year, a cadre of stalwarts who deserve way more credit than they likely ever get.

Friends, I give you the Grocery Workers on Thanksgiving Week.  Will you join me in raising a glass?

Here’s to the lovely woman in the friendly green branded shirt motoring past me on a mission.  Even at that speed, she noticed me frozen in place in front of the canned fish, searching with furrowed brow for smoked oysters.  Brakes applied, she offered assistance, unasked:  “Help you find something, ma’am?”  Of course, the oysters were right in front of me, a fact she kindly neglected to point out.

And raise your glass high to her colleague, similar shirt with hair net, who appeared magically out of nowhere, a retail EMT dashing to the scene of the emergency.  Ignoring the grocery-aisle speed limit in my typical infernal hurry, I tilted the cart just slightly, like a race car on two wheels rounding the final turn.  A six-pack of beer (bottles, naturally) on the lowest cart shelf chose this moment to leap toward freedom, crashing loudly on the floor, each occupant rolling in the direction of its own choosing.  “Are you OK, ma’am?” she inquired kindly, stooping to chase the rollers I hadn’t yet caught.  Oh, yes! I mumbled, mortified.  Just wondering if any of these are going to blast a top and spray me any second now.  She patiently checked each cap as she returned them to captivity in the carton, securely placed in the deep part of the basket.  “They look OK, but get them to check them one more time when you check out,” she advised.  If her look indicated concern about anyone who would shove a cart at that speed, she was too nice to mention it.

Hail and thank-you to the butcher, who volunteered, unsolicited, to check the stock room for the particular bone broth I sought.  If our gravy tomorrow is any good, it’s all down to him.  “How many would you like?” he asked, breaking open the carton of containers.  Are you kidding, I wonder silently, I have no idea, counting on my uber-chef sister-in-law to coach me on gravy.  Like all the greatest cooks, she rarely mentions specific quantities.  “Three!” I chirped, a wild guess, and reached for them.  Yet he wasn’t finished assisting.  “Can I get you a basket for these?”  Who ARE these people, I’m thinking at this point—escapees from a remote monastery populated by saints?

Finally, lift those glasses high for the smiling young man bagging the purchases at checkout.  Efficiently wedging the last bag into the cart, he looked me in the eye and inquired, “Is there anything else I can do for you today, ma’am?”

I stared at him for a splint second and wondered—where does all this COME from? A great retail operation that actually hires and trains for customer service—a business that manages, all news reports to the contrary, to have plenty of staff on the busiest day of the year?  The friendliness endemic in our lovely small town?  The heritage that embraces all celebrations (and the preparations they require) in our beloved American South?  Some combination of all of these things?

Nope, I got it! I assured him, adding, Happy Thanksgiving! with the biggest smile my exhausted self could muster.  And thinking all the while:  You and your friends have already done so much more than you know, restoring my faith, today of all days, that customer service is not really dead, that kindness still exists among strangers, that there’s a chance I’ll actually having decent gravy for my family.

And you don’t know it, I said silently to his back as he turned to push a cart for another customer and I waited for the glass exit door to slide open, but I’ll be toasting all of you tomorrow.

Note:  G-ma receives no benefits from any commercial enterprises associated with her stories.  She is delighted to acknowledge that the story shared here occurred at Publix in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  Cheers to that team!