THE FROG POND - The Great Grocery Store Debate or The Day I Lost My Head Among the Lettuce


By Suzanne Mazer Stewart

Ok, this is not going to be your usual Frog Pond piece of light reading. No, you haven't clicked the wrong page, and no, my keyboard hasn't been possessed by the spirit of Jack or Bob.

Now, I usually try to stay out of government and political debates. With my kids, there is no such thing as a democracy, and our house sometimes makes the Middle East look like a Sunday picnic. But when it ruffles my feathers and nearly makes me forget to buy strawberries, I just have to have my say. That, and I really love arguing with stupid people!

Last week, I was at my local grocery store, buying a few last minute things for Sunday's dinner. Folks were grumbling about the price of some of the fresh produce. I guess the crazy weather has done a number on some of the country's growing regions. Anyway, I just happened to overhear a well dressed, seemingly educated fellow in his twenties and his wife commiserating over the situation. I really wasn't paying too much attention until I heard the following words come out of that fellow's mouth:" Look, honey, no matter how high the price of carrots goes, I guess SOME people will still be able to get them. They are, after all, a part of the WIC (said with a sneer) program. I wonder what the street value of a carrot is, anyway." OK, to put it mildly, I lost it. Right there, beside the lettuce case, next to the cucumbers, I threw caution to the wind and had a conniption.

"Just what do you mean by that?"

Caught blind sided, the young man lost all his cool composure and began to stammer, "Uh..."

"Do you know just who the program you just put down helps? Do you?"

My youngest daughter whispered, "Uh-oh, Mama's got that mean face on. He's in t-r-o-u-b-l-e!"


"Do you know that it only helps pregnant women and children up to age five? That it only allots according to the level of need, and that ALL benefits are cut off once the youngest child turns 5 years old? DO you?" My dander was up, his guard was down. And then, he started making a comeback.

"And do you know that your hard-earned money goes to support those folks?"

"I'd rather support families with kids than some other people I know. It is, after all, the right thing to do." Interesting how an argument over carrots could evolve that quickly.

"Oh, and I suppose you support giving your tax money to religious charities too? Faith-based initiatives are OK with you, huh?" He was starting to get hot under his collar. Either that, or his Tommy Hilfiger shirt was too tight. I believe the color of his face would best be described as "beet", appropriate for the produce section, wouldn't you say? "And just what faith would you like to see supported? Isn't America supposed to be a Christian nation?"

OK, I was thinking, time to give Junior a history lesson. "No, actually, it isn't, despite what the televangelists would like you to believe. It is a nation based on religious FREEDOM. Freedom. Look it up. It's in the Constitution. Have you ever actually read the constitution?"

I could tell by his expression he hadn't. Pity, a smart looking guy like that. Oh, by the way, by this time we had gathered a small crowd around us. Apparently, it was a slow day for shopping.

"Well," bright boy starts winding up, I could tell, "How do you justify all our laws and our learnings? If they aren't Christian, what are they? We have a national welfare system based on the Christian principle of "doing good." Generations enslaved inside a system they neither need nor desire to leave. I say enough's enough." Proud of himself, he was.

And then I let him have it, right where it counts, right between his hip and happening, college educated eyes.

"Yes, it's true. However, I remember from my college course on religions of the world that every major religion; Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, animism," Here I stopped, because he had a bewildered look on his face. "You know, the folks who worship nature." His face cleared up a bit. "Every one of those and every one of their followers, believes in charity. Helping those less fortunate. Just like I'm doing now, helping you to see the error of your ways. And another thing, when individuals can't qualify for the assistance programs in place, the system you so despise, where do you think they turn? Who has been there time and time again, to pick up the pieces government reforms have left behind? Now, I'm not saying that all is well within the system, but for every person who abuses it, there's 2 who need help and can't get it. Did you know that when the welfare system you so despise first began, it was in many cases, simply a government take-over of programs already in place? Programs administered by our churches and synagogues, by the way. They were, and still are, much more accepting. Perhaps you should take a lesson from them."

My husband says when I get mad, I let my words out, and most of the time he gives in because he can't understand a thing I say. I was actually taking it easy on Junior.

Well, Mr. Down-With-Everything-That-Isn't-My-Idea didn't seem to have much to say after that. His wife lead him away, apologizing for his behavior and explaining how it's because he's not from around here. They were just visiting family for the holiday, was all. I can guarantee it will be one holiday visit he won't soon forget. And I hope he never looks at a bag of carrots the same way again. It would serve him right!

You may reach Suzanne at

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