14 May 2021


Those who Serve us at the Checkout

By Fr Tim Finigan

“Jamila” was cross. She is not normally cheerful at the till, but now she was frustrated and angry at the elderly lady had shouted at her, falsely accusing her of taking her basket away. I tried to distract Jamila because the elderly lady had dementia and was confused. It was the last hour of a long shift, the mask was uncomfortable, and the chair never seemed to position itself properly. She was not happy at her job anyway because she found too many customers inconsiderate and rude. Her husband had made it clear that he did not like her working in the supermarket because of the risk of Covid, but she knew they find it difficult to manage without the extra wages. The clerical collar can help to let people know that you are probably not going to be another customer who is impatient with the delay and might actually care just a little bit. God help us if we fail to achieve that minimal standard of charity.

On my way out, I called a quick “God bless” to Chioma at one of the other checkouts. Her loud laugh probably manages to intimidate at least some of the more grumpy shoppers and I guess that she refuses to let the daily nonsense get under her skin. When I get to use her till, we manage to swap quotations from the psalms; it helps that the King James Bible and the Douai Rheims are similar in style. In Lewisham, this kind of biblical banter is pleasantly frequent.

Some people love their job, others make the best of it, some endure it. The lockdown has taught us how much we rely on others, how much we really are members of society. We still say that people in shops “serve” us. That should remind us to be careful how we treat them, since they show to us the face of Jesus who said, “I am in the midst of you, as he that serves.”

Let us pray...

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who create the food that we eat. We pray for those who serve us. In your bountiful goodness, protect and strengthen them, their families and all who depend on them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Tim Finigan is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark.