Groceries and Gratitude

Outside of my life as a mathematician, I’m a mom of three kids under age 6. If you’ve ever done some parenting, you know how it is exhausting and joyful and amazing and frustrating and beautiful and impossible–and can be all of these things in a single five-minute window of time. I had a life event recently that impacted everything about my daily life, both in and out of the classroom, in both my roles as “mathematician” and as “mommy”. I want to tell you about it to then share a really uplifting story that will make you feel better about the world.

!!! Ouch !!!
Two weeks ago, I was hanging out with my kids and my husband in our garage and in our driveway. The kids were playing on their bikes and we were enjoying a burst of Spring-like weather. Between our kitchen and our garage, there is a one-stair step down.While carrying my 7-month-old into the garage, I stepped out on my left foot and I think I twisted my ankle. My immediate reaction was to throw my weight over to my right side, which I did. And then, as if in slow motion, I started falling to the ground, holding my baby.

We landed. Thankfully, my mommy instinct kicked in, and I enveloped him in my arms as we fell. On the ground, he didn’t seem to notice anything had happened. He didn’t cry, he wasn’t hurt, he was completely fine.

Unfortunately, I was not completely fine. I landed on my kneecap with the full force of my body weight (plus his). In the blink of an eye, I found myself getting orthopedic knee surgery less than 48-hours later. I went from full-time care-giver to full-time care-receiver. It was a hard transition and I’m still working on figuring out this “new normal” around my house. I was devastated to learn I won’t be able to return to campus for several more weeks, but thankfully I will be able to do some work from home, teach an online class, and continue interacting with, supporting, and helping my students whenever possible.

A Happy Story

The grocery store closest to my house is Harris Teeter. They offer an online shopping service called “Express Lane“, where you can order your groceries online & then go through a drive-thru lane at the store for pick-up. Their helpful employees bring your groceries out, load your car, and they have a digital, portable payment system if you want to pay with a credit card. You can pay for the service per-order, or per month, or they offer a 1-year subscription.

After my knee injury, I was trying to figure out how things like my family’s grocery shopping would work. I can’t walk very well, I certainly can’t drive, and I even struggle to watch my three kids unless there’s someone else to help me. (For example, actively potty-training a two-year-old requires a hands-on approach by a very patient and mobile adult.) I decided I’d send an e-mail to Harris Teeter’s Customer Service Team and see if they could help me out.

I’ll admit, I wrote a pretty sappy message. I explained I’m a professor, a mom of three kids, a wife, and a grocery shopper. I told them I love their store (which I do!) and I love shopping there with my kids — They love “driving” the race-car shopping carts and the free cookie they get (but only if they listen to Mom the whole time!). I told Harris Teeter about my knee injury and surgery and I asked if they would consider extending me a free one-month subscription to the “Express Lane” online shopping for my family to use during my immediate recovery. This will allow me to shop online from home, and then send friends & neighbors to pick up my groceries. The worst part, I explained, was “I won’t get to visit all the members of my HT Family during my regular shopping trips.

The next day, my phone rang. It was the manager of my local Harris Teeter. He introduced himself and asked how my knee was doing. Before I could ask how his day was going, he said,

“Yes, this is the manager of your local Harris Teeter, and I am calling from your driveway.”

Completely shocked, I sent my parents out to meet him and invite him inside.


Gifts from Harris Teeter

The Harris Teeter manager brought with him an amazing bouquet of flowers, a giant gift basket of fresh organic fruit, and a touching “Get Well Card” that was signed, “We hope you get well soon, Your HT Family“.

They also extended us a free one-year subscription to their Express Lane online grocery ordering program.

About Gratitude

I was completely blown away by this. My colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family have been so amazing supportive, compassionate, and loving during my recovery. This chain of events has been incredibly tough for me — whether medically, physically, psychologically, mathematically… just NOT fun. I had no expectation that even my local grocery store manager would go so far out of his way to be supportive and do something just to make life easier and my day brighter. I was really, really touched by the gesture and I am very grateful.

As “corporate” and anonymous as modern life has become, it really inspires me that there are complete strangers who will go well above & beyond for someone they don’t even really know.

Even if you aren’t a Harris Teeter shopper, please consider contacting my local Harris Teeter to say “Thank You” on my behalf. I have told them this several times already, but I don’t think they can hear it too much.

Post Script

The flowers were delivered two weeks ago today and they still look amazing. The fruit was delicious (especially the kiwis!) and is long-gone, but I still wake up each morning to see my bouquet. It’s pretty impressive they look as good as they do given how many days they’ve been hanging out at my house.

8 thoughts on “Groceries and Gratitude

  1. Nice story Kate; I’ll just mention two things:

    1) I’m sure you prefer to shop locally, but a friend of mine who lives out in the stix now does ALL her non-perishable grocery shopping online… she loves being able to compare, get great prices, and have everything delivered to her door (it often means giving money to places she’d rather not have it go, like Walmart and Amazon, but the prices, convenience, selection are unbeatable… so that’s just another option).

    2) What you have described was typical of local groceries where I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s — we ordered all our foodstuffs for delivery from a local grocery and if anything arrived not to my mother’s satisfaction it was promptly sent back and replaced by another.
    I don’t mean to take anything away from Harris-T. (I shop there myself and like them), but the fact is this level of service was once routine in America, and has simply largely disappeared (like doctors making housecalls) in today’s world. Nice to see you’ve found an inkling of it though in Charleston.

    • Yes, I agree about both points. I actually like going to the grocery store, because I find foods that give me inspiration to make a meal that maybe I wouldn’t have thought of just looking at an online shopping list. Plus, having three little ones at home, sometimes the few minutes I get in the grocery store are the only few minutes I get by myself all day — it can be relaxing ๐Ÿ™‚

      As far as (2) goes, I’m not surprised this used to be more common. I was really surprised that it happened recently, especially from a chain store and not a “Mom n’ Pop” locally owned place. It was nice to be recognized as a person & not just a customer. Then again, as my husband pointed out, the management at HT probably looked up our shopping habits in their computer system and realized they’d lose thousand of dollars if I switched to buying groceries online from somewhere with free delivery — so it was probably a calculated investment on their part. But a very lovely one!

  2. Hi Kate,

    I am sorry to hear about your accident. I hope you recover quickly and completely.

    I have already sent Harris Teeter a thank you message.

    • Thanks Bret ๐Ÿ™‚ Good to hear from you. Let me know if you want to see my pre-op and post-op X-Rays, they’re pretty awesome. My orthopedist says I’m going to set off metal detectors in the airport til forever.

  3. We have had a fabulous experience with the excellent family treatment the Harris Teeter here at Fresh Field’s Village and I could name endless examples of the personable experiences I have had there. A Manager even donated to our JBE teacher’s Christmas gifts this past year. I too remember being treated wonderfully at the Long Point Road store. We will continue enjoy going the Teeter!

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