Perhaps if it had been a sweet onion, this story would be different.
But the onion was red.
And it made my hands red, stained with metaphorical blood – it made me a thief.
A few months ago, I started making weekly meal plans to direct my budget and shopping. In early January, I wrote down “spinach salad” for a mid-week dinner. To prepare the dish, I needed a red onion.
I use a dark blue trolley to cart my groceries through FreshCo and back home.
There wasn’t much colour contrast between the onion and the trolley: it got trapped in the bottom and never made it onto the checkout line – or my receipt. I found the stowaway when I unpacked the goods onto my kitchen table.
I knew exactly what to do next: simply return to the store and pay for the ingredient before making the salad.
But it was a couple days before I had a chance to do so, and I casually mentioned my plan to some Sputnik colleagues.
They thought I was crazy. The world has many problems, they reminded me. Red onions missing from the FreshCo produce department do not rank near famine, war, pandemics, or even jaywalking violations. Even more, no one would know – or care, they said.
Undaunted, I returned to FreshCo with my onion, walked through the checkout line and paid for it as if I hadn’t picked it out a couple days before.
The situation made people ask why I did something very honest for something very trivial. (I think they also wanted to verify the year I was born, to ensure I wasn’t some nitpicking granny.) The question startled me; I didn’t see my actions as strange. If you want groceries, you should pay for them. If I had a grocery store, I’d want people to pay for things. Blame it on market economies, or my parents.
But there was another reason. As the cashier handed me my second receipt, as I reported about my clear record to my friends, I realized why I’d done it. As a Christian, I follow Jesus. I bristle when people say I’m “religious,” because I’m often not exactly sure what they mean by that, or if my relationship with Jesus fits into their definition. Yes, being a practicing and professing Christian means I do things differently. I guess you could say it means I follow certain rules. But I don’t see it that way. Jesus changes my behaviour because he changes my values, my thinking. So I see it as doing something for someone I care about.
On some things, admittedly I have yet to change.
But I like to think that, if it was a sweet onion more easily found next to dark fabric, the story wouldn’t be different.