“Ou est le panier?”

Shopping For Fresh Produce At The Outdoor MarketFall Equinox is tomorrow. Often, I wait for this exact day before I start wearing anything that represents fall to me. Even though retailers try to compel us to move towards fall faster by enticing us with all things pumpkin-spice as early as August, I prefer to wait until the Sun and the Earth are aligned just right to announce Fall. Once this happens, I pull out the long sleeve shirts, jackets, sweaters and boots and overdress in anticipation of cooler weather. Until then, I hang to summer relishing my memories of the past summer.

One fond memory that stands out clearly is how I found myself in a small town in the South of France learning useful French phrases like “Ou est le panier?” This is French for, “Where is the cart?” My family had rented a house and I had gone to the grocery store to get a few things to get us set up. As directed by our host, I went to a grocery store because the markets were already closed for the day. I breezed in to “Le Super U” with my quaint little shopping bag. I was shocked as I was swept up by frantic shoppers with huge grocery carts spilling over with everything from toilet paper to wine. My first impression was that they were preparing for the apocalypse. But no need to worry, it was the 1st of August, the first day when most Europeans officially start summer vacation. I couldn’t find a grocery cart anywhere! Finally, I spotted a tiny little gray plastic basket on wheels. Swept up in the energy of the exuberant shoppers, I managed to drag around this plastic basket as I filled it over maximum capacity with fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese and wine. I cringed as my wine bottles fell on the floor not once but twice. Miraculously, they did not break and most shoppers did not even seem phased!

At check out, the clerk rang up my items that ended up filling several plastic grocery bags beyond my one canvas bag. When I attempted to put these bags in my tiny basket, she informed me that I could not take the basket with me. My French was good enough for me to understand her. Yet, I struggled to negotiate with her about how to get all my bags to my car without a cart. There was a long line of Europeans waiting to start their vacation. I was in their way. Sweating as I tried to solve my dilemma, I exclaimed, “Ou est le cart? She giggled with another clerk because they were not sure what I was saying. I laughed nervously and pressed on. Finally, I was able to get a security guard to help me outside with my bags until I could flag down my husband who was patiently waiting in the car with the kids. As we drove out of the parking lot, I found my bearings. I figured out that I needed to ask, “Ou sont les paniers?” The French word for cart being “panier.” Also, I learned that carts are secured outside and with a few coins can be rented to take in to the store. It was a shaky start but I was so thankful to have our groceries and begin our vacation. For the rest of vacation, I would walk through a farmer’s market or a store in mock exasperation and exclaim, “Ou est le panier?”

This got me to thinking about how often, we show up in life mentally without a “panier” if you will. Or maybe we show up with a small basket if we show up at all. It’s like some of us don’t anticipate much from life, from ourselves, or others around us. We don’t see that life has much to offer or even see that there is never enough or never going to be enough. So, why bother having a basket? Or maybe, some of us look around the universal store of life, choosing to see lots of bad things, the things we don’t like. We can’t even see all the abundance of good around us. We have their eyes, ears and minds tuned in to messages and belief systems that want us to believe otherwise. The news highlights one tragedy after another. Maybe, our parents, friends, or colleagues laugh at our ideas to do something big or different or even a little scary. So, we push our ambitions down inside of us. Maybe, the critics are out there shooting everyone down and we find ourselves believing that maybe they are right? It is a downward spiral. We cannot harvest anything because our fists become clenched shut. Our heart becomes pinched off from the light of God, Universe, or Spirit. We can’t find our basket.

Here is a secret: I have been to that place. It’s a place of scarcity. It is a sad, dark and stressful place to dwell. When I finally realized that I had the power to shift this perspective, my whole world began to bloom. I admit that I hesitated for a minute and almost left the store. It can be overwhelming when we begin to see what life has in store for us. Then, I decided to go on and figured that it would work out in the end. The fact that I did not have a grocery cart and only a small basket was not going to stop me from gathering what I needed to start my vacation. And just like that in life, I am happy to gather all that I need and desire, trusting that there is enough and that things will work out for the best. I realize that the basket is in my heart. As I open my heart, my fists become open hands. With open hands, I am able to receive all the blessings that God brings my way. If you are in a situation where you are struggling, ask yourself “Ou est le panier?” And remember, it is in your heart. Open your heart to the idea that there is good all around and that you are worthy to receive this goodness. Open your hands and be willing to receive the goodness. Happy harvesting and remember: Shine on!

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