• Shea Kropiwnicki

A Coke Addict Needs Help

I’m a Coke addict.


No, not the kind that can land you in jail. The kind that craves a styrofoam cup filled with the “good ice” and the brown, bubbly brew packed with sugar and kidney stones.


I simply love Coke.


If you’re a member of this elite group of humans, you know there is a mastery of such an art. You know what places serve up treason (Pepsi) instead of the American dream. You know who has the soft, easy-to-munch ice and who has the cubes and crescents (shame on them). You know the amount of ice matters. You know the cup matters. And you know that Coke tastes better from certain establishments, which doesn't make any sense at all, but it's true.


Taking all of this into account, I carefully selected my favorite Coke joint in our little town a few years back. I won’t say if they recognize me or not. But I will say that, on this fine afternoon, I sat in the van wishing I had chosen a place with a drive-thru. I debated on whether or not to take my 3 little munchkins in with me. I thought about how in 1995, my Mom would have left me in the car without an inkling of a thought. Probably without the car even running. And probably would have high-fived my kidnapper as she passed them on the way in to retrieve her cherished Diet Coke. I wished it were 1995. But alas, guilt and social media news articles got the best of me, so I unbuckled all the 5-point harnesses and begrudgingly entered with the whole brood.


Here’s what the next 5 minutes looked like:


Everyone gets their own $1 bill because teaching money management is important. Kid 1 turns communist and takes all the dollar bills. Kids 2 and 3 FREAK out. I repo the stolen bills, return them, and lecture Kid 1. Help fill drinks for Kids 1-3. Cup. Ice. Drink. Straw. Lid. Trash. Repeat. Kid 3 is removing Ritz Bits from the shelf. I return Ritz Bits and remind Kid 3 that we are only getting a drink, and lunch will be served at home. Kid 3 loses it but recovers well with an icy beverage in hand. I get my own drink and can’t find MY own dollar. I interrogate thieving Kid 1. No dollar. We search the area only to realize that I THREW IT AWAY with the straw trash. We get to check out line. Somehow. All candy and rinky-dink nonsense is at Kids’ 1-3 eye levels. EVERY kid touches EVERYthing. “Put your hands behind your backs,” I say. So Kid 2 licks a candy bar wrapper. With. Their. Tongue. Another lecture. Kid 3 grabs a stuffed kitty. Now 2 kitties. Now all the kitties and the cigarette lighters and the multi-colored USBs. WHY ARE THERE STUFFED KITTIES? Lecture again. I take the drinks and set them on counter to pay. Kid 3 goes nuts and RUNS FOR THE DOOR. I am paying with one eye on the cashier and one eye on Kid 3. Kid 3 is laying on the ground. Laying. On the ground. WHY IS IT NOT 1995?! We pay, and I pass out drinks to kids. Give Kids 2 and 3 the wrong drinks. Kid 3 gets correct drink and we head toward the exit. PRAISE HIM. Kid 3 fumbles the ball and drops their drink a mere 6 feet before we get to freedom.


What happened next was magical. Mother Teresa reincarnate (the lady behind us in line) stepped OUT OF LINE and immediately began wiping up the drink while also reassuring me that she had her eye on Kid 3 when they bolted toward the door. Where did her napkins come from?! Magic. For sure. I’d bet she has a white rabbit somewhere. And then the most magical words I have ever heard before came out of her magical mouth:


“Just go. I’ll get the rest.”


There was no guilt. No frustration. No duty. And I knew right away that her words were sincere. She was giving me the freedom to walk away from a mess that was mine to clean up.


She didn’t just help me.


She unburdened me.


I was dumbfounded as I abandoned my soggy napkin and walked through the exit while her husband held the door for us. A thousand “thank you’s” were said, but they came up short. In all my years of parenting, I had never experienced the power of unburdening from a complete stranger. I hadn't even stopped to consider it existed. For all I had known, helping was the top tier of fraternizing with the public.


Helping is good. It’s gracious. It’s gentle and kind. It takes energy and effort, but it doesn’t take all of you. It's holding the door open for a Mom struggling to get that double stroller through the narrow gate. It is coming alongside someone and saying "I'll do this with you".


Unburdening is sacrificial. It requires giving up your place in line. It is relinquishing your privileges and inheriting someone else’s problems. It's inconvenient. It is saying "I'll do this instead of you having to do it". It is quite literally being Jesus.


Next time you are out and about and spy a Coke addict on the fringes of a mental breakdown, consider stopping and helping. Even more, consider unburdening them. We Coke addicts need it. And I'm sure the Pepsi addicts need it just as much.


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