When I heard the other day that Whole Foods was catching a lot of flack for selling peeled oranges in containers and had agreed to remove them from the shelves, I shook my head and sighed. “A loss for the lazy,” the New York Post reported, and I had to agree.
What, we can’t even peel our own oranges any more? It’s a pain, sure, but come on. Are people really willing to pay extra money just so they don’t have to peel an orange? Figures.
The crushing conviction came later, when several articles pointed out to me what a lot of the outrage over oranges had missed: many people with disabilities had been delighted by the pre-peeled oranges and were devastated to know they’d no longer be available.
I thought of my third-grade teacher, Mrs. E, whose rheumatoid arthritis had become so bad that her fingers curled in on themselves and would no longer straighten out. I thought of the woman I know from church who, due to a medical condition, is on steroids that have swollen her hands to a frustrating degree, and who struggles with even simple packaging on band-aids and boxes. I thought of my Granny, whose hands trembled sometimes when she picked up a plate.
You can debate, if you’d like, the general ridiculousness of the prices at Whole Foods and how pre-peeled oranges ought to be packaged to reduce waste. But for me, the whole incident was a reminder of two things: that it is easy to put myself first, and that it is easy to forget other people.
I have two fine and perfectly capable hands, so I don’t need peeled oranges – but other people might. I view peeled oranges as an unnecessary indulgence for myself – but for others they might be a necessary convenience. Still, rather than take the time to think of anyone else but myself, I considered my own experience, applied it to the situation, and made a snap judgment:
I don’t need peeled oranges, so if a store is selling peeled oranges, it must be for people who don’t need them.
The incident was a reminder to me of how important empathy and an others-focused outlook is in my walk with Christ. When my mind is on myself, it literally prevents me from seeing outside myself: I lose my ability to think of the world in an empathetic way. I lose my ability to see the world the way others might, to understand their needs and their perspective. Because let me tell you: if I’d been the one needing peeled oranges I’d have raised a holy ruckus when they were pulled off the shelves. My snap judgment was a moment of me-focus versus God-focus, a moment of self-serving opinion versus others-serving attitude.
Philip Yancey once wrote that the act of prayer is a constant re-orientation of one’s self to God, a re-remembering of your position in relation to His. Similarly, I suspect the Christian walk is a constant re-orientation of ourselves not only to Christ, but to others: a re-remembering of our place as servants, and of others as those we are meant to serve.
The Whole Foods debacle will blow over, I’m sure. But I’m glad that it happened. A simple lesson on how I view peeled oranges gave me a reminder that not everything in the world exists for me and that my feelings and experiences aren’t the only ones that matter.
Christ first. Then others. Everything else will sort itself out.