The Outer Wrapper is Only the Outer Wrapper

05/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

There are miracles in everyday interactions. Often, when I least expect it, a person I come into contact with has incredibly special significance for me. When I'm paying attention, when I'm listening, when my feelers are up and out, wondrous unexpected moments unfold before my very eyes.

After spinning, I met this incredible French woman named Monique in the 99¢ Store.

I asked as we stood beside each other at the refrigerator door in the back where the eggs were located, "Do you think the eggs here are safe?"

She was wearing a burgundy leather jacket that looked like it had seen better days. Under that she had a red sweatshirt that had fifty stains if it had one. She just happened to be the person standing there when I had that specific question on my mind. I was hoping to save myself a trip to another store and get home, if I could just get past the thought that these 99¢ eggs were really too old to be on better store's shelves.

"Yes, I always buy my eggs here," the bright eyed, red haired woman said. Upon opening her mouth I saw that she had remarkably clean and perfectly capped teeth.

She then asked me, "Do you think this margarine which says it's made with Olive Oil and which claims to have NO TRANS FATS... is really free of trans fats?"

We moved my cart over to the bread shelves, out of the way from the masses moving up and down the aisle. We talked about how much hard work health necessitated, how much energy dieting consumes, whether trusting the AMA to care about our health when they care most about the relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. We moved on to the billions of dollars lost in Iraq, Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures book and how the FBI showed up at the Trudeau's house toting weapons. Somehow in just a few minutes, this bright educated woman and I were discussion therapy, relationships with our mothers, and the importance of daily walking. All that in about fifteen minutes.

Many years ago her mother had come to visit from France. After a few days together the older woman said, "Monique, I think there are some things you need to go to therapy to work out." I asked her how long she'd been in therapy and what she'd gotten out of the process. "I was in therapy for a couple of years. My therapist was amazed because I take notes and 'so few bothered to really listen much less follow advice given.' What I learned most was how to accept criticism. I learned that hatred of others only hurts myself, and self love is a most important quality to develop."

We exchanged numbers, names and went on our way. I threw back my Crispy Rice and Toasty Oats cereals she pointed out how much sugar and salt they both had. I checked out. When putting my bags in the car I remembered I'd also wanted lemons, grapefruits, broccoli, and cauliflower. I went back in and while standing in line again I snagged a Hershey's Heath Milk Chocolate combo bar. After hearing this older woman in remarkable health, slim and trim, tell me to learn not to put the junk into me or I'd become junk, I still succumbed.

But I came home nibbling on only three little bites, then broke the rest of the bar up into little rectangles and put them in the heart tin given to me the day before for Valentine's. I hid the tin behind the big leather reading chair, on the third shelf down of my dairy section. Maybe I'll forget they are there. Maybe I'll throw them out.

So much of life is about awareness... Before meeting her I might have had the bad cereal and the whole bar of chocolate. Now I just might escape the whole incident with only a mere taste of temptation.

This woman, having gone through therapy with her eyes open, knew the process backwards and forwards, and was able to elucidate for me some very basics in life. Had I judged her on her stained shirt or the fact that I thought red and burgundy don't look good together, I'd have missed a wonderful encounter. I'm really glad I have that characteristic in my personality, I give people a chance as long as they don't smell horribly offensive to me. Maybe even that limitation I should work on.

Who knew the 99¢ Store offered such profound value?