How You Live Your Life: A Chicken Soup Lesson

05/27/2015 10:39 am ET | Updated May 27, 2016

I'm at the end of a bad cold today, so I decided to drag myself to a local deli for some chicken soup. There were four busy people behind the counter and more than a dozen massed in front of it when I arrived.

I notice some petite brunette woman rushed to get ahead of me. No big deal. I merged into the swarm, standing near some young guy.

About 20 seconds later, she turned and said to me, "I'm behind him, you know. I'm after him." I smiled at her calmly and said, "Yes, I know."

She seemed agitated.

When they finally got to the young guy ahead of us, he asked for the broccoli with garlic. The counter girl began to put some in a box for him. The brunette spoke up. "Hey! Hey! Don't give him all the garlic! ...Other people like garlic, too. You can't give it all to one person."

Everyone turned to look at her but she was oblivious.

When it was her turn, she asked for several things and then the broccoli. "Can you put garlic in there, if there's any left after you gave it all to that guy?" The counter attendant glanced at her and smiled sweetly.

I took my chicken soup and shuffled over to the cashier, never to think about the pushy woman ever again in my life. But fate had other plans for me.

Sure enough, she got in the checkout line right behind me. She seemed incredulous. She asked, "How'd you get in front of me?" If I hadn't had my soup already on the conveyor belt, I'd have let her go ahead of me.

I got to my car and thought about a lesson I learned from a wise woman named Ernestine Fischer up in Northern California many years ago. Ernestine said, "How you play the game is how you play your life."

I always took that to mean, "How you show up in the little things is how you show up in the big things, too. Basically 'You iz who you iz.' "

I wonder if the garlic-loving woman feels serenity this evening. I wonder if her co-workers think of her fondly. I wonder if her family just can't wait to spend time with her. Does she have friends? I wonder if she sees everything and everyone in her life as in her way, trying to take something from her, and all of life as a fight.