A Quality Sweep

The premise of Supermarket Sweep was simple enough.

The gameshow, set in a heavily air-conditioned supermarket, gave shoppers mere minutes to run through the store loading their carts with groceries. While there were other segments of the show, this “Big Sweep” was the denouement. Shoppers could fill multiple carts, but the main objective was to rack up the most expensive bill for a chance to win $5,000.

The costliest items were buried deep in the aisles: gold-wrapped hams, hoses, diapers, enormous blocks of cheese. Tempting as it was to empty everything on the shelves into the cart, it wasn’t a winning strategy. Time was needed to find the most valuable goods.

Because Supermarket Sweep was a game where quality trumped quantity.

It’s not a game I would have won handily. If I’m feeling panicky, I’m susceptible to seduction by sheer volume.

Hours before a birthday party, I’ve purchased a bunch of random anythings instead of one meaningful something. I’ve hastily scanned six articles, rather than thoughtfully read one. I’ve talked through silence, rather than waited to find what I wanted to say.

While quantity is often readily available on the shelf, quality takes time, presence, and care. It’s a thoughtful pause in the rush of the world.

This doesn’t mean that when the day calls for quantity, we’re off hunting for a single splendid gold-wrapped ham. Nor does it mean that we forego good in an unending quest for perfect.

Rather, it means that we give our time, presence, and care to what’s most valuable. That in a world surging with quantity, we create pauses for quality.

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