"Norman of the Mountain"
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 by Ron Cruger
2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
          The mountain rose gently from the surrounding flatland. At this time of the year it was covered with a beard of green grass thanks to the soft rains that fell once or twice a week. It was a friendly mountain, with a few Spruce trees at its base. Climbing to the top was easy as long as there were no heavy rains that could turn the soft soil into muddy ruts.
          From the pinnacle of the mountain one could see the surrounding city, its homes, wide avenues, civic center, the Sears store, the Target Center and the nearby Costco building, whose parking lot lied on the land where the mountain started to rise above the flatland.
           On this day, one week after Christmas, the “return” line at the Costco store stretched out to the parking lot. Inside the huge store hundreds of shoppers searched for bargains. They loaded their carts with the oversized bottles, jars and packages. Hungry shoppers snacked on a variety of sample sized foods offered by mature women in white server’s caps. A dozen check-out stands toted the purchases, rang up the amounts and a thousand customers filed through the exits under the watchful eyes of the Costco employees.
          In the farthest corner of the parking lot, at the base of the mountain, a tall man stood and watched the scores of shoppers unloading their carts then loading their cars with their purchases.
          The tall man, who was known as “Norman of the Mountain,” stood quietly for more than an hour, watching the procession of shoppers unloading their goods into their cars and vans. Norman had spent the previous two hours inside the giant store slowly walking the aisles of the store, watching the hoard of shoppers. He would stop in the different sections of the mammoth store and observe the actions of the shoppers. He watched as shoppers maneuvered their shopping carts through the crowded aisles. He noted the actions of the men and women in the store. The day before he had spent his day watching the shoppers in the nearby Sears and Target stores.
          Norman was known to the people of the town. He was born there three score and ten years before. He had never traveled further than five miles in any direction from the town’s center. He had a reputation for being gentle and kind. He did odd jobs and spent his spare time in the town library. Few college graduates had more knowledge about a wider range of subjects than Norman. He was quiet, reserved, yet friendly and always had a kind word for everyone. He wore clean tan slacks, Pendleton shirts, sturdy boots and a worn leather jacket.
          “Norman of the Mountain” was known as a man of prayer and gentility. He knew the words of the Old and New Testaments. He often sat with the ministers, priests and rabbis of the town and discussed the scriptures with them. Norman, on this day, was affected by what he had seen. He felt that it was his duty to try to right the wrongs he had observed.
          Norman walked to the entrance of the Costco store and found some familiar faces. These were people of the town. People he had known for most of his life. He greeted them and wished them “Merry Christmas.” A small group gathered around him.   
          As the crowd grew “Norman of the Mountain” said, “I have watched everyone celebrate the season and I must be honest with all of you. I have become saddened by the actions of the people. It seems that the kindness and caring that should be celebrated during this time is missing.”
          Norman was clearly heavyhearted. His shoulders slumped. He left the crowd surrounding him and walked towards the mountain. Scores of shoppers followed him. Some stopped to unload their purchases into their cars and vans before following Norman. The tall man continued walking up the mountainside and the crowd grew and followed him. Some were just curious. Others, who knew Norman, waited for further explanation from him.
          Upon reaching the top of the mountain Norman sat on the soft grass, crossing his legs beneath him. The bright sun shone on the assembly.
          Ten minutes of silence passed. “Norman of the Mountain” was praying. Slowly his head raised, his eyes opened and he began speaking.
          “It is so sad to see people treat each other so rudely, especially at this time of the year.   I have watched all of you race around, paying little attention to the crippled, the young or the aged. You dash around, with little regard for anyone else. You push your shopping carts ahead of you, sometimes hitting your friends and neighbors, sometimes rudely cutting off small children or the infirm. You elbow each other in order to get a small piece of bread with a tiny slice of cheese on it. You, with your shopping carts filled with hundreds of dollars of purchases, push your way to receive a sample of cold hot dog or a small piece of fish. You elbow your way past your neighbors towards a food sample cart as though you hadn’t eaten in days, at the same time hundreds of dollars worth of gifts fill your shopping carts.”
          “I have seen so many of you drive your cars into these parking lots, dangerously cutting each other off for the sake of a parking space ten feet closer to the store entrance. More of you should be parking further away in order to get the exercise you need from the walk to the store.”
          “I have watched you empty your shopping carts and leave them in parking spots near your car, rather than returning them to a cart return area a few additional feet from you. All for the sake of saving ten seconds!”
          “You race for check out counters in hurried attempts to line up before another shopper gets there. Rudeness prevails just for the sake of five seconds here or a minute there. You rush from one place to another, being impolite to each other, when you should be practicing thoughtfulness and kindness. The cost is low – a few seconds here and moment there.”
          “You are teaching your children to be uncultivated and unkind to their neighbors. Perhaps, by changing your actions here thoughtfulness could spread to another store and then another and another. Perhaps one day the actions of our town could set an example for another town and then another town and another. Perhaps this could be the beginning of a change. Perhaps friends and neighbors in our town could show the world that being thoughtful, kind and considerate brings more to our lives than being self-centered, rude and thoughtless. I hope that a new day, a new way of living could begin in our town.”
          With that “Norman of the Mountain” rose to his feet, shaking hands with the people as he walked down the mountainside. As he approached the bottom of the mountain he held the hand of an elderly woman on his left side. On his right his arm circled the shoulders of a stocky, middle-aged man.
          The next day, a store clerk stood in amazement as a young woman waved at an elderly man pushing his cart ahead of her. She said, “After you, sir.”
          One of the elderly ladies serving food samples watched as a tall man invited a mother and her two children to get in line ahead of him.
          It was a beginning. People in the stores felt something happening and they liked it.