An Autistic Child , A Mennonite family, and Aldis

 One Wednesday morning, I stood in my Old Mother Hubbard Kitchen and made a decision to head to the grocery store so that my “little doggies” would have some “bones”. I decided Aldis would be the perfect destination. I like Aldis and my kids do as well.

Upon parking, I realized I had to get organized. Did I have my quarter for the cart? Did I have cash or debit card? Did I have bags? I had two out of three. The last item, I could either do without or buy the 10 cent bags. In we went reciting Old Mother Hubbard.  I am just joking. Though I did think my kids should learn that one for grocery store trips.

Soon after being in the store, I noticed three Mennonites. One was an older woman and the other two were young girls that were perhaps in their teens. All had the dress of a Mennonite female. The white bonnet like covering, plain colored dress ,and white apron were sure signs. They were graceful moving about the store. There were no bonks and slams or clunks. They were quiet. They almost seemed to mouth words as they spoke to one another. They cooperated with each other. One was the list checker. One fetched needed items. One minded the cart. All of this while they moved about the business of grocery getting.

Then there was our little threesome. We used our loud voices: “Hey look there’s Graham Crackers!”
“Mommy, I want to ride on the cart!” insists my daughter. There were plenty of bonks, clunks, and slams.  I am not necessarily referring to just my kids either. There was fair cooperation. We did have a little of the usual bantering –
“I’ll get the cheese- No I want to get the cheese! Mom, it’s my turn to get the cheese!”

Despite the obvious differences between us and the Mennonite family, there is some real common ground. Shocking and surprising, yes, it is true. It all dawned on me as we rode home. There is some fascinating common ground. Aldis was the  place for my children and the Mennonite family to get groceries. Aldis is just the kind of store fit for both.

Aldis offers no whistles and bells. The Mennonites spend their lives away from the “whistles and bells” of this world.  They don’t go the extreme of the Amish, but like them they appreciate and live out simplicity. No buzzes, beeps, and loud music at Aldis. No pop recycling machine roaring and clattering. No helpers punching and stocking items. Just the store is what you get. My children, one being autistic, don’t need the whistles and bells either. Every sound and sight is recorded in my daughter’s mind and may bombard her. She can go about the business of grocery shopping by working with me and not against me. The simplicity is a relief to her. It helps her function and feel confident. My daughter can put this and that in the cart because there’s no flickering or buzzing or beeping to distract or disturb her. The Autistic child and a Mennonite  can be in fine form at Aldis.

Aldis has all the staples you need and just enough extras. If milk, eggs, cheese, and bread are on your list. They are available. You might find fruit snacks, granola bars, and marshmallows. Just enough extras to satisfy and not too many to spoil. For the Mennonite they are only looking for the staples. They able aren’t into spice, luxury, and food presentation. They are into good food to eat and nourishment. This is exactly my plan for my daughter. I need her comfortable with the staples. She needs to develop a taste for turkey and not necessarily tofu. Aldis can set the table for both the Mennonite family and the autistic child.

The design of the store is perfect. There is one way in and one way out. There are a few check outs. . The aisles are not terribly long. It is easy to see everything at once so that you can find things quickly.  I can encourage cooperation because of this design. I can manage children in this small size store and allow them to participate a little more freely than in another local Store of stores. I am not as afraid of losing my child at Aldis. I left my leash at home. I am joking again. You know as well as I that a kid on a leash in any Store of stores is not a bad idea sometimes. For my autistic child, the design is a comfort to her as well. She is familiar because of the easy to learn lay out. She can move confidently because her way is organized in this small and manageable store. The Mennonite can feel the same. The store is built just like their homes. Organized, clean, and just the right size help to with ease of movement. Did I not mention how gracefully they moved through the store? It was almost like they were ….dare I say it…. dancing! Both the Mennonite and Autistic child can make themselves at home at Aldis.

Aldis also requires you do to some work. The Mennonite is all about working. You need to bag your own groceries, have your own bags, load up your own car, and return your own cart. This is where they strut there stuff. They are the true model of cooperation. So they thrive when work is to be done. This too is a “hands on learning about work” place for my children. There is a cart to empty and groceries to bag. There is a heavy cart to push to the car. There is a load to load up and a cart to return. Both the Mennonite and the autistic child can benefit from this work.

An Autistic Child and a Mennonite have some real common ground. I didn’t even mention the fact that my daughter is actually related to some Mennonites. Her great grandfather was born into a Mennonite family and raised so. Though when my grandfather reached adulthood he no longer “accepted the faith”, we still had relatives, brothers and sisters of my grandpa’s, who remained in the Mennonite faith. . Growing up, I remember plenty of experiences where  I wondered and pondered the great differences that separated us. Yet, at the this one particular moment in time at Aldis, I realized we had much more in common that I ever thought before.


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