“A Quick Trip to a Place Called Grace,” July 11, 2017

It never fails. When I run to the market for just one thing, I never know what I’ll bring back.

Last night, for example, I wanted to make pesto. I love pesto. It’s good. It’s green. It’s easy. And my half-Italian husband loves it even more than I do. I’ve seen bloodhounds get less excited chasing a rabbit than he does over a plate of pasta with pesto.

I had everything I needed to make it … except walnuts.  Most people use pinenuts for pesto. To me, pinenuts taste like kerosene. Not that I’ve tasted kerosene. I just prefer walnuts. But all I had were Brazil nuts. They might work. Or not.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve substituted ingredients that “might work,” but didn’t. If the cooking channel did a show called “Recipes for Disaster,” I could be their celebrity chef.

So I made a quick trip to the market for walnuts. At least, I hoped it would be quick. I was hungry. And the temperature in my car _ I am not making this up _ registered 121 degrees.

I parked as close as possible and sprinted to the store. The pavement felt mushy. The shopping cart burned my hands. (Carts are good to lean on, even if you’re only buying one thing.) And when the air conditioning hit my face, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

At first, I couldn’t recall why I was there. So I stuck my head in a freezer between two tubs of ice cream until it hit me: Walnuts. Where were they? I’d have to search every aisle to find them.

Do you think grocery stores move stuff around just to get us to buy things we don’t need? My cart was half full by the time I got to the sunflowers. They were huge. And they were on sale.

I grabbed the biggest bunch and headed for the check-out line. Then something made me go back for another bunch.

Loading the groceries in my car, I heard a voice call, “Miss?”

I looked up and saw an elderly woman, frail as a fallen leaf, leaning on a cart filled with packs of bottled water.

“I’m sorry, can you help me?” she said. “I can’t lift these.”

It’s not easy to ask for help.

One Christmas, long ago, my stepfather was out of work and some good people from church brought us a food basket. After they left, my mother said, “It’s hard to take help. But remember how it feels. Because one day, you will do the giving.”

Those words took on a deeper meaning for me last summer when I broke my ankle and spent months in a wheelchair. Being able to help someone is a gift _ especially for the giver.

The water bottles seemed weightless. I felt like Wonder Woman. Then, getting in my car to leave, I saw the sunflowers.

“Wait!” I called to the woman. She stopped and I ran over to hand her one of the bunches.
“Oh!” she said, “I can’t take your beautiful flowers!”

“Sure you can,” I said. “I have two bunches. This one’s yours.”

She laughed and thanked me again. I drove home grinning like a mule eating briars. Then I made pesto pasta. We ate it all. It was good. Here’s the recipe:

Boil and drain some pasta. In a food processor or blender, puree two cups of fresh basil; a few cloves of garlic; 3/4 cup of olive oil; 1/2 cup of parmesan; and 1/4 cup of … Brazil nuts.

Yes, I forgot to buy walnuts. But Brazil nuts worked just fine.

Sometimes it seems we’re always in need of something, always searching for that one missing ingredient that will make everything taste all right.

But one day, if we’re lucky, we will hear with our hearts, more than with our ears, a quiet plea for help. And it will remind us of what we so often forget: That we are whole. Our needs are met. We have all that we need.

There’s more than one way to make pesto.

And there’s always a way to repay, day by day, a little of the boundless grace we’ve been given.


  1. Sherry Thacker says

    I had never eaten pesto before and just because I read about it in your column I knew it had to be good. So I went to the store and got the basil and walnuts and made me a batch. It was heavenly! I loved it. I will keep making it more than the tomato sauce kind. Thank you so much for including the recipe in the column. God bless you and your family. By the way I’m 68 so I guess we are never to old to enjoy new things. Thanks again.

  2. I love your articles, Sharon. They bring some tears, some smiles, warm fuzzy feelings but with that comes the peace and joy when you know the right thing has been done. Thank God for your wonderful talent and your ability to make us really feel

  3. Sharon,
    Thanks so much for the reminder to keep on giving every day.
    Grace and peace as a friend of mine always says,

  4. Shirley Elliott says

    It has been way too long since I have commented and told you how very much I enjoy your columns. I started reading your columns when your kids were very small. There was a period of time when I did not have access to your columns since none of the papers in my area carried your column. (What were they thinking!) No matter what you choose to write about, it always touches me – whether laughter, tears or just nodding my head in agreement. Thank you for the joy you bring to so many people!

  5. Pam Bulich says

    Hi Sharon—Great reading your work, and I always miss seeing you. Lots of Love, Pam

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    Such a happy story – I guess I’m a little old lady… I am often blessed by young and not so young men offering to put my Costco water “pallet” into my cart or my 4-Runner. Many of my kids (all better cooks than their mama) make their own pesto. I love it…(the Sicilian better half does too) – but there is some brand in the deli section that tastes just fine ???

  7. Betty Harms says

    Love your work and stories–many times just what I need. They are meaningful with a sense of humor. Great combination! ♥♥

  8. Sharon, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was this morning when I was looking at my new facebook posts and there you were. I have read your column in my local newspaper for years and loved every word you wrote. In fact, recently, our paper has become less than nothing so I canceled except for the Sunday edition which ran your column. A couple of weeks ago I open my Sunday edition and no Sharon! I was devastated. This just couldn’t be. I felt I had lost one of my best friends and believe me I know how that feels. This past Sunday I opened the paper and you were back. Boy was I happy and now here you are on Facebook. I feel you are my best friend I’ve never met and love your words, and feel like I know your whole family. Keep up the good work kiddo. Love ya

  9. God given moments like that are (at least what I tell myself) where the sacred meets the mundane and are precious. Thank you for sharing, I needed that.

  10. Beth Heeren says

    A great story. I love to help lols (little ole ladies) too. Someday I guess I’ll be one. Sounds like you are no more used to Nevada heat than I am to Texas. It’s even hotter where you are…doesn’t seem possible. Thank God for air conditioning…Blessings!

  11. Ruth Strauch says

    Thank you for the many years I’ve enjoyed your columns. I even was privileged to hear you in Grand Island, Nebraska– of all places! I’ll enjoy reading this column again in Sunday’s local newspaper!

  12. I believe you had your priorities straight. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  13. Cathy McNamara says

    I really enjoyed this story. You were definitely given a great gift of being able to tell the stories of your life and making us feel as if we are some how there. I’m sure that little lady was greatful for your help and enjoyed the flowers. I am going to make your pesto and think of you as I enjoy my meal….Thank You, from Indiana!

  14. Paula Mueller says

    I’ve been reading your articles off and on for years, Sharon, and own your book as well. I even have a bookmark that you signed on my behalf for a friend. Every time I read your work I am touched and never fail to have tears in my eyes or a chuckle in my heart. God has truly given you a gift.

  15. Monica Voelker says

    Thank you for helping that sweet lady. My mother does not live in Vegas but she has told me often that she also can not lift those heavy bundles of water. I would like to think someone would be so kind to her. I love reading your columns and it often makes me stop to see another perspective.

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