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To A Newly Trained Eye, Your Local Supermarket Can Serve Up A Feast Of Beauty

Dr. Leo Buscaglia was not your everyday college professor.

After attending the University of Southern California as a student, he began teaching there in the late 1960s in the Department of Special Education. One of his students who he felt was always listening intently to his lectures committed suicide.

It affected him deeply. "What are we doing stuffing facts into people and forgetting that they are human beings?" he asked. He formed a non-credit class on the USC campus titled Love 1A, in which he spoke about the importance and power of loving relationships.

He spoke passionately, evangelically, about love ... so powerfully that people of all ages began flocking to his lectures. Couples in his audiences can routinely be seen holding hands as they listen. "Dr. Love," as he came to be known, always stayed after the conclusion of every lecture to offer a hug to anyone who wanted one. Attendees often waited up to two hours to get a hug from him. Many of his inspiring lectures can still be found on YouTube, and I commend them to anyone wanting their day improved.

I first became aware of Dr. Buscaglia when I was living in Southern California in the 1980s and 1990s. I was always spellbound by his lectures, and listened to every one I could find at that time. He often would talk about the beauty to be found around us in everyday situations as one of the many ways to practice loving. "Have you ever taken a good look at the produce section of your local supermarket?" he once asked his audience. "It's absolutely beautiful. It should remind us always of the beauty of nature, and of the great bounty we have available to us in this country."

Dr. Buscaglia's lesson has stayed with me for 30 years. Every time I go into a supermarket, I now see the produce section in a different light. An NPR radio feature this past February by Fiona Geiran resurrected this idea, even going so far as to suggest that you could go on a successful date to the grocery store. She points out the many colorful and fun things that can be done in today's grocery stores if you simply walk in with a new attitude, noticing what's around you with a retrained eye.

"When you get the chance, pull off the road into any old Kroger parking lot," Geiran says. "Give someone a tour of your local Trader Joe's like you're showing off your private art collection in the Tuscan countryside. A red umbrella inside a crowded Costco warehouse can be your tropical getaway if it makes you slow down and take a seat. Do romantic things in regular places."

I decided to see if I could capture some of this beauty that I've appreciated since Dr. Love made me aware of it 30 years ago. With the kind and patient permission of Jordy Dellenbach, manager of the Harris Teeter store in the Lightfoot area of Williamsburg, I was given free reign for a morning to photograph the considerable beauty I found ... and not just in the produce section, but all around me.

The photos later leaped from my camera card onto my computer screen, embracing my consciousness -- almost as if Dr. Love were trying to send a special kind of hug that said "thank you" for hearing and comprehending what I heard him say more than 30 years ago.


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