I shop at Woodman's Food Market weekly. Something keeps happening when I'm in there that I keep thinking will change and it never does.

The Woodman's store on McFarland Road in Rockford, opened in 2001. Having grown up in Madison, Wisconsin, I was already familiar with the brand. I was excited to see them open a location in Rockford. I became an instant regular, until moving to Rockton in 2013. In August of 2019, my fiancé and I, along with our four kids, moved back to Rockford. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that one of the things I was most excited about, was living close to Woodman's again.

When we make our weekly run to Woodman's we inevitably need at least one thing from pretty much every aisle. I love to cook so I get excited to make new things or find the ingredient that will take the meal I'm making over-the-top. It took my fiancé some time to adjust to my leisurely ways in a grocery store. I love people and a grocery store always presents an opportunity to have entertaining conversations or to meet someone new.

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the way we all spend time in grocery stores, whether you shop like me or if you're an 'in and out as quickly as possible' person.

With all the time spent in a place you go to on a regular basis, you have the chance to really observe how people treat each other. Once the state of Illinois was put under a Stay At Home order, everyone's grocery shopping habits changed.

This isn't an open letter to the many shoppers I've seen be complete a******s to Woodman's staff, although I could tell you some things you wouldn't believe.

With so many things changing in our lives due to the pandemic, I was sure I would see a change in the people who put themselves, and their families, at risk by being an essential employee. This letter is to EVERY Rockford Woodman's employee. I have seen incredible kindness, grace and patience so many times. And I've seen it everywhere in the store; from produce to dairy, from the deli to the parking lot. We are all under some kind of stress we haven't felt before. Anxieties we used to be able to calm with a little mindfulness are rising to the surface daily. In the midst of that, I see the employees at Woodman's choosing to lead with kindness. THANK YOU. Thank you for choosing to be different. Because we all know it's often easier to be an a*****e right back.

See you soon,

Steve Shannon

P.S. I'd still love to see the cobblestone-like flooring replaced with something quieter. Just saying.