Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thank you

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart

Yesterday at the supermarket, the woman in line ahead of me had a few meager items in her basket - mostly what you would see in a "canasta básica" - rice, beans, spaghetti, tomato paste, plus a few other "luxuries" like milk, some pastries, and a big bouncy ball for her 3 or 4 year old son that was with her. From her tired eyes and rough hands, I knew she was a hard working woman - probably someone's maid. I watched as she stared at the monitor, blinking and swallowing as each item was scanned and the total at the bottom of the screen increased.

I glanced into my own shopping cart, filled to the brim with supplies for my husband's birthday party, our Christmas dinner and breakfast - thousands of lempiras worth of food.

And I couldn't help tearing up when I heard her say to the cashier, "Please, don't let it go over 400 lempiras ($20) because my gift card is only for L 300 ($15), and I only have L 100 ($5) more to pay."

I watched the monitor as well, silently praying that the total wouldn't go over.

As I crossed my fingers behind my back, tears started streaming down my face. And it wasn't out of pity. It was because it wasn't that long ago that I was in the same exact position as she was now. I was pregnant and unemployed, and we could barely make ends meet with Jose's salary. Only by the grace of God did I get enough invitation jobs to make my car payment each month. Everything that we got for Nicholas was loaned or donated by friends and family - even my maternity clothes were borrowed. And so our grocery budget was laughable - it was easily enough for one person to spend on dinner out at a chain restaurant. I spent hours meticulously planning a menu each week from the sale ads at La Colonia in order to spend only what was necessary. And I remember on many, many occasions, watching that monitor in the check out line just as carefully as she was doing now, crossing my fingers, and blushing as I told the cashier I had decided I "didn't need" the last few things.

With each beep of the scanner the total increased closer to L 400, and finally she selected a few items to leave out. She decided to sacrifice the pastries, the milk, and the tomato paste in order to afford the ball for her son, who was jumping up and down with excitement when she handed it to him.

I wiped my cheeks and told her, "Please, take it all. I'll pay the extra." She looked in my eyes - I think seeing the reason for my tears - took my hand in both of hers, and said "Thank you, young lady, thank you."