last night, long after my neighborhood grocery store was closed i realized that i was out of coffee. pre-coffee grocery store trips are not something that i usually build into my schedule, but, i knew there was no way around it.
friday is typically my sabbath day–a day of rest that begin with waking up naturally (no alarm) and leisurely coffee at the kitchen table with a book or podcast. however, i know that without coffee for too long in the morning i get cranky, my head hurts and the no-caffeine-fog slows me down. so, i knew that i needed to set my alarm and get to the store before it was too terribly late in the day.
it also happens that, in the christian calendar, that today is good friday. the day that we observe the passion (torture, crucifixion and death) of jesus. yesterday was maundy thursday–the day that we observe the last supper and churches around the world celebrate communion and the washing of feet to remind us of christ’s grace, love and servant-hood.
the third day in the triduum is holy saturday, tomorrow, a day of waiting–a day of remembering that christ died, his body washed and laid quiet in a tomb while the disciples locked themselves away in grief and fear.
while i walked to my grocery store this morning i was thinking about easter and resurrection. i was pondering where i see resurrection in my daily life and wondering about the miraculous transformation a desert undergoes after a steady fall of rare rain. (i managed to get out of the house before the deep caffeine-less fog set in.)
i had a short list of groceries to buy besides coffee, so was making my way thought the aisles and listening to rachel maddow’s show from thrusday evening–she was talking about iran and plutonium–while choosing which instant mi goreng (thanks, kelly) to buy when a woman came up to me and gestured for me to remove my ear-buds.
she: “do you speak english?”
she: “okay, so, my car was just towed with my three kids and everything i have was in that car. i’m not asking for money or anything, and i’m not on drugs, but can you help me by buying these?”
she holds up her basket–lunchables, juice, nutella, baby wipes.
i think, but don’t ask, your kids were in the car? i doubt that… looking back at her face i also think: i’m not sure i believe you.
pausing the podcast and placing my phone in my own basket i just say:
she is clearly in a hurry–zipping up the aisle. as we walk i take her in more clearly–she smells heavily of cigarette smoke. and not just from today, but like she has been steeped in it for months. her makeup is think and cheap, an attempt to look young and it is difficult to tell her age. mid 30s like me? 40s? older? her toenail polish is french-tip and looks perfect yet her red fingernail polish is all around her cuticles and she is chewing her nails–they are quite short.
she: “thank you for not looking at me like i look at homeless people when they ask me for money.”
she: “i mean, i’m just a single mom–three kids–so when a grown man asks me for money, i just don’t feel bad. you know? maybe i should feel bad. should i feel bad?”
by now we are up in the check-out area.
she turns to me: “should i feel bad?”
me: “we all need help.”
she is choosing which line to stand in, i think: the contents of your basket lead me to believe your story about kids–it is “kid food” and there are diaper wipes. your lack of attachment or gratitude isn’t giving me confidence that you are telling me the truth.
she breaks into my thoughts by gesturing to the woman in front of us in the line we have chosen–she wants me to ask her if we can move ahead of her in line. that i’m not going to do. looking into her basket again it appears that she “qualifies” for the express lane–so i suggest we go one cashier over.
she: “i just parked my car for a moment outside the daycare to run some pampers inside for my kids, you know… i didn’t want to find and pay for parking so i just ran in. and when i came back my car had been towed!”
she: “OH! I FORGOT CRACKERS FOR THEIR PEANUT BUTTER!”
she unloads her basket onto the conveyor and literally runs away.
there is a chance she’s not coming back, right? is this where i’m left wondering if i buy these and leave them for her or try to explain the cashier? what if she brings back expensive stuff? i’m pretty sure this is all a lie…
she comes running back up–her sandals smacking the tile announcing her approach, then the smell of stale cigarettes before i see her face again. one packet of graham crackers is what she had grabbed.
me: “what is your name?”
me: “my name is thera. it is nice to meet you, charlie.”
charlie: “yeah, thank you.”
the cashier beings to ring us up.
charlie: “i just dropped off pampers–those things cost so much. i need to take them this food to daycare. my three kids…”
me: “yeah-i hear that diapers do cost a lot.”
i think about asking where in the neighborhood her kids are in daycare but don’t want to shatter the illusion if it is not true.
charlie touches the reusable fiesta bag hanging off the register. and asks the cashier, “how much does this cost?” pausing, nutella in hand, she replies, “ninety nine cents.”
i do not offer to buy it.
charlie: “oh, cool. okay.”
she shakes her head like it was silly to ask.
it is just ninety nine cents…yeah, but, come on. am i being rude or principled?
bagging her own groceries, with haste charlie says, “wow. well, thank you.” she has stopped making eye contact or really looking at me.
maybe i was wrong?
i am handed the receipt. $28.35
me: “you’re welcome, charlie. i hope the food is enjoyed.”
having already picked up her bag and turned away from me, charlie turns back and gives me a quick hug–looking past my left shoulder rather than at me. “yeah. hey, thanks.”
me: “you’re welcome.”
and then she was gone. i took my basket back to where i was deciding on a mi goreng brand pondering eucharist, foot washing and taking people at their word.
we all need help.
afterthought: in october i added my fifth tattoo to my collection–a raven with a communion wafer in her mouth. she symbolizes the ravens in the story of elijah (1 kings) bringing provision in the desert–in time of need. elijah would have starved to death were it not for the ravens. i do not know, and probably will not know, if charlie really has three kids or what of her story is true. if a symbol of provision and eucharist are important enough to tattoo permanently onto my body, then the possibility of being taken advantage of will just have to be okay. either way, $28.35 was provision in someone’s desert–even if i do not know the depths or contours of that place. because easter is coming. resurrection is real. and we all need help.