Saturday, July 07, 2018

a paul harvey moment

Some stories are simply not ripe to write.

So it is with my essay on Thursday (not minding my own business). Had I waited one day to tell you the story, it would have had a completely different ending. That is, if any story really has an ending.

On Thursday, we left off with me slinking away from the door of my neighbor, who had rejected a chicken peace offering in way of apologizing for getting angry at her children. When I learned of her immigration status, her reaction made far more sense.

Yesterday, as I was returning from a medical trip in Manzanillo, I drove past our neighborhood grilled chicken stand. Something down deep told me to stop and buy two chickens. One for each of the mothers involved in Wednesday's passion play. My head said: Why bother? But that little voice -- the one that talks to us in whispers whenever we are about to do something we know we should not -- said: Try again.

And, so I did. I bought two full chicken meals and took them next door. My knock on the Central American mother's door was a mere tap. Her son was out in the hall with what has become his game face when I show up -- pure disdain and anger. I asked if his mother was home, and he just glared.

When I turned around, she was standing in the door with a perplexed look. I apologized again for my anger of Wednesday. And offered the meal as a reconciliation gift. (Yup. I used those words. In my overly-practiced Spanish.)

I could not have anticipated what happened next. She started sobbing softly looking at the food I had given her. "We have nothing to eat. Thank you." She started to give me a hug and thought better of it.

The other mother, hearing the exchange, came out of her apartment and asked if she could have the other chicken. I chuckled and told her I had brought it for her and her family.

Now, I do not believe that the rift I created has been healed. Transactional gratitude seldom works that way. Just ask any husband who has given his wife a guilty gift of flowers.

But, it is a start. Had I taken the time to get to know them when they moved in (as I usually do), the fallout would have been minimal. It is very difficult for me to get angry with people I know. Certainly over some torn plants.

Every church I have ever attended has a weekly magazine filled with stories to inspire congregants in exercising Christan virtues. They have their purpose. But, most of the stories have a similar story arc.

I lived next door to a grumpy man who hated me. The only thing he loved were his roses. One day, he fell in his garden. I helped him into his house and nursed him for a week. The day he was better, four dozen of his prize roses were on my porch.

Those "I was kind and received gratitude" stories have always grated me. First, because that is not how life usually works. And, second, because we are not virtuous in hope of praise. We are virtuous to soften our hearts to the needs of others.

Had my Central American neighbor refused my chicken a second time, it would still have been the right thing to do on my part. As it turned out, she had a need unknown to me -- and a need I would probably have missed had this tale not started in anger.

I am not certain if this really is a Paul Harvey moment or not. Because there may be more to this story in the future. I hope there is.

But for now, it is sufficient to say this is the rest of the story.

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