Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2003
We're all a little short sometimes
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
On a trip back home to New York this summer, I passed through Los Angeles. Knowing that the flight would be long, I decided to drive around the outskirts of the airport and pick up a few snacks. In a heavily industrial area, I found a little convenience store. With bottled water, peanuts and a turkey sandwich in hand, I got in line to pay, when I saw something I'd like to share with you.
The cashier seemed to be the manager or owner of the store. She spoke with the slight trace of an accent, and seemed to be from Southeast Asia. She had the tired look of someone who'd been on her feet for too many hours. This was clearly a woman who worked hard for her living.
Two people paid for their items, and then a young man, probably around 18, approached the counter. He had a soda, a sandwich and candy in his hand. The manager rang up the sale and told the young man the total. He looked at her quizzically, so she told him again.
The young man reached into his pocket and pulled out all his cash. He looked at the bills and change from his pocket as if they were beyond comprehension.
Then the woman at the cash register sized up the situation. This young fellow did not understand English. Possibly a worker from Central America, he also had little understanding of what the items cost. He stuck his hand out, looking for the manager to take what was needed.
The problem with that? The money in his hand wasn't enough. The woman attempted in her best Asian-accented Spanish to explain. He stood there smiling, hand extended, seeming to wonder why she didn't take his money.
Finally, she communicated that he didn't have enough. He looked a little crestfallen, and then indicated that he'd put the soda back. Outside the store, a battered truck, filled with the young man's coworkers, waited for him. The truck was heavy with landscaping and gardening tools.
Then I saw something remarkable happen. The store manager slipped her hand into a pocket of her work apron. Out came a handful of quarters which she placed in the young man's hand. She then took the money back, placed it in the register, bagged his lunch items and said good-bye. She quickly turned to the next customer and began checking out those groceries.
After him, it was my turn. I gave her my purchases, as I glanced at the truck departing with the young man and his lunch. I said to this kindly woman, who didn't realize anyone had seen her merciful act, "That was a very kind thing you did for that boy." She looked a little embarrassed that someone had noticed. In fact, her faced flushed at the compliment. Then, she said, "Well, we all find ourselves short now and then. I hope he does the same for someone else someday."
"We all find ourselves a little short now and then." What a wonderful truth, compassionately offered. Like the store manager and the young man, we are a nation of immigrants.
The vast majority of us were introduced into this great land by forebears seeking a better life. And now, for many of us, we've arrived. We live better and have more comfortable lives than the folks who struggled to get here. We've gotten used to having, and sometimes our "having" causes us to forget what it must be like to truly need.
I may never again meet that woman, but I will always remember her quiet act of charity, and the lesson that some of the people we meet each day could use a helping hand. Imagine the good we could do if everyone recalled that "we're all a little short sometimes."
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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