Seasons greetings, to you all! I have a little story to share with you from my bills-paying-job.
As some of you may recall, I work at a convenience store in Lincoln, NE. Not going to say which one, but if you know me in person, you probably know where I work. Working in the c-store industry is a real headache most any time of year, but especially around the winter holidays - and even more so when the weather turns cold and snowy. But once in a while someone comes in that changes my perspective on things.
Late in my shift last night one of my regulars came into the store. I give this lady (let's call her Tabitha for simplicity's sake) a hard time most visits. She's fun to talk with and flips the s**t right back.
Tabitha is from the Sudan. I'm not entirely sure if she is from Sudan or South Sudan, haven't asked her. If you have been following the news at all over the last decade or so you know that that region of Africa seems to be in constant turmoil. Even after the elections that allowed for the creation of the new country, South Sudan.
When she came in last night I did my usual greeting of "Hello, Trouble." Usually she makes some funny remark or teases me right back. This time, Tabitha stopped right inside the door, looked at me with sorrow and came to the counter. I could tell right then that something was really wrong in her life. I didn't have to wait long to find out what it was.
I'm not going to be able to quote the conversation accurately, so I won't even try.
Tabitha came up to the counter and started talking about her family. She's been coming into the store longer than I have worked there, but I have gotten to know her some over the last couple of years. I know that she has children
and I knew when I met her that she was Sudanese. I didn't know how hard her life had been before she came to Lincoln, nor how hard it still is for her. She lost her father when she was five, she told me last night. She also shared that she lost her mother when she was a young teen. Just hearing that made my eyes burn with unshed tears. She continued to talk and shared with me that she had just found out (Tuesday) that the village she is from had been attacked and 35 members of
her family were killed.
Okay, right there, I just about lost it. The emotion coming off Tabitha was very much real and very much there! I
grabbed the box of tissue that we have on the counter and set it down in front of her. I didn't offer it to her, just made it available. She was being amazingly strong at that point, and I did not want to her feel that I was pitying her. Yes, I felt sorry for her, but not pity. Tabitha is a strong woman. She must be to have survived to move to the United States and to raise a family here, knowing that her homeland may not be any place she can take them in the near future.
But that wasn't all. After she shared about the loss of life and everything else she shared some of her faith with me. Tabitha is Christian. No problem there for me. She looked at me and said "I know you are a Christian. Doesn't matter if you are
black or white, man or woman. You are a good man." I wasn't going to disabuse her of the idea that I was Christian. At this point in the conversation it would have been wrong of me to say I wasn't. She was talking about the agape ideal of Christianity. Which is something I can easily embrace. Love for my fellow human being is something that I do strive for
and try to live up to as much as possible.
I think what really hit me with this whole conversation last night was not that she felt a kinship to me on spiritual grounds, or that she felt comfortable enough to share this tragedy with me. I think what really hit me was one of the most profound and complimentary things any of my costumers have ever said to me. "I think of you as my big brother."
THUD I just about wanted to cry right there and then. I'm one of seven children, but I am the youngest. Few people have ever said anything like that to me. And those that have are ones I have known on a deep level for some time. For this woman, who I hardly know outside of work, to say something like that got me thinking.
Like Tabitha said, it doesn't matter what color you are, where you are from, or anything like that. Showing love and true feeling for people is something that most anyone can see. I do try to be open, honest, and genuine with the people I meet. Not just in my persona life, but at work and on the street. Not always easy to do, but it is a goal of mine in life. Being able to show love (platonic, agape or romantic) is something that is important for us to do as human beings and as Pagans.
I don't care if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan or nontheist (atheist, etc). What I do care about is your heart. The love and compassion that you share with those around you. I'm not asking anyone to wear their heart of their sleeve. That's just asking for it to be ripped out and stomped on by every greedy, selfish, and unfeeling person you encounter. What I am suggesting is that you be willing to open your heart up to others and share of yourself.
What Tabitha gave me last night was not a tear-jerker story, but a very real and very rare gift. And I wanted to share some of that gift with you.
Blessings to you all! And my whatever Divine power(s) you believe in shine upon you with love and laughter this winter season and throughout your life!