Note: This post is the first in a new series of Sunday posts that I am starting. They will generally be religious in nature, born from my personal thoughts, experiences, and perceptions.
Some years ago I was shopping downtown at an Eddie Bauer clearance sale. The sale was being held in a local convention center and as usual was packed with shoppers. We were given large “lawn and leaf” style plastic bags to haul around our loot. I was shopping in that heady atmosphere of finding great deal after great deal and was somewhat heedless about the weight of my bag. I just kept dragging it around behind me as I shopped, just like everyone else was doing.
Finally I went through the check-out line and was so proud when the cashier rang up my total. I had gotten a lot of great bargains. The cashier advised that the clothes be divided between two bags so that I could carry them more easily. I thought that was probably a good idea. As I walked out into the lobby of the convention center, I dragged my two bags behind me across the carpet. I had not yet tried to lift them, but I figured that it wouldn’t be too much of a problem once I hit the street; afterall, I reasoned, I was pretty strong. The women in my family inherited that ‘gift’ from my grandmother.
Soon enough I came to the doors leading outside. As I attempted to lift my bags, I knew that I was in trouble. They were heavy. Embarrassingly heavy. I stared at them for a few moments, trying to figure out a way to carry them so that I could get them back to my car. With a great deal of effort I managed to lift them enough to get down the steps and onto the sidewalk. At the bottom of the steps I once again set the bags down and stared at them. Dang, I was in trouble. It was going to be a long, long block and half journey back to the car.
As I was standing there berating myself for having bought so much, I saw a pair of weathered, brown hands reach down and pick up one of my bags. I followed the hands across to the smiling face of a pint-sized, elderly Filipino woman. “I carry it,” she said. “Where your car?”
I was dumbfounded, but before I could answer she had picked up my bag, slung it across her back, and was heading down the sidewalk. “You better hurry up. She gonna keep on going,” I heard a laughing male voice say. It was then that I noticed a young man who was apparently with the elderly woman. “Is she going the right way?” he asked still laughing.
“Yes. Yes, that’s the right way. But that bag is really heavy. She shouldn’t be lifting that. Really. I can get it,” I said to him, bewildered as I watched the old woman merrily walking down the sidewalk carrying my stupid, heavy garbage bag full of clothes.
The young man reached down and picked up my other bag. “Come on. Show us the way to your car. She does things like this all the time. She’s strong. She worked hard in the fields.”
Away we went down the sidewalk, the three of us…a foolish woman, a wise woman, and a young man who was being taught in the ways of wisdom. The elderly woman never missed a step, never stumbled under the heavy weight of the bag that she carried. She smiled and sang and her grandson chatted with me as we walked. When we arrived at my car, they hoisted the bags into the back of the car and waved a cheerful goodbye as I profusely thanked them for their help. I wanted to give them something to show my gratitude, but they declined. Some things are just for free.