People watching is the best show on earth...

Nov 23, 2007

Giving Before Receiving

. Nov 23, 2007


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my country. I try to be mindful of my blessings, but easily get caught up in the rush of life during the year. That's why I spend at least a few hours at a local food bank handing out free turkeys and trimmings. It makes me feel good and also reminds me that life is hard for many. I hear a lot of interesting comments at these events, but I see far more in the body language and expressions of those who come for help.

I was there quite early in the morning and so were at least 200 people lined up around the block. The surge of people was a bit scary when the doors opened, and staff reminded visitors to wait their turn. Any aggression was promised to be dealt with by two rather imposing security guards. Still, the hungry people pushed a little, anxious to get their share. It's this behavior from perhaps normally mild-mannered women and men that shows what desperation can do. One person after another held out there arms to receive the single or family meal boxes and quickly rushed out of the store. Some said thanks, others merely snatched the boxes and left.

About 30 minutes into my stay, I turned from the pantry to see an older Asian woman next in my line. She was so slight and so very dwarfed by those waiting behind her. She did not immediately approach the counter, instead looking at me while leaning slightly forward. A white woman bumped her shoulder from behind and said, 'Go!'. I motioned for her to step up and only then did she approach the counter. She walked quickly toward me and kept her eyes downward:

Me: Hi, happy Thanksgiving.
(The woman does not hold out her hands, instead she bows her head several times and clasps her hands together.)
Woman: I am saying to you thank you first. I am saying thank you for my family, very much. My husband is not coming here. He is ashame.
Me: That's okay, ma'am. You don't need to feel ashamed.
(Others in line become impatient and a few try to rush her on.)
Woman: (she turns to the others) Please, one moment. Please. You must not receive so easy. (Back to me) I want thank you and I want thank this country. I appreciate so much this country help us.
Me: You are very welcome and I hope you enjoy your dinner. You and your family.
Woman: Thank you, thank you young lady. I want give you this. I have pray on it for you.

The woman, so small, struggles with the large box for a moment, gets her bearings and walks away. Some watch her leave with curious looks. On the counter is a tiny white Buddha she left for me. Another person has already stepped up for his box.

18 Whispers:

Rob in Denver said...

Great story, as always, Vienne.

Glad you had a great holiday.

***Feel free to delete this part before approving the comment:

I want to know if you'd like to write a guest post at 52 Novels? As great as Eavesdrop is, we don't get a sense of who you are a writer. I think readers---yours and mine---would like to learn more.

When you get a moment, shoot me an e-mail (rob @ 52 novels dot com). We'll discuss it more.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Touching moment. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. How touching. I would treasure it forever. Okay, you made me cry again.

bunnygirl said...

What a wonderful story. That's the sort of moment that takes all those doubts away and restores a little faith in the future of humanity.

Vienne said...

Hello Rob, thank you and yes, I would be delighted to guest post. I don't know how to delete portions of comments, so hope you don't mind I published it whole. I'll be in touch with you!

Welcome to Eavesdrop, Susan! Thanks for your observation. I am insanely touched by this woman's gratefulness. I put the Buddha on our Thanksgiving table and I think I will every year from know on.

Karen, I teared up right there at the counter myself. Others have said 'thanks' before, but none quite like that. It was deeply moving for me. I hope you had a nice holiday. Thanks for commenting!

Hi Bunny, yes it certainly does do that on so many levels. I hope the husband was able to swallow his pride and enjoy the meal. I don't know why I'm so concerned about that. It must have taken so much courage for her to come to us against his wishes I hope she didn't get grief at home.

clairec23 said...

What a lovely woman, I'm completely teary eyed now...What a major contrast between those two thanksgiving posts. It must have taken a lot for that woman to do that, I really hope her family appreciates it and I'm so glad you gave the little white Buddha pride of place. Some people would have just thrown it away.

Vienne said...

Hi Claire, same here! I agree on the courage it must have taken for her to come. After all that, I'm horrified to imagine her husband throwing the box in the trash in anger and shame. Hopefully my imagination is getting the best of me. Let's just think he sat down to a delicious meal with her. And yes, I'm going to treasure the Buddha always. It's a wonderful reminder of so many truths.

deathsweep said...

I liked this very much. Amazing how some feel deserving and others feel thankful. Great post.

AntiBarbie said...

American people are so rude. I'd rather eat glass than work retail again. It's a very touching story. Some folks really don't have anyone to talk to and will give their life stories to person behind the counter.

I wish I could say I was always gracious during those times but alas, there were times I was cranky and just wanted people to stop talking and go so the line wouldn't get backed up. So, I guess I'm rude too, even if it isn't outwardly.

Vienne said...

Hi Antibarbie, I've felt that kind of impatience when I was a waitress. But something tells me neither one of us would be outwardly rude. Also, my experience is that Americans don't hold a candle to the rudeness of French food servers. Since they don't work for tips, they have no problem telling you to hurry up, ignoring your requests and a host of other annoying behaviors. Guess rudeness exists wherever people do.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Beautiful story and what a lovely gift the fragile woman gave you.


SuperSkyRockets said...

Wow, I have just found your blog through bloggertalk forums so thought I would come and check it out and I'm glad I did. You have a great sense of individuality and style, well done! I thought I should heck with you before linking to your blog as my blog isn't quite related to yours, however I do have plans to start my own writing blog in the new year that is going to be independent of my current work.

Thanks for the great pieces of work here!

Blindly bantering about blogging since 2007!

For one man´s meandering e-business investigation;

Vienne said...

Hi Superskyrockets, welcome to Eavesdrop. I would certainly appreciate a link - You have a very informative business blog. Nice job! Glad you enjoyed my overheard conversations and hope you'll visit again.

Spirit said...

Awww, how wonderful. Not only for the woman but also for what you do. That mut have been a wonderful experience. Very touching.

PS> I'm adding you to my blog roll. :)

Ken S said...

this story touched me so much, as i have the same experince. but unlike you, i did what most people do best- ignored them.

i am deeply ashamed for what i did.

thanks anyway, vienne.

Vienne said...

Hello Ken, thanks for sharing your reaction. Don't beat yourself up. The very fact that you evaluate your feelings shows you're a thoughtful person. I don't take action on half the things I should. We do what we can, sometimes more, other times not enough. We're only human.

Kathy said...

This is by far one of the best blogs I have ever read! This story brought tears to my eyes. Last year, I was only steps away from standing in this very line. By the grace of Buddha and God, I am now on the giving end of things again. Your writing skills are exceptional. I'll be back for more!!

Vienne said...

Kathy, thank you so much for the compliment. I'm sincerely happy to hear you are doing better. It sounds like you use your hard times as a reminder to help others. That is very touching. Best, Vivienne


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