I was at my local post office here in The Castro, filling out a form to mail a certified letter; when a frail and elderly Asian woman gently asked me if this is the line. I said “I’m still filling out papers; by all means cut ahead of me.” She was so polite, she replied, “Oh, I don’t mind waiting after you.” To which I said: “It is no problem, I assure you.”
Then she spoke a truth that she wanted someone to hear. Apparently, I stood in for that someone, at that moment. She looked up at me in her nubby tweed autumn jacket that reached down to her knees, and calmly, softly spoke the following words:
“I’m afraid I’d be very slow ahead of you, as I wobble and am somewhat crippled.”
“Well that’s fine with me dear, take all the time you want. I’m honored to give you a place ahead of me,” I kindly smiled. “I’m sorry you have an injury, and I hope you make a swift recovery.”
She then told me how a nasty neighbor allowed his Rottweiler to attack her, three weeks ago:
“I was just standing in my garden, when the neighbor’s dog was freed from its leash and came right up to me, and attacked.”
“How awful,” I exclaimed. “It’s all over the news, these maulings out of control…and children and the elderly are the main targets. Yet our city still drags its feet on this issue that has become an inexcusable travesty.”
A very young women who just joined our line, added her own two cents: “Oh, yes, I agree. I just don’t understand why people are so mean, using animals to create misery!”
The Asian woman then retrieved a small package from her purse: two thin cookies spotted with white sugar frosting and wrapped in cellophane. She offered them up to me: “Do you like Japanese rice crackers?”
“Oh, yes!” I gladly accepted without hesitation, as I knew it was a mutual gesture of good will between strangers: “two ships passing in the night,” goes that ancient saying.
So tonight in the wee, quiet hours, I’ll brew a cup of tea, and sip it by a lit candle while munching upon the most delicious cookies in the world. And from the very first bite to the last, I will pray for this humble woman’s complete and happy recovery. I will also pray for justice to be served upon the hideous person who committed this egregious act of violence upon such a sweet and indefensible human being.
I just wonder what the Japanese label says on the wrapper. I like to think it means “Good Fortune” – but no matter. The intent is there, just the same.