23 January 2008

Good and Barely Good Intentions

As always, My Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco for picking up another of My posts for Global Voices Online.

While I ponder some heavier topics, a little on the light side...

Two incidents, no common denominator other than My presence.

Incident the First: A gas station "quick shop" with a cafeteria area. I ask for My food and notice the woman tending the counter is sniffling. I toss out My usual "I hope you're not allergic to Me," remark only to hear "No. What I have isn't contagious. It's in the heart." Jenius that I am, I didn't get it until she repeated it softly, more to herself than to Me. She was crying.

I didn't want to leave her isolated, so I said "Those are pains that you can make lighter by sharing." She gave Me a long look and then told Me how her daughter, now a lawyer, was ashamed of her, an employee at a gas station food counter. "She doesn't care about the effort and struggle that helped her get what she has now," said the woman. She went on, and I simply listened. And what got to Me was that not once--not once--did she utter that stupid word "sacrifice."

She was hurt because of the rejection based on illogical shame, not because her "sacrifice" had led to seeing her attorney daughter become a rabid ingrate. As a mother and as a woman, she was doing her best, what she always did, and now it was a source of shame to a loved one. Her pain definitely wasn't contagious: It was uniquely her own.

She wrapped My food to go and tossed in some extras. I smiled at her. She smiled back. But I knew her tears would start again after I'd left. The best I could do wasn't--could never be--enough.

Incident the Second: Very late night, a couple at an ATM. They are arguing, she with the shrill voice of long practice and he with the whiny lisp of the dependent. I consider going to another machine...

"You know how this works?" The lisp is gone. Against My initial instinct, I nod. I'm a Jenius; of course I know how this works. As I approach, the woman smiles and I can see, like a faded photograph past her tired expression, the face of a young shrew.

"We don't know how to get money from this," she says, patting her sticky hair in place. I give them instructions, but every step is a pas de deux of "she bossy-he whiny." They mess up the PIN. They don't know if the money's in Checking or Savings. They screw up the amount. They argue, or rather, she attacks and he lisps in retreat. In the end, no money. Their transaction can't be processed.

They get into a nearby car, where there's another woman slumped in the front passenger seat. The car is new, maybe a year old. Newer than Mine, certainly. But it looks faded, abused, like it was a gift from an unloved relative.

I move to the ancient ATM next to the modern shiny one. I flick through it and--uh-huh--it works. My cash comes out, but try as I might, they notice I had completed My transaction.

They come back. And instead of fleeing, I give them instructions, watch them argue and retreat, screw up the numbers and have to repeat the whole process again to retrieve their money. On My way home, I stop at the gas station where I'm sure a mother works while still feeling an indescribable pain. Coming out with bags in hand, I notice that My best intentions here fell short of what I'd wished, whereas at the bank, My barest of good intentions was more than enough.

Funny how often things work out that way.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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