Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace by Carolyn Berry
As eager daffodils grow heavy heads in the rain outside my kitchen window—ready to burst into brilliant bloom—I find myself gently and irresistibly roused from the gray hibernation of Oregon winter. The approach of spring finds me distracted with thoughts of clean windows, purged closets, an aired basement, a swept garage, and a possible yard sale.
Three years ago, the yard sale of the century was held in my back yard. Several friends as well as a local church congregation joined me in a one-day extravaganza to rid ourselves of all our extra stuff. The weather was perfect, the dickering invigorating, and the experience of a collaborative sale a sheer delight.
With the yard sale scheduled to end at 5:00 and lots of stuff still on hand at 3:00, we regrouped mid-afternoon and decided to offer all that remained for free. Word spread like wildfire. Soon the back yard was jammed with people elbowing each other, diving to be first, wild-eyed and hunkered down, stuffing their bags until they burst.
It wasn’t long before four Hispanic men walked cautiously into the meleé. One approached me holding a man’s hat and spoke softly, “How much?” I smiled. “It’s free. Everything is free. Take whatever you want.” His forehead furrowed and he paused. Slowly, with increased volume, he repeated, “How much?” I took the hat, put it in a bag and placed it back in his hands. “Everything is free. This is yours.”
Reunited with his companions, he seemed perplexed. They spoke with heads together, then turned to look at me with questioning eyes. He approached next with a tea pot. “How much?” Placing it in a bag, I smiled and gently said. “Nothing. Nada. Everything is free. Please. Take what you need.” He walked away, shaking his head and gesturing his bewilderment to his companions.
This process continued with several well-considered items until one man’s eyes fell on the bike my daughter had long since outgrown. He pointed and looked at me. I walked the bike over to him. “You have a bambina?” I smiled, and held my hand to measure the height of a small girl. “Si,” he responded proudly. “For your bambina.” I gently pushed the handlebars toward one of his hands and placed the bright pink bike helmet in the other. “Please, take it. For your little girl.”
The four amigos paused at the gate for a long time, speaking softly. They were clearly hesitant to leave the yard and probably certain that either (a) I was loco, or (b) I was setting them up to be arrested. Finally the designated spokesman came back and spoke imploringly, “How much we owe?” Realizing they were afraid to leave without paying, I quickly wrote a pseudo-receipt on a piece of scratch paper listing what they had chosen, signified “Paid in Full,” then signed my name. “Gracias” they each repeated, tentatively shaking my hand. As they walked down the sidewalk, they glanced around nervously to be sure they were doing the right thing. I waved and called, “Adios.” The satisfaction I felt was indescribable.
At sunset a sound came from my front porch. Opening the door, I saw a sight that brought tears to my eyes. There sat a cardboard box filled with a 2-pound brick of Colby cheese, a package of flour tortillas, a bag of corn chips, two pomegranates, and a child’s crayon drawing of a pink bicycle with careful letters spelling “muchas gracias.” True generosity returned from grateful hearts. I was overwhelmed.
On that day three years ago, four Hispanic strangers and I spontaneously shared freely of our individual wealth. In so doing, we experienced the rich and luxurious texture of the fabric of humanity. It leaves me to ponder, as sundown darkens the sky each evening, just what kind of weaver I have been that day … what has been the texture of the fabric I have created, in harmony with both the friends and strangers who have come my way … what generosity has graced me … what generosity have I shown? It was a magical lesson.
Carolyn Berry is a speaker and writer about authenticating and simplifying our lives. She welcomes readers’ comments by mail at PO Box 612, Salem, OR 97208-0612, or via e-mail.