ESTRESSANTE

Escuche y repeta la palabra para stressful: estressante.

Listen and repeat the word for stressful: estressante.”

Monday night Pimsleur Spanish classes instruct me how to say stressful in Spanish. No problema, I’m a natural when it comes to stress.

Tuesdays are my days for meeting Jimena Pareja and members of undocumented families who come to get food cards from two neighboring supermarkets. By now I know them and they know me. I even remember some of their names, though Jimena warns me that that there are new families on the list because more and more are hurting desperately from the economic closure. Almost all are wearing masks (this wasn’t the case several weeks ago) and a few make quite a fashion statement with home-made colorful scarves tied behind their heads. I compliment them on their look.

Then come the stories about covid.

Jimena gives condolences. She murmurs on the side: “Her aunt died of covid.”

“Where does she live?”

“New Jersey.”

“Lo siento,” I tell her.

More condolences. “Her uncle died in Nueva York,” Jimena tells me.

“Donde en Nueva York?” I ask her.

“Brooklyn.”

“Lo siento,” I mumble.

Someone comes who had the virus 3 weeks ago along with her husband, but now it’s gone. I ask about the children; children are fine.

Everyone comes quickly this time, one after the other; other weeks we’ve had to wait longer. But today is bright and sunny, Jimena and I aren’t huddling under a marquee against the cold and rain like last week. In the end one more card is left.

“We have to bring it to her,” Jimena says. “She just gave birth two weeks ago and has two more small children, and her husband got four hours of work today.”

It’s the first time she takes me to visit someone at home. “Little by little they will trust you,” she tells me, “and you will hear their stories.”

I hop into the car.

“Keep away from me,” Aussie says, straining her body against the window in the back seat.

“I’m not sick,” I tell her.

“You talked to somebody who was sick! Are you crazy?”

Harry screams into my left ear: Open the window! Open the window! I open it up halfway. All the way! All the way!

“No way Jose,” I tell him, “you’ll jump out and I’ll be chasing you up and down Main Street.”

I follow Jimena to a neighborhood I’ve visited before and get out. She knocks, a pale, tired woman opens the door, two small children peering at us from behind her legs. Jimena explains that I’m a friend and I give her the Stop & Shop card. I also rummage and take out $50 cash. “Un regalo para el bebe nuevo,” I tell her. A gift for the new baby.

Listen and repeat the word for stressful: estressante.

I need to keep this going, I think as I finally drive away. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s still a drop. And we have no idea how long we’ll be shut down. Massachusetts has extended full shutdown at least till May 18, no schools till September which also means no summer programs for the children. And now the Great Leader is talking about not giving help to cities that support undocumented families. How are they going to live?

But I should know better. I don’t have to keep this going, it’s never been up to me, it’s everybody’s work. On the way home I stop at the post office and there are some 7 envelopes with checks totaling over $700 in contributions. A friend met me at the supermarket and gave me two food cards that she had bought on her own; these went today to a woman who told me of friends of hers who’re living on the edge.

Finally, I get the most wonderful email from my friend, Heinz-Jurgen Metzger, a Zen teacher in Germany, accompanying a Paypal note that he’s sending me over $680 for food cards that he collected from students and friends. Additional donations are coming separately from Germany.

It’s not about me, the world does everything. Life takes care of life.

A long time ago, in one of the many times Greyston was floundering financially and we hoped a certain donation would come through, I asked Bernie (Sensei to me then) how he could be so unworried. “It’s the Buddha’s money,” he said. “Life takes care of life.”

Earlier that day, when we were handing out cards: “Does this come from the church?” asks one of the mothers, looking at the food card in her hand.

“No, not from church,” says Jimena.

“From the school?” the woman wonders.

“No, not from the school.”

“A social agency?” No, Jimena says, not a social agency. “These are her friends,” she explains, motioning to me. She can’t explain about blog readers.

The woman thinks about that, looking at the $50 food card, and nods. She understands. Amigos.

If you wish to donate for food cards to desperate families, use button below and note on Note: “For food cards.” Or else send a check to me, Eve Marko, at POB 194, Montague, MA 01351.