John Lennon sang the famous line, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Perhaps with that in mind, writer Liz Smith used her keen skill for documenting those in-between moments that make life so special. Smith has allowed us to publish three of her recent essays (A place to rest, Compassion takes a holiday) in the May 9 - 15 issue of Real Change. We were so taken by her observations that we asked students in an advanced painting class at the Northwest College of Art and Design in Tacoma if they might be interested in illustrating these gems. Here are the results of that collaboration.
One night I was shopping at the U-District Trader Joe’s. I confess it’s one of my favorite stores. The general atmosphere is always positive and forward-moving, and they have the most interesting salsas and sauces.
I was looking for the mango-ginger chutney when I noticed one of their workers. He was stocking shelves, but also talking to the other workers, joking around and laughing a lot. He was perfectly content being exactly where he was. I addressed him:
“Excuse me for saying this, but you are the happiest person in the whole store. You must really love working here.”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s right. Do you have a few minutes to hear my story?”
“Oh, sure.” As he talked, he kept on working, and the customers flowed around us like we were rocks in a stream.
“I used to be a loan officer in a bank,” he began. “Every day I had to disappoint people who desperately needed money. Then I would come in here to buy lunch. One day it was too much for me. I had a nice young couple in my office applying for a loan. I had to tell them no, and they begged and pleaded and cried. When they finally gave up and left, I came in here as usual to buy my lunch. On impulse I asked for an application, and put in my two week’s notice at the bank. Now I’m here, and enjoy coming to work now. I really like my job, and don’t have to disappoint anybody ever again.”
“That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I appreciate it. Have a good day,” and with that I left him to his work.
More essays from Liz Smith - A place to rest, Compassion takes a holiday Check out the full May 9 - 15 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization standing up for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.