Where you find no love, put love, and then you will find love.” ~ St, John of the Cross
I had a birthday cake to make on March 12. My eldest daughter, Maire was turning 27 the next day. This is her first birthday home in Texas again in years and she is so glad to be here.
I planned to make a Mexican Chocolate Cake (dense chocolate with a little kick from a pinch of hot pepper powder.)
I wanted a yellow rose (the Yellow Rose of Texas, of course) for a little cake top arrangement as well.
I had heard news of emptied out grocery stores in other places, and even a couple of local complaints. I tend to resist getting caught up in that sort of thing so I didn’t really pay attention too much.
The emotional climate in the store was distressing. People seemed angry and upset, even banging their shopping carts around. Almost everyone I saw seemed scared, furtive even. No one was making even passing eye contact.
Workers looked exhausted and rushed.
Young people in particular looked dazed, some standing and staring at the place where something they had been looking for was supposed to be.
I thought of my Focolare friend, Julia, who had been looking for ways to be useful during the Corona Virus outbreak. She and some others had some great ideas. I felt unsure of how to be useful and I still do.
The Focolare have a saying, “Be the first to love.”
“Jesus what can I do?”
The first thing I could think of was to smile at people if I did happen to catch their eyes. This was encouraging exercise because I could see some visibly relax and several smiled back. It was a Jesus smile I think because then they smiled at others too.
Some of the things I needed for the cake were hard to find. Sugar was in very short supply. I did find some raw sugar eventually. I tried to joke with a couple of people and it went well. They were ready to laugh. We laughed about how crazy it all was.
There was no salt. There were a lot of empty shelves. It made me kind of scared too, to see that. I had never seen that before.
When I saw young people staring at things and looking confused I tried to help them find what they were looking for. At first I was stupid and picked up the item when I found it and they probably thought, “No thanks since you touched it, Stranger, and that was the last one too!” Oh yeah. I did better the next time.
I saw tired children looking around wide eyed as their flustered parents negotiated the crowds. I tend to feel overstimulated and anxious in crowds myself. I told one kid, “Hey you are being really good in the store! My youngest is 22 and she isn’t as good in the store as you are!” If a child was crying I tried to give a sympathetic look.
I finally had everything I needed, thank goodness.
I went ahead and got some beans and rice which, as a vegan, I kind of have to have. They were almost completely out. I took one small bag of each. My pay day is not for a few more days so I can imagine other people having to wait until pay day too and then everything would be gone. I didn’t want to do that to anyone else. Lots of reasons not to take more than I needed.
I tried to notice when other people were attempting to reach for things I was reaching for too and let them go first. That’s hard for me since I usually don’t notice things like that. But I tried.
I had intended to pay in cash as I usually do but I didn’t because the cashiers would have to touch that.
I felt so sorry for the young women at the register. They looked exhausted; flushed, sweaty and scared. I found out one of them was from some other department but had to come help and neither of them had gotten off work hours ago when they were supposed to be off. I thanked them so much for being there and I said I was sorry for what they were going through. They seemed to appreciate it a little bit.
I told Jesus on my way out, “Those poor girls! Please protect them and give them strength.”
On the way home people drove crazy. It made me sad. But I felt lifted up just a little bit and I had a sense of peace beneath the worry. Maybe some of the people in the store did too.
That brief experience made me think that if we can try to connect even for a second in the little ways that we can, and smile a little bit sometimes, it might lift us all up just that much more. We could use that right about now.
Maybe the reason you find love when you invest love is that it isn’t really that your love comes back to you but that Jesus is there whenever we try to give love even just that little bit, in a tough situation and he multiplies the love just as he multiplied the loaves and fishes.
We are all going to need a lot of love.
Jesus walk among us and help us remember love even a little bit in the days ahead, and to see you multiply our smallest investments.