Everything everywhere

October 22nd, 2007

I found love in the parking lot of Sunny’s food store after a late night dash for a Hershey’s.

Me, after 12 hours in my hotshot job, racking up the hits and wins, taking down the bucks and hauling home a briefcase of very important things. I was a powerhouse, all right. But when the lights went out, I was a wobbly, weepy, lonely heart in search of a sweet, and my bedtime routine often started with a quick trip to the candy aisle at the corner convenience store. No one ever saw me.

He spoke as I darted out of the store with my secret.

“Ma’am,” he said. Polite.

I turned from inside the armor of my opened, driver-side door. He was skinny behind a bulging bag of aluminum cans, young but toothlessly aged, shiny in the swelter of summer’s all-night oven.

“Can you?” he asked.

“I can’t,” I shot back, rehearsed in my refusal. And yet I looked at him fully, and as I crouched into the seat I saw the face of my own lie.

He was so used to getting nothing, so certain of his worthlessness, that he still granted grace as I held out a flimsy, lone dollar.

“Please no, not if you can’t,” he comforted me, his face folded in tears for me.

“But I can,” I said, never trusting it before.

Then the love washed over, around, and in-between the fear we’d both carried for so long, the shame we’d worn into every unforgiving day and night, into the blinding glare and paralyzing darkness of our lives entwined.

I put it in reverse and blew him a kiss. He caught it like a butterfly and turned it loose.

We waved our brave goodbyes.

Trust your teacher, and that everything everywhere is your teacher.


  1. Beautiful. So many times our “no” is automatic, without looking or thinking or anything.

    Comment by Mama Zen — October 22, 2007 @ 2:00 am

  2. I watch for the automatic no to my son. Plenty of times I’ve wanted to say no because I’m tired or cranky or whatever. I try my best to change those nos to yes.

    My father just about never said no to me. He said, “I’ll think about it.” It meant the same thing.

    Comment by marta — October 22, 2007 @ 3:58 am

  3. this is simply beautiful.
    thank you.

    mccabe x

    Comment by mccabe — October 22, 2007 @ 5:24 am

  4. Karen, this very scenario is something that I’ve been giving a bit of thought to recently. Thanks for reinforcing the lesson for me.

    Comment by Tracy — October 22, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  5. here’s a lesson i’m still not sure what to make of, but your story brought it to mind and gave me a giggle.

    one summer evening in nyc, i was walking home from dinner with a friend. i always portioned my meal in half because i knew i could never eat it all. so…i was walking home with my take-out container of half a meal of some chinese dish i can’t even remember when i came across a homeless man. he asked me for money and i responded with the truth that i had just come from dinner and actually had no money on me but i DID have half of an untouched delicious meal that i would be happy to give him.

    he said, “i don’t like chinese food”.

    Comment by Wendy — October 22, 2007 @ 11:10 am

  6. Wendy,
    “The great Way knows no difficulty. It simply dislikes picking and choosing.” Something we all do, and when we do, we are called “hungry ghosts.”

    Comment by Karen — October 22, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  7. “Trust your teacher, and that everything everywhere is your teacher.”

    Sometimes I think this is the only thing I trust. It’s the only thing I know. When people say things like “it was meant to be” or “everything happens for a reason” I don’t know what that means, from where such certainty comes. But that everything everywhere is my teacher? This I trust with my life.

    Comment by bella — October 22, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  8. I think life has given me one of those bad substitute teachers lately…the ones that won’t let you pee and bring you to tears with their unneccessary screaming. Oh, wait…that’s just the boys again. (Joking, dispite my sarcasm I am trying to look at even pulling my hair out as a lesson)

    Comment by Shannon — October 22, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  9. Again… such eloquent writing!

    No is so automatic sometimes. I’ve said NO many times in this same situation and regretted it immediately after I did.

    There is a lot to be learned from this post.


    Karen Beth 🙂

    Comment by Karen Beth — October 22, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  10. I have never myself been homeless, but I am often dependent on the kindness of strangers. One of my best friends from high school was homeless; on behalf of him, I thank you for your trust.

    On behalf of us readers, I thank you for writing this moment.


    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — October 22, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

  11. Yes!

    Comment by denise — October 22, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  12. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Lisa — October 22, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

  13. Karen, I agree with you, and I get what you are saying. But just to mix things up a bit: An Alexander teacher of mine once said that “we should always say no before saying yes, because a no can change to a yes, but it is much harder to change a yes to a no. If a child asks for something, we should say no, think about it, and then we have the freedom to say yes”. I also understand what she meant. Sometimes we “do” things on automatic pilot, when we should not be “doing”, hence the automatic “yes”. No means stopping and reflecting. In a way it is the same lesson, but with opposite actions.

    Comment by Mika — October 22, 2007 @ 11:37 pm

  14. Lovely. Just lovely. But, if I did this every time I would literally have nothing left. Once in a while, though …

    Comment by Shawn — October 23, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  15. beautiful karen!!!

    Comment by stella — October 23, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

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