Thoughts on Small Things. A Reflection from Madrid.
I’m waiting at the grocery line, with a cart full of fruit, vegetables, bread, yogurt… I think of the boxes of food we’ve been packing at Mision Urbana de Madrid, the community center that is helping many immigrant and Spanish families with their monthly groceries downtown Madrid. It’s my turn and I step up, adjusting my mask, placing each food item on the line. At the cashier, I see small purchasable solidarity cards with bold and black letters:
“En España más de un millón de familias no pueden hacer la compra.”
In Spain, more than one million families can’t buy their groceries.
In the background, there’s a picture of the back of a little girl. She is barefoot, maybe three years old, sitting in front of an empty refrigerator, looking into an empty vegetable drawer. How many people are a million people? I cannot picture the amount in my mind. I think of the Moroccan man I spoke to the week before. He had just arrived to Spain with his wife and daughter, and they couldn’t find a community center that would sponsor them. Our list was full, but we gave him whatever extra we had. I then think of the Gypsy lady at the metro who was hungry for something. I gave her a few bags of chips that I had, and she declared to the entire train: “To give what you have for the other!” Her voice echoes in my mind. I pick a card and add it to my groceries.
I walk back home with my bags and my mind shifts to a different headline. As of today, August 2nd, we’ve had 28.445 deaths. Many grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters. I remember a news report on corruptive management of older residencies. The end note: “Broken things are now being brought to light”. Were they that broken before all of this? I think of the words of Ruy Beló, a Portuguese poet who found refuge in Madrid during the Portuguese dictatorship and who watched his country be rebuilt after an oppressive régime. His poetry is a dry sort of lyric, the kind that crawls into you and suddenly shakes what it finds.
Today is a windy day and I like wind
Wind has fallen onto my verses in every way and
Only things I like fall onto my verses
The wind of the trees or the summer wind
Wind is the best vehicle that I know
Only it brings the perfume of the flowers, only it brings
The music that flows at the bay in August
But only today do I realize the real value of the wind
The wind is currently worth 80 escudos
The big window glass in my bedroom has cracked
“País Possível” (Possible Country). Page 39. Assirio & Alvim.
I picture this broken window, perhaps covered in dry, red dust and carrying stains of a hot summer rain. Broken windows aren’t usually things we like. They do not give comfort when finding refuge. But then I imagine that splendid wind that Belo dreamed out. I imagine what he felt when he finally got to feel it on his face, maybe first in whiffs and then in a current. He valued that wind, now that he was inside. I imagine him blessing the crack in the window for letting the breeze cover his skin. I am not comfortable with broken things, but I am confronted by them every day. Broken narratives on TV, hurting thoughts and people who are hungry. I am wondering what to do, in between these shifts of headlines and the way my day-to-day seems to be dipping into multiple realities. I am not sure if retracting is the right way to combat this. My mind is too used to swiping out of uncomfortable narratives. I think of the words of Holocaust survivor Elle Wiesel:
“We are the legacy: How do you cry for six million deaths? How many candles do you light up? Who do you pray for? Do we know how to remember the victims, their loneliness, their impotence? They were left without a trace, but we are their trace.”
I find these words remarkable. Uncomfortable. Challenging. I’m not sure what to do in the face of so much loss. But I hear the words of the wounded healer who sat at the gate, with one hurting hand ready to help and one ready to receive. His words are clear: whatever small thing we do, whether buy a solidarity card or give away a bag of chips, is a gift to Him.
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'- Matthew 25:40
Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on unsplash.com