Thanksgiving in Mazatlan—More Than a Word
There is a man who sits on a low trolley at a certain intersection roadway along the Malecon, a broad walk next to the seawall which runs about six miles around the harbor. I suppose one might call him a beggar. He is not homeless. I call him a dispenser of blessings, a beamer of joy. I don’t know his age, maybe in his forties. He looks like the Smiling Buddha sitting on his platform, useless legs twisted beneath his body.
The first time I actually “saw” him, and I still don’t know his name, was several months ago when I was on my way to the specialist I see for Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy, which has made walking extremely painful the past two years. What made me catch my breath, made me really see the man, was when he looked straight into my eyes with a look so full of love for humanity, I could hardly breathe. My immediate thought was, I have legs. I had been so caught up in the pain that I forgot that I have legs, forgot that I can walk.
Sometimes I stop to shake his hand and leave a small thanks offering, not nearly enough for what that man gives me. Always, he looks straight into my eyes and smiles with his entire face, smiles with his entire being. If there is a secret to living in gratitude, that man found it and shares it daily. When I don’t stop, he waves and beams me the same glorious smile. If I could have a brother, I want that man for a brother.
And the strange thing is that, with a brother like him, I can’t help but look around me and see my world differently. I can talk only about my own world, a beautiful but also frightening place. There is no real security. Sadness and loss can happen at any time. So can goodness and love. I could be wrong. This is what my life says so far. I’ve learned to collect small joys.
Last Thursday Kathy’s husband Richard flew in to join her at the resort. I returned to my little casa. I’m back in the comfort of my ordinary routine, spiced with small trips to Cerritos, Juarez and El Centro with my friends.
Kathy phoned, “Let’s get one of those wonderful whole grilled chickens and celebrate US Thanksgiving at your casa.” Kathy and Richard are from Pender Island in British Columbia. Kathy and I already celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. (Richard had to enjoy it vicariously, via our report of dinner at the Marina).
The chicken, the best in Mazatlan, on the authority of Carlos, my pulmonia driver, is grilled at a street stand near my doctor’s office. You have to taste it to believe it—even better than southern fried chicken when the bird is farm raised, clucking around the chicken house just this morning. While Kathy and I will chop ingredients to make the fixings, guacamole and salsa, Richard will walk to the Panama bakery to get a guava pie. I’ll press the tortillas. Add fresh cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and rice. We’ll have a proper feast.
We three friends have known one another many years. We have no secrets, no forbidden subjects. We trust each other. We’ll fill our afternoon with talk and laughter and sharing troubles and thanks along with the good food. Sharing troubles lightens the load. Sharing thanks multiplies them. Mathematical fact. I am rich to have friends like these.
I think about the man on the trolley, my brother. How did he learn that? How did he learn to find the joy? How did he learn to do more than stand aside and observe the joy, to watch it pass by? Somehow, somewhere along the way, this man who never walked, invited the joy inside. I’m not trying to make him into something he’s not. I’ll bet he’s human, he’s real and he has his bad days too.
Yet, in some mysterious way, just knowing he is there, despite all the rocks in the road, beaming from his corner of the world, makes me feel this is a good life. In fact, the smile on his face is just like the shape of the moon tonight, smiling across the dark sky.
Happy Thanksgiving from me to you, my friend.
HDN: Looking out my back door
November 26, 2014