Isn’t life grand? When you think everything is going smoothly then you bump up against huge obstacles, you become aware there IS indeed something bigger ahead. Something more grand is the promise of the eighth principle, Push.
The following is an excerpt from the Push chapter of Nine Principles for Loving Living. It describes a “push-pull-struggle” scene at my dollar store that demonstrated the tension of contraction, and how it leads to expansion eventually. It was a challenge for me, and I learned what I could not have known if it had not happened.
PUSH FOR RECOGNITION (A Side Story)
I was sitting in the dollar store in front of the counter in the comfortable office chair that cannot fit behind the counter. My backpack was in another nearby chair with a stamped envelope sticking out of it, ready to be mailed. I had in fact missed the mail carrier and wanted to remember to mail it. Two Spanish-speaking customers came in, speaking enough English to order 20 balloons. While ordering, in walked a neighborhood vendor who hustles for a living and has provided the store with a variety of products, from DVDs to hand-sewn napkins and tablecloths. She asked if she could have quarters for a $5 bill. This was no problem; I happened to have a lot of quarters.
She began speaking with the ladies in Spanish; I started blowing up their balloons. She started showing them different things in the store. This was her custom; she was quite friendly and people thought she worked for me. Up and down the aisle they went. I completed the balloons and when the ladies collected their order, she went out with them, chatting the whole time.
About five minutes later I got a call from her, saying a friend of hers picked up a money order in the street and gave it to her since he knows she works with me sometimes. It’s for $500. I must have dropped it, she told me. Do you know Jenay Punkay? she asked, in her Puerto Rican accent. Jeannette Plunkett is my mother, and I began to get very warm. That’s mine, I said. It’s payment for our PSE&G bill. Where did you find it? My friend found it in the street Niamo and he wants to give it to you just he knows I work with you and he wants a reward for it. Impossible, I say, I was just looking at it in my backpack. It was not in the street. No Niamo he found it and now you accusing me I didn’t take your money it was found and he just wants $40 for it. Then I became extremely warm.
You bring it right now, I said. I’m not talking on the phone to you anymore. Bring it here. He wants an award for it Niamo if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t even have it he thought he was doing you a favor. No more talk on the phone, I said. Come and bring it to the store. I have to wait for him to come back. You accusing me of taking it? Why would I do that Niamo when we first met I returned $20 to you when you gave me too much change I always bring good luck to your store and do things for you why you treat me this way. All the good I do for you; you always disrespecting me…click.
I don’t recall what I said to her as well as I recall her wailing story of our relationship. They were lies to me. She was playing me! When my friend comes we gonna both come over. I said, Come now! I was livid. She lived across the street. I called my husband to ask him what to do. He told me to put him on the phone to speak to her when she comes and that would resolve it. I asked what was he going to say and when he told me, I realized it was a huge threat—in my mind, invoking the wrath of God—much better delivered in person. What’s my next option? Call the police. I did so and didn’t get through. She called the store phone; I saw her number and ignored it. Then she called my cell and I ignored it again. I immediately called my worker who had two big sons, to come to my aid.
Standing in the doorway to the store, I looked up and down the street for people I might know. I locked the door and walked briskly down to the barbershop where I felt I could get a man to be with me when she arrived with her friend. She called again from a different number, and told me Look for a black SUV, my friend’s car. Do you see one outside? He is coming in a little while. I brushed her off. Just come now. I wanted witnesses. I saw a friend’s son-in-law and asked him to come back to the store with me. I was enraged, my voice getting louder as I spoke to people on the street and the police on the phone at the same time, telling them this woman was trying to scam me and literally stole my mail and was demanding ransom. I got another vendor- sister to also come and be a second witness. She just happened to be getting out of a cab and I reeled her in to my defense.
I was soon back in the store behind the counter sharing my tale of woe with these witnesses. It happened pretty fast, and I realized she must have been watching me walk down the street. She arrived soon after we all did and came bustling in, waving the envelope in her hand like she couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. I got off the phone, relieved the police said they would send someone. I felt unafraid because I had back up. I was still fuming with righteous indignation.
The thief thrust the envelope toward me and said, Here it is! Of course you can have it Niamo, why you think I would take your stuff? I’m not like that. My friend found it in the street. I don’t know why you treat me this way after all I do for you, et cetera, in Spanglish Puerto Rican style. She had torn open the end of the letter, leaving the stamps intact. The envelope appeared dirty; my thought was that she had to make it look that way. I looked at the return slip which was outside the envelope. Where is the money order? Everything is there. You know I didn’t have to even bring this back to you I can’t believe you think I took your stuff. I looked inside the envelope and saw the money order. Okay! Thank you! I said. She was still talking very loudly about feeling insulted I should think she stole the letter from the store.
I can’t speak to you now, I said, I’m too angry. My female witness stood near the counter as if she was a customer about to buy something. The perp-woman continued her tirade about being unjustly accused as she walked out. By this time my real employee who is bilingual had arrived and was in front of the store with two grandchildren. I felt a pang of sorrow the children had to witness the perp blasting me and the store, and my accusation of her, making a big scene, all of it in Spanglish.
My worker got her to finally go home and came in and heard my side of the story. The witnesses had left once they saw the money was returned. My employee told me the things she was saying in Spanish were threatening. She had advised her to calm down and go home, since she could be put in jail for making threatening remarks. She also said perp-woman told her she found the envelope outside on the ground, which was untrue. The cop finally came and told me I could make a report, but if anything else happened I would need to provide her full address to press harassment charges. I declined, but my complaint was recorded.
The questions I struggled with after this incident were all about me being a mirror of what this woman must have been going through. I had to understand the store location in a controversial area. She and I had had a serious energy exchange prior to this; she had sold me product; I had relieved her of knee pain through energy healing and tapping…it was as if the situation was designed to wake me up to a different reality. The minute it was over I felt like I could have died. My concerns paled in comparison to the merciful, rhetorical inquiry I read in the Qur’an:
Did we not cool your temper?
And we unloaded your load (of sins). One that burdened your back.
–HQ As-Shaarhh/Cooling the Temper 94:1-3
My sin, the one that burdened me, was my naiveté. If the theft had not occurred, I might have befriended this woman. We had shared and looked out for each other in small and
important ways, but I didn’t really know her or what she was capable of. The incident opened my eyes and preempted harm that could have been far more serious.
We exalted you to an honorable position. With pain there is gain.
Indeed, with pain there is gain. Whenever possible you shall strive. Seeking only your Lord.
–HQ As-Shaarhh/Cooling the Temper 94:4-8 (emphasis added)
The incident illustrated I had to return to the teachings that had served me well, from which I had veered off course. I had to strive whenever possible, seeking only my Creator for relief, answers and completion. I never set eyes on the woman again, and the word was she stayed clear of that part of the block….