Times were awfully hard. I had just now reunited with my job after a year long of desperation. Although it wasn’t the job I had hoped for, it was helpful in paying some of my bills. As I cleaned the counter and refilled the coffee pot, the aroma of the fresh crisp colombian coffee danced through the air.
My eyes fixed on one of the customers who stood in line. She barely looked up as she waited patiently. I hawked at her like an eagle prying on a rabbit in the wilderness. As she neared the counter, I backed off, and shrugged. Expressionless, she stared at me. She smiled faintly at the other waitress as she placed her order, glanced at me, and then left.
When I reached home that night, I leafed through my mail-box, and was relieved at the sight of a check from the local church. Thanks to the neighborhood charity program, my butt hadn’t landed on the cold streets of Winterfall.
Furiously, I threw the next envelope in front of the neighbors door. The mailman had yet once again dropped her mail with mine.
I slammed the door behind me and threw my clothes onto the bed as I wobbled into the living room. The remote control was pre-set, so the night show began to air. After I stuffed my mouth with a tuna sandwich, took a sip of tea and muted the t.v., I waited for the next door neighbors distinctive bell to ring.
It was a cold night and as usual the neighborhood settled down after the last drop of rain had hit the ground. I glanced at the clock and it was just about that time, quarter past ten. Dimming the lights, I tiptoed into the kitchen.
The wind whistled past the window and into my eardrum as I leaned closer. I grabbed a marble from my stash and held it over a glass vase. Ready to drop it any second, I peeked through the curtains and into the dark night. It was time and yet no one had showed up. That was odd and was definitely not the routine.
Just as I was about to turn around, the beam of a car caught my attention. My heart skipped a beat as I backed away. I was sure they must have seen me, since my duplex was attached to hers.
The chirping doorbell sounded off. Slowly, yet steadily I peeped through the fogged window again. My pout turned into a smirk as I let go of the tiny marble my fingers had grasped. The noise of the marble pile muffled along with the muted whispers from the other side of the wall that later transformed into moans and groans.
The next day, sure enough, the clock had almost struck eleven, and my neighbor entered the shop. I gave her a disgusted look before elbowing my co-worker. For the past year, I had waited for her to routinely come to the coffee shop, just so I could express my disapproval, even though it was none of my business.
Once again the night had overtaken the day. My eyes widened with hatred as I saw the neighbors name on a letter. I exhaled. The thought of throwing away her mail crossed my mind. I paused and lifted my right eyebrow as I noticed she had received another letter from the church. For certain, it was an invitation to purify her from all her sins. The church was there for everyone and anyone, but I failed to understand why they would send her mail every month. Perhaps she was also receiving funds from them. Sure she was! That scum I thought, as I threw the mail in front of her door.
Wondering how much she was probably scamming from the church, I took a step back. I quickly grabbed the letter and ran into my house. This time I would open the letter, and then storm myself into the church and let them have a piece of my mind regarding her!
My eyes twitched as I opened the letter steadily and slowly. I let out heavy sigh as I held up the vase to the kitchen light and stared at the different colored marbles I had collected season after season, month after month, and day after day. My eyes watered with pain and guilt, as the vase slipped through my hands. Within seconds, the glass splattered throughout the tiled floor and the marbles went rolling in every direction. I trembled as I sat down, since my feet refused to hold me up. As I continued to read the letter, tears glided off my face and fell effortlessly onto the paper.
Thank you for your continued contribution to the church of Winterfalls. We would like to invite you to our Sunday prayer, where we will be holding an honorary reception for your charitable efforts. You have truly acted upon God’s order to ‘Love thy neighbor'”
My eyes closed. The burden was too much for me to bear. I sealed the letter in the envelope and with a heavy heart lifted myself up.
A week later, I forced myself to take the next step. I lifted my trembling hand and pressed the neighbors doorbell. The chirping sound echoed past my ears.
I bit my lip as I heard the steps come closer. The door opened.
Confused, she looked into my eyes and asked, ” Yes.”
I cleared my throat. “your mail was dropped at my place.”
She glanced at the letter and then took it from my hand. “Thanks.” She turned to close the door.
I spat at once, “What’s the jar you’re holding?”
I narrowed my eyes on to the words “charity for church.” Instantly, she covered the jar with her arm.
I inhaled heavily and stated, “Just wanted to let you know… there are new flavors at the coffee shop.”
“Oh.” She blinked and then continued, “I’ll check it out.”Her eyes teared.
I muttered, “That’ll be great”.
That night, the events scattered repeatedly throughout my mind. She had been a mute contributor for years. Although, I may have disliked her night job, I had no right to judge her, and humiliate her the way I had done.
The next morning. I watched the clock and door eagerly at the coffee shop. As expected, the door opened and my neighbor walked closer to the counter.
My co-worker elbowed me and went ahead. I pulled her aside and said, “I got this.”
With a big smile across my face, I asked, “What would you like today? It’s on me.”
She replied, “any new flavor,” and then whispered,”I’ve found another job, so I don’t have to work at nights anymore.”
I held my hand out to her,”happy for you….oh and I’m Natalie”.
“I’m Shasta.” Her eyes lit up.
I murmured, “I know.”
My co-worker shrugged from across the room.
That night, I was able to sleep peacefully. No more collecting marbles. No more spying on the neighbors. No more judging. Shasta worked as a prostitute in order to save herself from landing on the streets. Not only did she put up a smile in such situations, but she also made sure her neighbors were taken care of.
While I was busy judging her and counting her sins, I had overlooked my sin. I had gone to church every Sunday and forgot the main lesson I had learned years back. In my eyes she had truly understood the meaning of ‘Loving thy neighbor’.