Recently, my new store leader asked me to try to ring up customers’ purchases quickly- to emphasize speed over extended interactions. I get it. We’re terribly understaffed, and the holidays are coming. No time for chit-chat. I work at a white heat, ringing, checking, bagging, handing out receipts and wishing people a nice day. I try to recite short poems for each customer, classics from Sri Chinmoy’s treasury of aphorisms:
“Peace begins when expectations ends”
“Love stretched a long distance becomes forgiveness”
“Patience is the light of truth”
And I find that people respond to these short poems! They repeat them a few times, they smile.
Of course, there are sometimes people to whom I want to give more attention- people who seem like seekers. My boss told me to work quickly. In general, I do. But I do make time to recite longer poems for people who I feel will appreciate them. At least I try!
Autumn is here- and with it all the reminders of mortality- passing time. I feel my time is limited. Sometimes this gets to me, but then I simply do what I can. Sometimes a time limit can be helpful. In 1974, at the end of April, Sri Chinmoy gave himself twenty-four hours to see how many poems he could write in that time period. The result was “The Goal Is Won”, one of his most exalted poetry collections, absolutely. Limits give us something to race against. Limitations are synonymous with difficulties. Sri Chinmoy writes, in “The Goal is Won”:
No Divinity’s Grace.
No Divinity’s Grace,
No Reality’s face.
No Reality’s face,
No humanity’s race.”
A few days ago a disabled man came over to my line with his wife. He was unable to stand up straight and had to lean almost crazily to one side and his hands shook- maybe he had some kind of parkinsonian condition. His wife, like him, was quite elderly and yet still a beautiful woman, wearing a blouse with a kind of Native American jewelry set into it. I just looked at them and I asked the husband if he enjoyed flying kites. A look of happy nostalgia came over his face and he told me that when his kids were young he took them to the beach every weekend and they went fly kites- often homemade kites because they didn’t have much money. They flew box kites that they made from wicker boxes and newspaper and twine- they’re so simple and primitive but he got so much joy and thrill from it.
I told him that according to my spiritual Master, Sri Chinmoy, kites have two meanings- the first is Immortality and the second is divine glory. And his wife gasped to hear that; they were both so happy to hear my masters interpretation of the meaning of kites. Then I don’t know why or how, but the conversation segued to the Vespers of 1610 of Claudio Monteverdi and the wife told me that that piece is absolutely divine and heavenly and once again I thought of kites. And during this whole conversation with these two people I kept seeing beautiful, ethereal, almost diaphanous kites in a sky that was flooded with light.
Later in the day, another elderly lady came to my line. She told me her name was Trisha. I told her that in India “Trisha” means “the inner thirst- she who is thirsty for God’s light.” She was very moved to hear this. She told me she had just started meditating, and the meaning of her name gives her the confidence she needs to continue. There was a lull in our conversation, and I started singing a song that has “Trisha” in it- “bedanai bara.” She asked me what I was singing and I told her I was singing a song which included a form of her name “trishita paran”- my thirsty heart. She was so happy to hear that there is a song with her name!
After that we talked about our favorite key lime pie and pasta penne recipes and she shook my hand and thanked me for all of the information but I was the one who was grateful to her.