PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

 

Spiritual suffering at the grocery store

One of the things I've learned in city life is that it's hard to boycott the supermarket at the mall, if not the mall itself. Malls, gigantic private-group properties that they are, have replaced public parks and town plazas that not going to the mall is like skipping the park or the plaza. In the same way, supermarts, and not content with being super, hypermarts (as in hypertension) have replaced the mon-and-pop type of grocer or even the corner grocery store. We could say not entirely, as the traditional sari-sari store variety store still survives in area far away from the mall. But our exposure to the American-style mall and hypermart has made shopping at the neighborhood stores such a spiritual suffering.

I am reminded of these things when, due to its being walking distance from my place, I have of late become a regular patron of corner sari-sari stores and neighborhood groceries (there are at least two within spitting distance of each other). As a long-time mall-goer/maller, this has opened my eyes to the big difference between mall shopping and grocery shopping. The differences are oceanic in that the grocery can't even compare with the amenities of the convenience store, which has, like the mall, mushroomed or multiplied bacterially in the last few years not just in Manila but even in far provincial cities and towns, transforming entire places into xerox copies of each other.

One of the hardest things I have to get used to in this life of downward mobility (to steal from both Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier) is the limited space, to which I am allergic. The owner has to cram everything into one place such that when, God forbids, an earthquake strikes, the coffees and creams and sugar packets would instantly congeal into a 3-in-1 mix, and the toilet bowl cleanser would form novel chemistry elements upon contact with the liquid detergents and fabric softener/conditioner (it used to be that hair was the only one being conditioned). The likelihood of the 3-in-1 mixing with the newly formed element in the periodic table would not be slim either, but a great possibility. This travail has taught me to not just go beyond my comfort zone, but also to appreciate the value of sweating profusely, not to mention develop m imagination for postearthquake mismatch scenarios.

Another punishment I have to endure is the comparative lack of variety of the items sold plus the problem of missing favorite brands. One time I had to settle for a striped variant of my preferred toothpaste against my will; another time I was faced with the prospect of getting stuck with the original just when I was getting used to the striped one. Could the arrangement me the grocery's way of getting rid of stocks from their inventory, like the way they move their bowels? Because of this, I have learned the value of making do and in the process developed the virtue of contentment with my lot, i.e., to accept the grocery god's will for me at a given short trip. This is perhaps the price I have to pay for the brief walk in place of the long ride to the mall to buy stuff for the home.

Another ordeal, or to make it sound more positively, challenge, I have to face is the pricing. The prices seem lower in the hypermarts owing the logic of economies of scale. Unless the grocery i owned and operated by someone of Chinese ancestry, the corner grocer is sure to have higher tag prices, that is if there are tag prices at all. More often than not, grocers don't have a troop of busy mechandizers to do the job of tagging each product individually, thus the cashier relying solely on the bar codes. The thought of savings I have to forgo, however, is offset by the thought of the fare and energy I have to spend trooping to the mall together will a hundred other mallers who unfailingly ensure heavy traffic to and fro. As for the convenience store, which is located midway, the offerings are of a different breed: instant everything in bite sizes and undestandably in substantial markups to offset the cost of a 24/7 operation. This way, I have learned to rationalize and intellectualize mathematically, thus developing the twin virtues of addition and subtraction, two of life's basic calculations/operations.

I know I will always revert to the mall anytime, for the convenience/comfort/space, variety of choices, and friendlier prices, but I would be a lot guiltier. Despite the hardships I endure at the corner purgatory called the grocer, I am consoled by the virtues I gain, the unexpected rewards of little heavens of thought. With the thought that I support struggling family-owned enterprises and with it, distributist economic principles; with the thought that small operations don't eat everything up along its path, really play by the natural laws of the free market, and actually fostering fair trade and competition, I find the contentment and peace of a shopper's self-righteousness.

 

New neighbor with a message

I have new neighbors! The young couple just moved into the house in front to my left, after the house was vacated by the lesbian couple with an adopted daughter. One day, there was a loud fight between the two women and the former occupants who must be a relative of some kind. Next thing you know, the old occupants, who must have been living there for more than a decade now, were out, the more feminine of the couple packing up their things with the help of another sympathetic neighbor. In the course of their very public exchange, the new woman could be heard vehemently mentioning the old couple's failure to pay the property tax, which now amounted to hundreds of pesos.

Since I notice a lot of things I shouldn't, like my friends say, I noticed that the new lady of the house was the one who went to work everyday, while the guy was, dare I assume, the househusband. Perhaps he's jobless for a moment. I noticed how he accompanied her out in the morning and fetched for her at night.

Among other things, I also noticed their enthusiasm for their new life that I got somewhat infected -- and thereafter convicted.

I say enthusiasm because the guy would always strip down his shirt everyday to work on, other than the laundry waiting to be washed and sundried out front, painting over the old peeling drab gray with shocking pink, of all colors. I had heard somewhere that pink paint is used in certain prisons to give the occupants a brighter outlook in their existence. (You can just imagine what the former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando mus have been thinking: Manila as a giant prison cell.)

Since we've never formally met, we routinely avoided each other's eyes each time our paths crossed down the block. But espying him finishing his work for the day, I just have to sit up and ask myself why, for the longest time, I had to stall buying the cans of paint I need to fix the peeling splotches of old paint in my place, as a favor to myself -- that is, so I could also feel better.

Why haven't I varnished that kitchen cabinet that was stained white here and there by vinegar spills and runoff water from the sink and countertop? What am I waiting for, when I have already bought a bottle of mahogany varnish several months ago? Why haven't I called for help in fixing that part of the ceiling that leaks each time it rains, when I have met the right carpenters? Why haven't I asked for my brother electrician's help to fix some 'dead' electrical connections upstairs? Is it all about the budget or lack thereof?

I know this is not my place and never will be mine, but like others say with televangelist pomposity, "This is it!" -- this is my life, the life given me -- at least for the moment -- despite it not being entirely my choice. I might as well live it, this life and this moment, to the full.

Why can't I fix the busted drain in my bathroom? At least I can learn some DIY thing around here. The least I can do is get up and get rid of those cobwebs which have already blackened by being there hanging for far too long. I didn't use to be like this. I used to be very particular about how my dwelling looked and felt.

Should I thank my mew neighbors? Without them knowing, they have reminded me of how long I've been depressed and got stuck at it.

Tomorrow, I'll probably start all that varnishing. Since the painting requires a longish trip outside, that will have to wait for a few. I know that whichever pit I have found myself in, I have not fully recovered yet, or else I would have moved heaven and earth to fix myself a place I think I deserve: a space filled with beauty and order and peace and assurance that I am okay.

I am so yearning for an Extreme Home Makeover right now, as one TV show puts it.

No one has roused me up before from my self-imposed hibernation until my new neighbors came.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

 

New blessings

I was able to talk to M's mom during the community's Seder Meal, and the things I heard from her were as surprising as they were uplifting. I wish she would testify to these developments herself.

She reported how M, who passed on in 2010, seems to be on a quest to putting in order the lives of each and every member of the family she left behind.

Her mother reported: improvement in her health, the favorable developments in her younger brother L's work situation, and best of all the miraculous healing of another younger brother C from a lingering liver and/or kidney ailment.

I personally knew of such concerns because M often had to ask for prayers for these members. Was her death some kind of a sacrifice?

But wait, there's more. The most unexpected twist of all is that D, M's estranged husband, maybe in reparation for the pain he caused her and her family, didn't register any opposition to all financial balances he stood to claim being the legal husband. D even found himself sharing a room in Canada (where he now lives and works) with M's first-cousin M-m.

I hope M extends God's miracles to the rest of us in community.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

 

Prayer for friends

(Txt msg)

Dear Father, bless my friends reading this, I pray.
Minister to their spirit at this very moment.
Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy.
Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence in Your ability to work through them. Where there is weariness, give them understanding, patience and strength as they learn to submit to Your leading.
Where there is spiritual stagnation, reveal to them Your nearness, and draw them into greater intimacy with You.
Where there is fear, expose Your love and release to them Your courage.
Where there is sin blocking them from You, reveal it and break its hold over their life.

Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up family and friends to support and encourage them.
Give each of them discernment to recognize the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to defeat it.

In Jesus' name, amen.

 

Wisdom from the desert

(Txt msg)

Farthest from us is not the moon nor stars, but TIME that HAS PASSED.
Biggest is not the mountain nor the sun, but our DREAM and DESIRE.
Heaviest weight is not the elephant nor iron, but RESPONSIBILITY.
Sharpest is neither knife nor sword, but our TONGUE.
Lightest is neither wind nor feathers, but PRAYERS.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

 

Txt msgs

Believing is seeing what our eyes cannot see. ODB

Godly people are like candles. The darker the night, the brighter they shine. They do not make noise about their brightness and do not lose their light by sharing it with others.
Whatever mountain stands in your path, prayer and faith can remove it.


Faith creates trust, leads to peace of mind, and frees the soul from doubt, worry, anxiety and fear. Adam Jackson

In good times and bad, our greatest need is God. ODB

---------------------------God gives, gives, gives and forgives; man gets, gets, gets and forgets.

----------------------------Each day is full of reasons to praise and thank God even when life seems empty of comfort or joy. It's when our cups are empty that God fills them up.

God has a purpose for trials and testing. Warren Wiersbe



Prayer for friends

Dear Father, bless my friends reading this, I pray.
Minister to their spirit at this very moment.
Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy.
Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence in Your ability to work through them. Where there is weariness, give them understanding, patience and strength as they learn to submit to Your leading.
Where there is spiritual stagnation, reveal to them Your nearness, and draw them into greater intimacy with You.
Where there is fear, expose Your love and release to them Your courage.
Where there is sin blocking them from You, reveal it and break its hold over their life.

Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up family and friends to support and encourage them.
Give each of them discernment to recognize the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to defeat it.

In Jesus' name, amen.

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