Making Change at the Deli

“I’m not doing well at all!” the woman said angrily when my workmate asked how she was doing.  She continued to expound on her unhappiness while we sliced her cheese and ham at the deli. 

“See this face?” she said, “You may not be able to tell it but I am hurt and angry! I’m married to an awful man. He treats me rotten and I need to get away from him.

My colleague did not know what to say as the woman continued to talk with increasing volume, drawing the attention of other customers around her. 

She turned to yell at a man next to her who replied, “Lady, I don’t even know you.” 

“I don’t know you either,” she hollered as he skulked away.

 “Ma’am,” I interjected, “I’m so sorry it’s a rough day. I hope you have better days soon.”

“Really?” she said. I nodded, pleased with myself but only for an instant.  

“I’ll have better days when I divorce that man and I’m rid of him!”

And then she got even louder. 

“And don’t be wishing better days for him if he comes here! He doesn’t deserve it! You watch for him and you’ll see…. He’s a little Puerto Rican man with a goatee and he usually wears a blue shirt!”

“Right. Sure.”

She kept talking while she walked away. I looked at another customer and shrugged. “I thought I could help,” I said. 

You can’t win them all.

Even after all this time, I still have to remind myself that I never had mystical powers of healing, although people tried a little harder to pull themselves together and straighten up when they knew I was a minister. 

On the other hand, maybe the netting that covered my head and my beard concealed the holy benevolence of a former minister.  

Whatever.  In any case, I didn’t have that working for me anymore. Yet I truly thought my acknowledging her angst would help her feel calmer. 

But nope, it didn’t.

Wait… the story continues.

The next day she appeared again, this time peaceful and quiet.  When I asked how she was, she answered, “I’m doing much better,”

Only then did I recognize her.   

She was calm. Perhaps relieved.  Maybe she had gotten some sleep with the aid of modern medicine.

I remember you,” I smiled. “I was wondering how you were doing. I’m so glad you’re feeling better.”  I handed over her small purchase and she smiled when I repeated what I said the day before: “I hope you have better days soon.” 

And she left.  Quietly

Did she come back just to show she was better? Did she wonder if she would be welcome? 

It was suggested to me that perhaps she is bipolar and that makes sense. The first day she was enraged, the next day she was calm and peaceful. Her change had nothing to do with me. 

On the other hand, I was a guy who spoke kindly when she was in a bad way and that’s not nothing.

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