You never know when Fate will offer a blessing in disguise.
Saw an Asian woman handling the checkout at a nearby Target store and joked with her about a gift I was getting for my son’s birthday three months from today. It was a holiday box with no writing on it, nothing to suggest it was from Xmas.
I told the cashier to open the small 4-by-4-inch wooden container. Music “erupted,” from inside. A female, whose voice was full of “gusto,” was singing that rollicking old Isley Brothers song, “You make me wanna ‘SHOUT!’“
The woman smiled, but did not make eye contact. “C’mon, honey, let’s dance,” I said, slowly rocking back and forth, noticing she was getting into the rhythm, a little more animated. I observed that her front teeth were very tiny, almost like a child’s, and I could not tell her age. That triggered a memory that I couldn’t quite place. Taking a chance, I held up a Xmas mug I got for 75 percent off, another one of those items with no clear holiday markings on it, and I told her it was for my Buddhist service on Sunday.
She lit up! “Are you Buddhist?” she asked. “Well, I am going to the Center in Philadelphia, Tibetan Buddhist,” I replied, not wanting to go into details of my first steps along this path. (See Buddhist Center of Philadelphia.) “I’m Buddhist,” she said. “Where do you go, what Temple?” I asked, noticing that I was seeing her as more of a kin, rather than someone different from me, from a foreign culture.
I could not understand what she said next. Did not want to hold up the line. But I asked where she was from, thinking perhaps China.
“Vietnam,” she said, looking me in the eye for the first time. “Where,” I asked almost involuntarily, wondering simultaneously if a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) flashback was soon to come up. It has in the past.
“Saigon,” she said.
Saigon, and not Ho Chi Minh City as the Southeast Asian government now calls its international city. I thanked her. Put the palms of my hands to my chest, and bowed. And felt like a brother who had just chatted with sister as I drove home, brushing away tears of thanks that no thoughts of war cropped up on this Journey for forgiveness.