A few days ago I visited the farmer’s market near my office. The market lies in the heart of a working class Asian and Latino neighborhood. I enjoy strolling through the market while hearing the tonal languages of Vietnamese and Lao punctuate the air as the romance language of Spanish dances in between. I’m a bit of an oddity given I’m a fair-skinned red head in business casual attire. After filling my bags with figs, nectarines, and squash, I head straight to the pupusa stand. If you’ve never had this Salvadorian fare, it’s like heaven in a homemade, corn fried tortilla severed with a side of cabbage salad. I love mine stuffed with cheese and spinach. The stand owner enthusiastically greets me, “¡Buenas dias! . . . ¿Espinachas y queso?” I reply with an enthusiastic, “¡Si!” (You correctly surmised I visit this stand regularly.)
After receiving my piping hot pupusa, I settle in at one of the three rickety card tables which constitute the dining area. It’s a perfect people-watching point. My eyes meet a diminutive, elderly, Asian man who stands about 5 feet tall. His face resembles weathered leather and his eyes twinkle. I smile. He approaches me and hands me a rubber ball with a globe printed on it. It fits in the palm of my hand. Between the mixture of English and Khmer and his missing teeth, I decipher, “For you!” I thank him, and ask if he would like some money. He places his hand on my shoulder, proceeds in Khmer and ends with “gift.” I grin and thank him. He explains I can use the ball to indicate to others where I come from. Then, he shows me his migration from Cambodia to the eastern United States. Through wild hand gestures and rapid changes in intonation, I learn that his boat sank on the voyage, and his wife died. I say, “You had an incredibly painful and difficult journey.” He nods and averts my gaze. However, he quickly grins and continues speaking. He points to California and says, “You here, and I’m here.” I beam and reply, “Yes, we are!” Then, I proceed to show him Hawaii and explain I was born there. I illustrate my journey from Hawaii to Georgia to Texas to California. He laughs and smiles, “now, you here!” I joyfully agree, “Yes, I’m here!”
Often times, our minds resemble energetic puppies who want to be anywhere but Here. The ball reminds me that Here is where the magic happens. Here is where we can have glorious, even if only brief, moments when we feel completely seen and in connection with another person. Where are you right now? Be Here.