Saying thank you for randomly crossed paths

tomato can

If I hadn’t bought tomatoes, would my Central Market visit have been the same?

I am, first and foremost, thankful today that I didn’t lose my fingerprints to frostbite. My run was ever so Antarctic, but, thank heavens, windless and still. I layered up,  including two caps and two pairs of gloves. But good heavens, it took eons (translation: OK, maybe 10 minutes, tops) for my fingertips to defrost.

Brr. Enough about that. My day continued and my fingers thawed enough for me to type and to work. Late afternoon, after my haircut, I went to Central Market. Today was payday and thus my bigger shopping day.

The young woman who checked me out saw my canned tomatoes and asked if I’d ever tried the kind with olive oil and basil, I think. I said I’d almost picked that can up, but instead opted for the fire-roasted.

“I make the best soup, and so easy, with those tomatoes,” she told me. She heats a can of tomato sauce, two cans of the tomatoes she’d mentioned, then adds spinach and oregano. Sometimes she adds bell pepper; other times, she doesn’t.

“My mother told me how to do it,” she says. “It takes about 15 minutes and costs just about $5 for everything. Plus, it lasts about a week.”

It sounds delicious, I told her. My cart was still half-full, so we kept talking. I asked if she was in school and she said yes, that she’s studying early childhood education. For some reason, we began talking about music. She told me, kind of shyly, that she was thinking of minoring in music.

“Do you sing or do you play an instrument?” I asked.

“I sing,” she said. So do her brothers, she told me. But from what she said, I got the feeling she was the one with the more natural talent.

“You should go for that minor,” I said. “What’s keeping you?”

“I don’t like to fail,” she said. “If I started and didn’t do well, I’d be so mad at myself.”

“If it’s something you really love, and I can tell it is,” I said, “maybe you owe it to yourself to at least look into it a little.”

Thinking of our encounter now, I kind of think I should have said more. Not just about singing, but about failure. That when you’re young with that whole yellow-brick road in front of you, go ahead and take a few chances. Everyone fails; usually, way more than once. Although you may not believe it at the time, those disappointments will make what you deem to be a success — and there will be plenty in the category, too — all the more sweet.

And if you end up doing something you love AND that pays the bills, you are one very lucky person.

Not like I am a font of wisdom; not in the slightest. But talking to her made me realize that not only the young need take chances; I have a few I need to take, too.

So for that serendipitous encounter, and for an unexpected recipe; for the inhale-deeply promise of youth, and the exhaled reminder of still having choices to make, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

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