4 Carrots, 3 Rutabagas and a Smile

Growing up we had such a great community. We knew everyone on our street. Summer nights were often spent with parents on their balconies, and children playing outside in their pajamas until it was time for bed.

My father was heavily involved in coaching, on committees and the like. My mom would make costumes for our dance recitals at the community school. No one was ever alone, and everyone knew your story. No one missed a special event at the community park, as I often hurried there with my wagon filled with lemonade and juice to sell. 5 cents was the price, and no one ever turned me down!

When I became a single parent, I was determined to move to a town to recreate the same feeling for my children, to ease the feeling of isolation. Unbeknown to me, it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned because, lets face it, here in the western world, extended families and communities are dwindling. We are more “on our own” than ever, however, there were times, at the exact moment I needed it, magic happened.

Help Me?

A few months ago, I heard a knock on my door. I peered into the peep-hole to see that it was my 80-year-old neighbor. We had never met before. She looked pale even sickly, and said: “I am not feeling well, my husband is at work, could you please come sit with me?” I quickly told the children I would be next door and left with her. She sat down telling me she felt sick and was scared to be alone. I told her I understood and asked if she had any crackers, often saltines help ease the stomach. She loved that idea, and said: “oh I never thought of that, thank you!”. Something so simple as a cracker.. huh!

After about 15 to 20 minutes of chatting, she felt better and I left.

1 month later…

I was taking a walk to the grocery store, when I noticed my newly arrived (they just moved in the bottom floor) neighbor with her little child on her hip, standing by the church. She looked a bit lost, and I asked if I could help. That is when I realized she couldn’t speak French or English, they are from Columbia, been here only 2 months at that time. After tons of our made up sign language, I understood she needed to find a daycare for her children so she can go to the “required” french lessons immigrants must take to stay in Québec. I told her I would help.

The next day, I was calling around and taking online speed Spanish so at least I could say Hola, como estas, yo necessito, and olé! When I reached the 4Korners Family Resource Center, where I go for support and therapy,  the director Rola said she could speak and understand Spanish! So pleased that I found someone to help: I went back to Google translate and wrote exactly what my neighbor, Rosa (we introduced ourselves) needed to do to find daycare. 1st thing, call Rola!

I gave her the note, she smiled a mile wide, nodded that she understood, and kept on saying “gracias gracias”!

“[Neighbor is] not he whom I find in my path, but rather he in whose path I place myself, he whom I approach and actively seek.” 
― Gustavo GutiérrezA Theology of Liberation

4 to 5 months later….

My new neighbor friends and I still see each other in the hallways. My 80 year old neighbor and I went to vote together. I also gave my Columbian family some of my kids old art supplies, we nod, say hello, or hola, and smile. Just knowing they are there is comfort.

Just last week, a knock at my door. I peered through the peep hole and there was 80 year old Rachel holding a bag in her hands. She looked so cute with with her white sweater, eager to hand me the contents. She said: “Here, my son brought us fresh vegetables, and we have too many. I want to give them to you. You helped me so much” she repeated “You helped me so so much last time, I want to thank you”. All while still holding out the bag that looked to heavy for her frail arm and I thought to myself “GRAB the darn bag from her silly! Can’t you see she is giving it to you??”

I took the bag and cried. We both had tears in our eyes for a second. I said thank you and and I closed the door.

2 days later…

Knocking on my door again. “I’m like what? Nobody knocks this often” It was Catalina, the tween from the 1st floor. She too was holding a bag. Trying to speak french (she’s good because she is going to a local french school now) she said that her mother was grateful for my help and wanted me to have some rutabegas. They had too many. I said thank you! I was touched by the gesture.

She came again two days later looking for stuff for an art project, however, after 10 mintutes of sign language trying to figure out what she really needed, I didn’t have it. However, I did have fresh muffins I just made, so I sent her home with one in her hand.

Community in the building!

My fridge, was full of fresh veggies, when just a week ago it was so bare! I said to the kids: “Im making soup!!” So soup I made, I cut up carrots, onions, rutabegas and garlic. I made the best soup ever!

Knocking at my door.

This time, it was another neighbor. She just got back from 3 weeks of detox, and she needed to borrow my laptop to check her emails. I took it over to her apt and chatted while she surfed the internet. She had a really bad day coming home, ran out of gas, lost her check (to find it later) and came home to a sick roomate, messy apartment and no food. She was in tears.. and I let her talk.

When I got home, I looked at the freshly made soup, and had an AHA moment. I will take some soup to her.. well you should have seen the smile on her face..

….and it all started with 4 Carrots and 3 rutabagas and a smile!

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11 Comments

  1. Carole Décarie

    April 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Well you got me crying now…..keep on giving because most of the times people are very very very grateful and that my friend is pure joy and food for our soul. Today I was also saying to the Maison Internationale de la Rive Sud that it is not only up to the Immigrants/new comers to integrate we also have to meet them half way and even sometimes 3/4 of the way …I try to participate in as much as inter-cultural activities as possible and try to be helpful to new comers. I say there are still a lot of good people around. Not everyone is self centered and ungrateful and feel that everything is owed to them… It gives me hope for future generations. It’s all up to the parents …it’s their example in front of their children that will continue to create GOOD PEOPLE and I am sure that your children will do the same. <3

  2. Kim

    November 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you ladies. Community is important to me, online and offline.. it just takes a little time to build. 🙂

  3. that’s how communities are built, it starts with a smile, a nod then a hello or hola , bonjour. I grew up in a very similar environment so try and recreate it where ever I go. I haven’t got your soup making skills sounds delish . Happy Birthday.

  4. What I love about this is that you are not only building a community online but in your 3 dimensional life too. Great story!!!

  5. BTW, I love your story!

  6. Hey, thanks for posting a link to my Vegan Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup. It really is a fantastic soup. I hope you are able to try it out sometime.

  7. Such a beautiful story Kim! And I know the soup was amazing because of all the love and kindness that was put into it.

    • Kim

      October 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      I know right? I am so touched by such small gestures. I mean as much as I would love a million bucks at times, those 4 carrots and rutabagas fed a whole lot of people. That is much much better!

      YAY!!

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