Most of us have had the pleasure of eating strawberries. But, have you ever looked deeply into those strawberries, touched its lightly textured skin and smelled its sweet fragrance? Have you looked deeper and seen the faces in those strawberries, felt their stories. Every time we sit mindfully to eat that strawberry (or any fruit or vegetable) it is not just a strawberry. As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh stated each fruit or vegetable is the “Body of the Cosmos”. Which means, that a fruit or vegetable holds the whole cosmos within it, from the sun that shines upon its skin to the rain that refreshes its soul to everyone involved in nurturing and supplying us with that fruit or vegetable. I believe that we all hold the universe within us, we are all deeper than what we appear to be.
On June 2005 I particated in the AIDS LifeCycle. I began my journey in San Francisco in which we had to cycle 585 miles in 7 days to reach Los Angeles. It was challenging each and everyday. I felt at the end of each night that it would be my last. But, something inside me could not disappoint my partner and the other cyclists especially the ones with HIV.
I began riding through rural towns that I had never heard of. I would never even think they were in “my” California. I was riding along fields of strawberries, artichokes, lettuce, and broccoli. Day after day rows of fields greeted us each morning with a “hello” and each night with a “goodbye”. There was a true beauty in the rolling hills, the fresh air, the vibrancy of the rows of fields, the solidarity with my partner… Yet this new frontier also saddened me. I was saddened to see the harvest workers I had never seen before in my meal. I had finally met the “invisibles” their darkened faces, covered heads, sweaty brows, hardened hands, aching backs, and swollen legs. That strawberry would never just be a strawberry, it is a luxury I cannot take. It would be the lives of these resilient people that go unnoticed each and every day.
I have also come to realize that through the echo of their faces I have recognized the faces of the immigrants that gave me my birth. We are all interconnected. We are all interconnected in the spirit of disconnection – the disconnection of our country, our home, our family, our roots… As a community we should acknowledge that our origin came from another country and that at least one of our ancestors that came to this country experienced estrangement of the unknown land, language, and customs. In doing so, we will be able to identify with others, acknowledge our likenesses and have compassion for them even if our ancestors did not receive any.
I can live without many things but I cannot live without what they have provided me and that is meaning and what they provide to all of us, nourishment for our existence.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.