Sailor Moon looks delighted every single time she sees me. That’s not exaggeration either, although the name is. Her real name is probably something like Quan Lee—I think I heard them yell “Quan Lee!” at her once–, but I like Sailor Moon so much better. Like the cartoon, Girl-Who-Might-Be-Named-Quan-Lee is small, and skinny, and has long hair. The only outright differences that I see between the young girl who works in my local Chinese food restaurant and the popularized animation heroine are:
- Sailor Moon is blonde, versus “Quan Lee” who has very dark brunette hair.
- Sailor Moon never lost a fight, versus Quan Lee who recently got jumped by a gang of young Brooklyn girls and was spared no mercy.
I stared at her face for a good two minutes, and wondered how she had only managed to gain weight in her face. “I’d love to—no I wouldn’t—yes I would—love to gain weight only in my face”, I thought to myself as I continued waiting for the guy in front of me to decide how many chicken wings he wanted. I never understand why people go to Chinese restaurants for chicken wings and fries when the crispy tofu is so very, very good. And finally it hit me, which is a horrible play on words considering the story I’m about to tell you, that Quan Lee wasn’t a face-fatty. The opposite. She was the victim of after-school kids who have been harassing her as long as she’s been working there. While these heathens go to a free public school, Quan Lee wakes up early to rush to her one (costly) college course, then to a tiny, single room restaurant where she works until close. She puts every dollar earned into paying for the one college course, and new tires for her car. These kids, whom I’ve personally witnessed, come in almost every day to shout at her, demand things that a Chinese restaurant simply doesn’t have, and to complain about the prices. I once asked her why she didn’t have tip jar—it’s no secret that I’m a “guilt tipper”—and she looked at me like I was stupid. “Someone would steal it,” she said. I laughed and said, “Steal it? This is Clinton Hill, not the ghetto!” Only a New Yorker going on her sixth year would begin to classify the areas of Brooklyn in such a snobby way. And only a New Yorker with less than ten years of resident experience would think a group of young teens who have lived their whole lives in the City aren’t capable of beating up a girl like Quan Lee.
Apparently the group of teens came in and once again asked for something that a) a restaurant doesn’t give out for free or b) asked for it so rudely that Quan Lee finally snapped. I can’t picture her actually catching an attitude with anyone, but the guy who sits inside of the Chinese restaurant for a living told me she did. And that’s when they started throwing things at her. Then one of them got the door that protects her from the public open, and the other ones went it to beat her face green, yellow, black, and blue. Her eyes are smaller from the swelling, and her nose is rocky. Still, she smiled and assured me she was ok. My food was getting was cold by this point so she urged me to leave and go eat it, telling me again and again that the police had already arrested the culprits. I would’ve fought for her if I had been there. I really would have. I think of her like a friend, whether I know her real name or not. And when I did leave, I cried on the short walk way home. I was so angry. Who does that? No really, who does that?
A few nights later and I was sitting at dinner with Monica enjoying a half-off, dirt cheap sushi meal. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Monica before, but if I’ve failed to it isn’t because there’s nothing to tell. She’s the most energetic person I’ve ever befriended in my life, and she insists that we meet for catch-up sessions every eight weeks. And every eight weeks, she starts the conversation off the same way, by asking me what’s new.
I sipped my water and said, “Nothing really.” Unsatisfied with that, she pressed in for a meaty answer. I told her that I’d talked to my family more than twice each week—this is a new goal for 2012 to ensure we’re all on one big harmonious familial page– interviewed for two jobs with another two interviews ahead of me, started a new temporary position at yet another hedge fund firm, and begun to draw up plans for a foundation I plan to co-chair. It surprised me to hear so many answers come tumbling out. It’s so easy to lose track of how much you’re really accomplishing when you don’t take the time to stand back and congratulate yourself on a day or week well done. I took a breath, another sip of water, and then I told her about the argument I’d had with Brandon following brunch with our friends, and the movie I wrote in three days. I told her I was starting a book soon, and that I needed a good book to read first for inspiration.
In her usual hyper way, she blurted out that she had a great book for me. I unenthusiastically asked her what it was called, because I know her. I know her well enough to know that Monica will read anything that other people find tedious or too detailed. Things like medical handbooks. And sure enough, she wanted me to read some book written about the brain, and another one about calories.
“A calorie! A calorie is a unit of energy. And what our bodies don’t burn or use as fuel will be stored as fat!”
“I need you to text that to me every single morning,” I replied.
The reason for my unusually long absence from The Ground of My Heart has to do with everything I told Monica, and much more. The interviews have continued on. The demands of volunteer work, regular work, house work, and personal work haven’t lessened. They’ve increased rather, but it has not crushed me. I feel no added pressure, just a bigger responsibility to manage myself with greater care. To manage myself like I am a valuable company that employs millions of people. And isn’t that what you are too? You, and I, are people with a wealth of possibilities and talents on the inside, capable of impacting countless others by our actions. It’ daunting, and motivating at the same time. But I’m more confident in my ability to manage them all because it is not by my strength, but His. His grace, His goodness.
All I have to do is rely on God. What a relief.