Existential Tomatoes

I’m splitting a winter CSA share with five neighborhood friends. The share seemed big when we signed up for it, but the last few weeks have been sparse, and I have way too many turnips. Tuesday nights have become kind of weird; we haggle over which of us gets our share’s good items. Tonight’s hotly contested veggies: two jars of dill pickles and two bags of cherry tomatoes.

As we walked home after our veggie gathering, I felt so incredibly un-enthused by what we picked up, and kind of perturbed by our process of splitting the share. Even my friend, the director of the community center that the CSA is distributed from, had joked at us: “Here, have an extra bag of tomatoes to feed the five thousand.”

At the corner where we all usually part ways, a woman approached us and said, “Can you spare something to eat?” Instead of walking past her quickly, as I often do when posed with this question, I offered her a look in my bag. She pawed around a bit, amazed that I only had vegetables, and took the two objects that I had hoped she’d forgo – my jar of pickles, and my bag of tomatoes.

After letting go of my precious dills, as I rounded the corner to my front door, I looked back and caught a glimpse of her. She was chomping away at a mouth full of my organic tomatoes, calling to her friend to wait for her. I chuckled, and liked the sight.

Now I’m home, hungry and lazy about cooking the vegetables that remain, questioning my contribution to this woman’s life. She’ll probably be out there tomorrow asking the same thing. She probably has a million un-diagnosed problems. She will probably stay homeless for many years, if not forever. All of the typical thoughts that usually keep me walking past, swallowing that subliminal guilt with a strong dose of my own rationalization.

I guess I’m no easier on myself when it comes to my writing. Not a day passes when I don’t feel guilty for leaving this site empty of new posts. Not a day passes that I don’t have new ideas for new stories, or ways to finally finish old ones. Not a day passes that I don’t resent my ever-busy life and lack of hours for writing and only writing.

I did not get break the cycle of homelessness that this woman will likely chronically face. But seeing her munching on my random, annoying tomatoes helped me understand something important. I don’t always have to save the world or write for hours every day to do something decent. Sometimes, maybe a bag of tomatoes will do.


One thought on “Existential Tomatoes

  1. My wise teacher would say: ” guilt is only useful for behavior change.” Otherwise it is an energy sapping emotion that is better left discarded. As a fellow nurse and lover of writing, I would urge you to instead remind yourself that you have all you need, use it wisely. Keep your tomatoes and pickles, give her a dollar instead. Win/ win.

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