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February 1, 2006

Jose

There’s another story I wanted to tell tonight.  Well, not a story, but another afternoon with Jose. 

Jose came to the Brazilian Service Center around 4 p.m. today,
shuffling in slowly as he does with his limp.  After greeting
Julio, whose desk meets entering clients, he approached me at the back
of the Center.  After exchanging the standard “‘tudo bem?’ -‘tudo bom,'”
he presented a name and phone number to me, acquired from a friend who
said the person on the scrap of paper is looking for cleaners.  I
dialed the number and spoke with Alex, who is indeed looking for
cleaners and offered a start date of amanha–tomorrow.

Since Jose had no idea how to get to the Montgomery Mall (nor did I–I
had to look it up on Yahoo) and can’t read English or Portuguese
(meaning I couldn’t simply translate the directions), he asked if I
would drive with him to the mall so he could learn the route for
tomorrow.  I glanced reluctantly at the clock, realizing that it
would take well over an hour to get to the mall and back approaching
rush hour.  I had been planning on leaving at 5:30 today, but it
was already 4:15 and I had to finish up a few things before I could
consider leaving for the night. 

After I looked from the clock back to Jose, I suddenly felt horrible
about my hesitation.  Jose’s eyes were pleading for me to show him
how to get to the mall so he could start tomorrow, and I scolded myself
for my selfishness.  So what if I got home late tonight?  For
Pete’s sake, there are relatively few inconveniences that present
themselves in my life.  Was I seriously considering hampering
Jose’s desparate attempt to acquire a second job?  Absolutely
not.  I felt dirty as I realized that for a brief moment I was
acting exactly like the type of person I frequently find myself
criticizing:  workers, teachers, anyone who stops assisting others
when they’re off the clock.  I only wish I hadn’t expressed the
flash of doubt that had temporarily filled my countenance, making Jose
feel bad about the inconvenience. 

As we got in his car and began driving, all I could think about were
all of the little things that could potentially go wrong in Jose’s life
that would have a huge impact on his ability to make ends meet, while
the same things would hardly set me back.  Missing a day of work
is absolutely not an option for someone like Jose (which is about 30
million someones in the United States, and billions more around the
world).  I just pray that nothing happens to Jose’s car, his only
mode of tranportation to his suburban jobs.

Keep Jose in your thoughts tonight.  He could use your prayers.

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