Seeing, before and afterward

The lean man closed the door to his old truck. It was stacked high with firewood for me. Slowly he walked toward me, and put out his hand.

“Good day,” he said. “Your firewood will cost more this year.”

I didn’t expect that news. I didn’t like it, either, but there was nothing I could do. Winter was coming, and I had waited too long to buy my wood.

“Stack it there,” I told him, pointing to the empty woodshed.

“My nephew will do that,” he said, nodding to the boy in his truck. “I’ll be back with the rest.”

I felt angry.

The boy began to stack the wood. I noticed how carefully he placed each piece.

“Do you like working for your uncle?” I asked, making some conversation while I watched him work.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“This will pay for my school clothes,” he said, pointing to the unstacked pile of wood he had thrown from the truck. Then he smiled directly at me.

“We don’t have any money.”

I melted. Suddenly, I liked being with him, and I liked his uncle, too. I wasn’t angry anymore. I was glad to buy the boy’s clothes for school. It seemed to me that we had a perfect arrangement. I get firewood, and they get school clothes.

I saw something that I hadn’t seen before. Before, I saw people selling wood. Afterward, I saw an uncle and his nephew working to buy school clothes.

–       From Soul Stories by Gary Zukav