I left the supermarket giving the Lord thanks for having been able to buy everything we needed but very sorry that the bags were so heavy. The day before, our family of five had returned to Costa Rica after various months in the US, and there was no food in the house. I had splurged and bought a chicken, which was considered party fare, to celebrate our return, but the store did not have any salt. The businessmen who had a monopoly on salt were hoarding it, trying to force the government to raise the maximum price that had been set. There was no salt in any store.
A neighbor was waiting when I got to the bus stop. Doña Felicia loved Jesus very much. In spite of her lack of any formal education she was very wise, and I had consulted her many times. She had also been to the supermarket, but her bag was not as full as mine. She and her daughter lived in a tiny house, almost empty of furniture, and they scarcely had money enough for food and clothes. I was sure that there was no chicken in her bag.
She welcomed me home, and while we waited for the bus we shared the news. I mentioned my frustration about the lack of salt, and how terrible soup tastes without it. She was very concerned that I did not have any, and she insisted that I should go to her house so she could give me some. Before she got off the bus she made me promise that I would visit her that same afternoon, taking along a little bag for the salt.
I thought hard about her offer. I would feel guilty for taking away from the little that she had, but there was no way out of it. She had made me promise. I could not offer to pay her for the salt, because she would have been deeply insulted. She would have been equally offended if I offered her anything in return. Fortunately, I remembered that she had mentioned that her daughter’s birthday was the next day, so I found something suitable for a present and wrapped it up.
When I got to her house, Felicia took out of an almost-bare cupboard a small bag of salt and dumped half of it into the tortilla bag I had brought. She obviously did not have any more, and when it was gone, it would be gone. When I protested her excessive generosity she answered that those of us who have ought to share with those who do not, so we would all have what was needed. She did not say it as a reproach but simply as a way to justify her meeting my need.
I went home to my chicken supper with a couple hundred grams of salt and a lesson I am still trying to put into practice.