Last Saturday, a series of fortunate events led me to one of my most favorite adventures yet here in Denver. And it all started with a bunch of discarded strawberries…

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The time was 7:22 am and I was waiting for the 16 in hopes of a productive and fun day visiting thrift stores across the city. After all, it was 50% off day and you always meet the most interesting people on buses. Plus, I had my copy of Harry Potter (which I’m reading for the first time) and this makes for a most epic, long bus ride!

I arrive at the first Goodwill just after opening and was dismayed at not finding anything of personal interest, walking out of the store in 15 minutes which was much shorter than I planned on being there. So I decided to surprise a roommate who had to work this particular Saturday. So, once again, I board a bus (the 15 this time) and 2 buses later I find myself in front of her work only realizing that they don’t open for another hour!

What to do…what to do… Then I remembered that there was this Mercado (Hispanic grocery store) on the east side of town that had great produce deals. I’ll go there! Back on the bus I go (after a proper amount of waiting I should add) and within a stone’s throw of the Mercado I see a sign for a yard sale. For those of you that know me, you understand the ridiculousness of being this close to a yard sale and NOT taking a peek. I head down a couple of side streets and wind up at this elderly couple’s house who are looking to reduce their “stuff.” Though I walked away empty-handed I enjoyed some good conversation and love seeing what people hold valuable and the stories that accompany the “stuff.”

Then the moment came when I entered the Mercado to the delicious smells of fresh fruit and vegetables! I practically ran to the fruit section to search for the best deals… 3 lbs of oranges for $0.99…. WHAT?!? 15 ripe bananas  for $1.00… are you SERIOUS?!? Then I encountered a deal of a lifetime which turned out to define every second of the rest of my Saturday. I saw a clerk taking containers of strawberries off the shelf and replacing them with fresh containers. But he was tossing the “old’ strawberries carelessly into a box but they seemed perfectly fine to me. I asked of his plans for these discarded strawberries and when he motioned toward a trash can,  I quickly asked if I could purchase them instead. Sure, enough, with a crazed look on his face he offered me all that I could fit in a large cardboard box for simply… $1.00!  With excitement beaming from my face,  I began playing strawberry tetris placing as many containers of strawberries into the cardboard box. When it was all said and done, I had about 15 lbs of strawberries in my possession! While dexterously placing the strawberries I ran into one of our refugee community members and  her son in the Mercado. It was wonderful to see that they recognized me and that we shopped at the same place!

Then  I approached the check-out line… with 6 lbs of oranges, about 15-20 bananas and 15 lbs of strawberries. As you might surmise,  I did receive strange glances and  a handful of gawks but I was quite content with my findings. After paying a total of $4.00 for EVERYTHING, I walked outside and began to ponder what I would do with 15 POUNDS OF STRAWBERRIES. Then an  incredible thought came to me; what if I just gave them away to strangers and make friends?!…  I approached the bus stop to return to visit my roommate at work and upon entering the bus, I offered strawberries to everyone around. The amount of surprise and yet gratitude was so encouraging and I made many friends on that bus. I even came across another of our refugee community members and shared strawberries with her and her daughter. One guy, named Angel, was so perplexed as to why I had so many strawberries and  why I would just give them away.  After I shared the story and explained how I wanted to share what was given to me, the story seemed to touch him and he became appreciative of what I was doing. But I quickly reminded him that I give because God continually gives to me…and  not just strawberries!

At the next bus stop,  I met Jackie and over a handful of strawberries we discussed life and our passions of caring for others.  He shared with me his employment woes and I offered the two gifts that I could: a listening ear and…strawberries! We boarded a bus and continued the conversation while I passed out more strawberries. Just before I got off, he wanted to give me a gift since I had shared my stuff with him.  He had a bag of oils and lotions that he apparently sold on the side and offered me a container of shea butter to keep my skin healthy in the dry weather. Even though lotions and oils scare me, I accepted the gift as an honoring gesture to him and then we parted ways.

I entered my friend’s place of work and was able to offer her and her co-workers a  lovely surprise… strawberries! I hung out there for a while and talked and laughed with them while they did their work. Then I knew it was time to move on. As  I waited for the next bus as well  as at least 8 other buses that day, I engaged in more conversations, learned  more peoples’ stories and shared my  own over the delicious, fruity treat! I was able to offer strawberries to those begging for  food as well as those who appeared as if they could buy their own Mercado  if they wanted to. I offered them to anyone and everyone that said “Yes” to my request. To me, that’s a good example of God’s love. God gives and gives regardless of who someone is or isn’t, what they’ve done and even whether or not they’ve asked for that love. Now I didn’t force my strawberries on anyone and I don’t believe God forces love on anyone either. It’s simply offered in connection with a relationship and I can’t decide which gift of God is better: the love or the relationship…

In between incredible dialogues about life, faith, race and the awesomeness of Denver, I visited a handful of Goodwill and other thrift stores, all the while toting the oranges and bananas in my back pack while balancing the box of strawberries on my head. Then I went to a spaghetti fundraiser to support friends and fellow volunteers through a Catholic organization which was great to catch up with them. (I had ran into one of them on the buses and they shared with me about the fundraiser!) After the dinner, I was walking in the dark to the light rail station when I remembered that I was very close to one of my co-worker’s parents’ house. I took the short detour and greeted them which was a delightful surprise for both sides. After catching up and sharing a few laughs, my weariness from the day had caught up with me and I knew it was time to head home.

By the end of the day, I had traveled over 70 miles on at least 20 buses/trains to 14 destinations!

I started around 7:22 am and finally returned home to rest around 9:40pm. I tell you, that was the best $4.00 I had spent in a looooooong time.

What started out as a simple 50% off sale adventure turned into real, genuine conversations started over the sharing of a meal from the most unlikeliest of places. I arrived home that night with only 4 of the 15 lbs remaining but as I finished the final strawberries today, I won’t forget the stories, the conversations, the people on the buses that make me love Denver more and more. It’s days like this that reinforce my belief in why I am here and how I can interact with my neighbors and God each and every day.

denver

May you find your strawberries and share them with all those around.
Who knows what new friends are just around the corner, across the grocery aisle or even down the pew from you!…

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