Pete’s Country Store

A short distance from the World Peace Temple, a ten-minute walk on Upper Mongaup Road, was Pete’s Country Store. It was a small place set amongst the trees serving black coffee to locals, fuel to the few who drove this quiet road. Sometimes I went there to buy a turkey sandwich, getting to feel too holy from the all-vegetarian meals of the Buddhists. One time, I met Pete, the owner.

Pete was an Indian in his early 50s. Normally I don’t instigate small talk, but on that day, for some unknown reason, I did. I shared with him about my time in Goa. He was delighted at the connection, as was I, and told me about the upcoming wedding of his son in Gujarat. In my wallet was a 1,000-rupee note, which for six months I’d carried across America; so I gave it to him for his son and future daughter-in-law’s happiness. Although we were only to have two conversations in this life, our friendship began this way.

“Electric bills, taxes, ordering inventory, regulations, salaries–I wake at 4:30 every morning and fall asleep with so much stress. I have too many things to take care of, or it will fall apart. We live different lives, Joe.” tweet

Before I left Glen Spey we had our second, and last, conversation.

“Joe! How are you, brother?”

“Not so bad, Pete. Planning new things. About to head south, I think. I have the camper, you know.”

“Yes,” he said. “I am happy for you, Joe. I see how you live and see your happiness and it makes me wish I could be happy like that. I envy you, brother.”

“It’s not too late.”

“But it is this way. You see, when I was young I wanted many shops. I bought one. Then I bought another. Three, four, now there are six.” He swept his arm across the store, it’s many shelves of potato chips and coolers of soft drinks; two young men, his relatives, sweeping and working. “Forty employees I have. Electric bills, taxes, ordering inventory, regulations, salaries–I wake at 4:30 every morning and fall asleep with so much stress. I have too many things to take care of, or it will fall apart. We live different lives, Joe.”

He looked as if a thousand years were piled on him then.

“I wish I could do more for you,” I said. “All I can do now is pray for you.”

“Thank you, brother. So happy it is for me to meet you, to talk. I will pray for you too.”

And I walked out the door and never saw him again in this life. But Pete was always there. He was in the out-of-way-places love, in those sudden turns when a connection was unknowingly wished for and necessary, and appeared at the perfect time. This is universal love, when in everything, and infinite are the forms it takes. And he was in the truth that I sought, giving me courage to continue. Thank you, Pete. Others, those who read this story and feel emotion, are now praying for you too, not in words, but in their empathy.

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