I didn’t know that at first. But there is a lot I didn’t know at first. I just knew that she was in need. Maria cleans the apartments in the building where I was living while on assignment in Chicago.
My job sends me to various cities where I set up ‘house’ while I fulfill my assignment. While moving place to place has its difficulties, one of the highlights for me is the opportunity to get to know new people and make new friends.
It is always my intention to learn about my neighbors and allow them to speak into my life as I make myself available to them. Maria was on that list. She was the cleaning lady for the apartment building where I lived.
Each morning I would greet her as I left my apartment on my way to the office. Each evening as I returned I would stop and ask how her day as she was wrapping up her work.
She would always answer, ‘Todo bien!” (It’s all good). From the warm heartfelt smile on her face I had no reason to not believe her.
One day as I was leaving, I greeted her and received the usual ‘It’s all good!” As I walked to my car, I noticed her car was only partway into her usual parking space. Half of it was blocking the lane of traffic. As I looked closer I saw that the front right side of her car was basically sitting on the wheel. The suspension had completely collapsed.
Something moved inside and I knew I needed to help. I reached out to her boss (my landlord) and asked him to tell me as much of her story as he could. He was very discrete – but I was able to discern that she was a single mom who had worked for him for over a decade. She was well past what we would consider retirement age.
Among other hardships, her son had recently developed some health issues and the medical bills were beginning to pile up. She had asked the landlord for as many hours as he could give her. 60 hours a week was his limit. She then picked up another job and worked another 40 there.
As I considered her hardship I couldn’t help but be amazed with here daily sunny disposition and her daily heartfelt ‘It’s all good!’ response to my morning greeting. Could I say that? Yes, I have my own set of difficulties – but they seemed to pale in comparison to hers. Could I honestly say, ‘Todo bien?”
I asked him about her car. He said that he had called a tow truck, but that Maria didn’t want to lose any work hours so she was hard at work. He said that he knew for a fact that she did not have money for the repairs.
Although I didn’t feel that I was supposed to take on her medical bills – I did feel like I was supposed to take on her auto repair bill so that she could at least get to her jobs and do her best to meet her obligations.
I located the mechanic where the car was towed to and explained the situation that the owner was in. Asking him, if at all possible, this car needed to move to the front of the line. He obliged and by the end of the day, the car was parked back in its usual spot.
The next morning as I passed her in the hall. I greeted her with a ‘Como esta todo?’ (How is everything?).
“Todo bien!” she responded with her same warm heartfelt smile.
Yes, it is all good.