Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Magic of Sanchez
I'm not the gardener type. My parents are Dutch immigrants who instilled in us the belief that hard work was the key to success, and that if you could do it yourself, you should do it yourself. So I'm no stranger to weed wackers, machetes, hoes and shovels. I've had some righteous bleeding blisters in my life! But last year we hired a man to tackle the fire hazard of weeds on the hillside below our house. His name was I-Could-Not-Pronounce-It Sanchez. "Just call me Sanchez" he said. He, in turn, called me Lady, because my name is similarly difficult. He worked hard and steady, and at the end of the project we gave him a nice tip because his original quote was definitely too low for the work he'd done. We didn't ask him to, but a week or so later Sanchez was back. He worked. He left. And then he appear again a week or so later and worked some more. He saw bushes that needed trimming, grass that needed mowing, weeds that needed wacking or pulling or killing. He just made himself busy, and every now and then produced a scrap of paper with numbers on it. A sum I was happy to pay. Then things started appearing. A little fake bird like florists put in their festive arrangements was put on a vine. "Who put that there?" I asked the kids. Nobody new. Then potted plants appeared. Flowers popped up around the house. Stuff just materialized, and we finally caught on. "Sanchez was here!" They were little things, but we started to understand that inside Sanchez beats a big, generous heart. And the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. How many gardeners will help carry in your groceries? How many gardeners will coach you on home remedies to help you get over a cold? How many gardeners will stand in your driveway and sing you a heartbreaking song about September Eleventh? We started calling it The Magic of Sanchez. He just has this wonderful way of lifting your spirits with his kindness and willingness to work hard. We convinced Mark's parents to hire him to help around their yard, and one evening when we were dropping by for a visit, we saw two chipped ceramic squirrels poised on broken tiles in their planter. It was certainly not a design choice Mark's parents would have made, and immediately we knew--Sanchez was here! "It means he likes you," we told them. "Be flattered!" My mother also needs big help around her yard, but she's an hour's drive away. I doubted Sanchez went out that way for work, but I asked anyway. "No, Lady," he said. "Never." "That's what I figured," I answered, and I was just going to leave it at that, but then he asked, "Why?" I'd barely gotten "My mom..." out, when he put up a hand and said, "For your mother, I will go." I tried to talk him out of it, but he had his mind made up. And then when he learned that we were having a birthday celebration for her over the weekend, he dropped his other plans and the very next day drove all the way out to her house and tamed her yard. The day after he was back at our house plotting who-knows-what in the way of landscaping, and when I told him how grateful I was that he'd gone clear out to my mom's, he simply said he was happy to do it and asked what day her birthday was. "We're celebrating on Sunday," I told him. Guess who showed up on Sunday with a lovely bouquet of home-grown roses. I couldn't believe it. "Sanchez!" Mark and I cried. Of course, we'd told my siblings about the "Magic of Sanchez" and now suddenly here he was in real life, with his wife and little Pomeranian dog, delivering flowers to my mother. He stayed a while, sharing stories and sodas, and serenaded my mother with songs in Spanish that none of us could understand. It was strange. But not. It was like he was, in some parallel-universe-kind-of-way, family. An immigrant, just like my mother, who'd come to this country to seek a better life. Someone who believes the things our parents taught us: That a good life is found through commitment to hard work. And what I've learned -- or really, re-learned -- from Sanchez is that it's the little things you do that make a big difference to others. My sister summed it up best, I think. "Can you imagine if everyone on earth was like Sanchez?" It would, indeed, be a joyful place.