Interviewsand Articles

 

Mana

by S. T. Georgiou, Feb 5, 2024


 

 











Part One
Mother and I had taken one of our last rides together. Our usual route began at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. We’d drive along the Great Highway and cruise on up to the Cliff House. After taking in the wide seaside view, we’d meander around Sutro Park, head back down to the Great Highway and eventually end up at the Fort Funston lookout point to watch the hang gliders take off. We’d then proceed to the nearby Trader Joe’s to pick up groceries, and then head home.

One late afternoon, as we pulled into TJ’s, Mom, who’d been battling cancer for two long years, turned to me and said, “You go inside. I’m so tired. I’ll just rest here for a while.”  

“Can I bring you back anything? I know you like those ginger candies.”  

She smiled and gave me a hug. “No, I’m OK.” 

About twenty minutes later I exited the store with a bag full of groceries. It was a blue-sky, Spring day. Shoppers were coming and going - not just to Trader Joe’s, but all the other stores nearby.

As I walked back to the car, I happened to see (what turned out to be) a $20 bill darting along the ground, carried by a light wind and moving in my direction. Amazingly, nobody seemed to notice. Passing close to my shoes, it stalled, as if saying, “Here I am!” And as it took off again, I quickly scooped it up.

And once more, no one noticed. No one declared the “manna from heaven” to be theirs. “Lucky me!” I thought. So I headed to my car—and behold!—another $20 appeared, playfully skipping, tumbling my way.  

Was this a joke?  Was somebody letting them go just to see my reaction?  The shoppers remained oblivious, and I snatched it up. "Finder’s keepers!"  

In two minutes, I had $40 in hand, and for doing absolutely nothing! I couldn’t wait to tell Mom. And then, all at once, I noticed another $20 dancing alongside cars, twirling past shoppers’ feet, heading straight for me.  What to make of this flow of dough?

Unbelievable! Sixty bucks!

Suddenly, I remembered the San Mateo Credit Union was right next to Trader Joe’s. Maybe somebody had withdrawn money and, in their haste, had lost the bills. But no one was anywhere near the Credit Union. I stood there dumbfounded. And then, out of nowhere, yet another $20 blew right up to me—and still, no one seemed aware of what was happening

Increasingly I'd felt myself entering some kind of slow-motion zone, an almost surreal state, as each bill inexplicably came my way. But as I reached out and caught hold of that fourth $20, firmly grasping its material crispness, everything felt real again. It was not a dream.

Back in the car, Mom asked, “What were you doing out there, darting about? You looked like a chicken pecking!"

“Mom!” I exclaimed. “These bills just blew up to me, one-by-one!”  And as I said that, it hit me: one more twenty would make it an even $100! “I’ll be right back,” I said, and gave her a hug. Then quickly, I retraced my steps and waited like a fisherman who had cast his line into the depths. 

Mom knew her cancer was getting worse. A final twenty would make her day, and sure enough, within a minute or so, I spotted the precious bill twirling my way along the asphalt! It came right up to me.

When I got back to the car, Mom was wide-eyed, ecstatic. We drove home wondering how it all happened, how those five fabulous twenties mysteriously appeared out of nowhere, charging our spirits. It all seemed like a sign, some kind of affirmation.  “Save those lucky bills!” she exclaimed. “Put them in a safe place. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone!” 

Part Two 
Back home, I couldn’t help wondering, whose cash did I findWas it really mine now? Whoever lost it would likely be upset, and perhaps was still looking for it. But there was no way of returning the money. And it was unsettling to remember my feelings of greed as I grabbed those $20s. As I pondered these questions, I even considered using the cash to start some kind of small philanthropic fund. But then how did this money come to me in the first place? Was it my doing?  

No. It seemed as if I’d entered a liminal zone where ordinary laws had been suspended. In that busy, wide-open parking lot, so often frequented by Mom and I, the five bills had apparently sought me out one-by-one - to the point where I was actually waiting for that last $20 to appear. And it did!  Wasn’t that enough?

A few weeks later, I was driving down San Francisco’s Brotherhood Way (named after the numerous houses of worship that line the boulevard), and pulled into Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church - my religious sanctuary since childhood. With a smile and a simple prayer, I anonymously dropped the five $20’s into the donation box. Out of the Mystery came the manna, and back to the Mystery it was returned

Part Three
While reflecting on these things, at some point it occurred to me that in Greek, mana means mother. How curious. Mom was the best person I could have shared this treasure-experience with. She was indeed my very mana, my Spring. She gave me everything! During the two years she was dying, our daily drives helped ease her suffering. That day with her was providential, for just a month after our last seaside outing, she completed the full circle of life. Mana, too, had returned to the Mystery.

Every so often I still take that drive along Ocean Beach leading to Trader Joe’s and think about that day with Mom. Deep down I sense that somehow it’s not the last we’ll see each other. As the poet-mystic Robert Lax wrote:

 i remember the people i loved
 (who have died) or just
  disappeared -
  remember their traits
  as though it were a sacred duty.

  what possible use for all those
   memories, unless we were
  (somehow) all to meet again
?

 

About the Author

Steve T. Georgiou teaches World Religions and Interdisciplinary Humanities at San Francisco City College.  He is the author of The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons With Robert Lax, Poet-Peacemaker-Sage and In the Beginning Was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax. Georgiou is interviewed on Lax in works & conversations #34.        

 

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