Ariana walked slowly down the sidewalks which at that time of the morning were beginning to fill with people rushing from one place to the next. Many were going to work, while others were taking their children to school. The intersections became congested with traffic and some drivers became impatient in their rush to get to their destinations on time.
Ariana had just walked Sandra, her daughter, to school. There was a school bus, but she preferred to take the child to school herself every day. She enjoyed the morning walk, as well as the evening walk when she went to pick her up, and it also gave her the chance to spend precious minutes with her little Sandra.
They always talked as they walked. The child had so many things to say, so many little secrets to share, so many laughs to laugh. This tiny little person opened a whole new world to Ariana that was fascinating to explore and discover.
This morning, however, Ariana already felt tired and even a little sad. Her husband was out of town for a few days and she missed the comfort and support she received as a wife and mother, and in her Church callings. And also there was another child on the way.
Suddenly Ariana felt overwhelmed by the countless things that she had to attend to, and too tired to walk all the way back home. Her brisk stroll was part of her physical exercise program, but this morning something inside of her was rebelling. The distance to her home seemed just too far to walk. She decided to wait for the bus at the next stop.
While she waited, she reflected sadly that her decision hadn’t alleviated her feeling of discouragement. Nevertheless, something inside of her made her stay. She thought of her husband, who at that time would be driving his car far from home on unfamiliar roads. His work demanded extensive travel and she always feared that something would happen to him.
She also thought of Sister Lago, who was sick with hepatitis, and who could barely get out of bed. Ariana was her visiting teacher and she wondered how she could further help Sister Lago without neglecting her own responsibilities.
Her thoughts turned to little Sandra, who had been sick with a cold for three days, and she wondered if she should take her to the doctor.
It also occurred to her that she should write to her mother, as it had been a long time since she had done so. Now that Ariana and her brothers and sisters were grown and living away from home, their parents must feel quite lonely.
As these thoughts passed through her mind, and as she reflected on all the responsibilities that awaited her that day and in the days to come, she again felt overwhelmed and wished her husband were home so she could turn to him.
Standing on the crowded bus, she remembered something else: she had forgotten that she needed to buy some tomatoes for the salad she was going to make. If she had walked, she would have bought them on the way. The bus would pass in front of several supermarkets, but it wouldn’t stop.
She sighed, feeling even more melancholy, and on doing so felt the impulse to look to her left. Close to her, also standing, was another woman whose eyes met hers. A little embarrassed, Ariana decided to smile, to which the unknown woman responded fleetingly and then looked in the other direction.
Ariana’s thoughts returned to the tomatoes. “I’ll get off one stop before mine, and I’ll buy them at Alfredo’s store,” she decided. “Then I’ll walk home. It’s not very far.”
A seat became vacant and Ariana hurried to take it. But as she was sitting down, she accidentally collided with the woman who had looked at her a few moments earlier.
“Excuse me,” they both said at the same time.
“Sit down,” offered Ariana.
“No, please, you take it,” the stranger declined.
Ariana thanked her and dropped into the vacant seat, truly grateful. The bus continued on and for a few moments Ariana looked at the woman. She was plainly dressed and her eyes looked tired and sad. They were light brown and had large circles under them. Then the stranger turned around abruptly, and Ariana smiled again, this time a little flustered at having been caught watching her. Turning to look out the window at the morning traffic, she wondered why she felt there was still something else that she should do that day. The feeling had persisted and it had nothing to do with the tomatoes.
A few minutes later, the seat next to her was vacated and she quickly advised the woman. “Ma’am, there’s a vacant seat here,” she said smiling. The woman mumbled a “Thank you” and sat down beside her. Each time Ariana glanced at the woman, she’d discover that this stranger was also looking at her. She decided to start a conversation.
“We’re having a delightful autumn aren’t we?” The woman didn’t seem too eager to talk, but Ariana felt a warmth toward her. In an effort to encourage her, Ariana told her about her poor memory and how she had forgotten that she should have walked home because she needed to buy some tomatoes.
“If you’d like,” the woman responded, “I could sell you some of my tomatoes. I grow them in my own yard and right now I’ve got too many.”
“I would like that very much,” exclaimed Ariana enthusiastically. “Homegrown things are always better anyway, aren’t they?”
When the stranger told her that she lived three stops past Ariana’s, Ariana hesitated for a moment. She would have to go past her house and then return home loaded down with the tomatoes. That would be a waste of time, and she couldn’t allow herself to waste time when she had so many things to do. Nevertheless, she didn’t want to offend this woman, whom she was beginning to like, and so she agreed to go with her.
By the time they got off the bus, Ariana had found out that the woman’s name was Teresa. Together they walked along a row of small houses with yards until they came to a humble, but very clean and well-cared-for house.
“How marvelous!” exclaimed Ariana. “I’ve always wanted a home with a yard. We live in an apartment, and sometimes we feel caged in.”
Teresa smiled, but said nothing, as she led Ariana around to the back of the house, where she had her small garden. The two women began to pick tomatoes, putting them in a little basket which Teresa had let Ariana use. While picking, Teresa began to open up and talk more. She told Ariana that she had recently been widowed, and that her only child had to quit school and go to work in a factory so that they could make ends meet.
With the little basket full and her back hurting a little from the exertion, Teresa asked:
“Would you like to come in for a nice hot drink before you go?”
Ariana thought despairingly, “Time! I can’t; I can’t waste any more time!” But something urged her to say, “Yes, I’d love to.”
A few minutes later, they were seated across from each other at the kitchen table with cups of steaming hot chocolate. Little by little, Teresa began to tell Ariana about herself.
“It was funny how we happened to keep looking at each other on the bus,” she said, laughing. “Nothing like it has ever happened to me before. I’ve been so lonely, so lonely. …”
Suddenly her eyes clouded and Ariana thought she saw pain and sadness in them. Teresa started to talk of the financial struggle that she and her husband had had since they were married, and how he had often been unemployed, and of the many hardships they had gone through so that their daughter could get an education, only to see her quit half way through and go to work in a trade where she was practically a slave.
Then Teresa became even more serious and, almost as if talking to herself, asked why it sometimes felt as if God were looking in the other direction. It felt as if no one in the whole world, including God, loved her. As she spoke the lines around her mouth hardened and her eyes took on a bitter expression.
Ariana searched desperately for something to say. Surely there was something in the gospel for this sweet and anguished sister. But she could think of nothing. Any words of comfort seemed vain and empty against the burden of reality that this woman had experienced.
“I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this,” mumbled Teresa, looking down.
Ariana responded, not knowing who put the words in her mouth: “Because the Lord has sent me.”
Teresa broke into tears. At first Ariana thought that she should say something to comfort her, but she soon saw that her new friend was crying out of gratitude.
When she had recovered a little, Teresa explained, “I can’t believe it,” she began. “Last night, I had a dream, a very strange dream. I was walking in a deep, dark place and I didn’t even know where I was going. I felt as if an abyss was going to open up beneath my feet. All of a sudden I met a woman whose entire being shone with a special light. She approached me and I looked hopefully to her for the light that she brought. Then I asked her, ‘Why have you come?’ And she answered me. …” Teresa’s voice cracked. “She answered me the same way you have, Ariana: ‘Because the Lord has sent me.’”
They looked at each other in silence. Ariana felt very peaceful now. “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say;” the Lord said, “but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” (D&C 84:85.) That is how it had happened. The spirit had inspired her to say the exact words that Teresa needed to hear.
“I want to know more about you,” said Teresa. “I want us to be friends.”
Ariana took her by the hand. “Can you see that the Lord never looks away?” she said gently.
“Do you belong to any kind of church?” Teresa asked curiously. Ariana began to tell her and Teresa listened with great interest. When Ariana invited her to attend their next family home evening, Teresa assured her that she would be there with her daughter.
“We have been searching for the light for so long,” she added, while they both stood up.
They hugged each other for a few moments and then Ariana picked up her purse, her coat and her tomatoes. Once in the street, she felt relieved and strengthened. “Truly, only in the service of our fellow men do we find happiness,” she thought. “That is the secret.”
It was late and lunch would be delayed that day. She would prepare a good salad and would take it to Sister Lago and they would eat it together. She would make an appointment with the pediatrician and have him look at Sandra as soon as possible to set her mind at ease. That night she would call her husband at the hotel and try to be the one to give encouragement. She would tell him, “We are thinking of you here at home and we love you.” Later, after putting Sandra to bed and before going to bed herself, she would write a letter to her mother and send her the recipe she asked for so long ago.
A spirit of joy flooded her heart, and while she waited at the curb for the light to turn green, she realized that the feeling of still having something else to do had left her. She had listened to the whisperings of the spirit, and had put the kingdom of God first, and everything else had been added unto her.