It’s a Sabbath afternoon in 2005, and the last ‘amens’ have just rung through the sanctuary in our small church in New York.
My sister and I brace ourselves, knowing what’s about to happen.
Every Sabbath after service, the nice, older church member would hunt us down, kindly reach into his suit pocket, and hand me and my sister two hard, artificially flavored mango candies.
Oh, how we hated those candies.
The exchange was almost always wordless. Mom and Dad would nudge us for our manners, we’d mumble our ‘thank yous’, hop into the car, and reluctantly pop those sickly sweet candies into our mouths, only to feel carsick 3 minutes later.
The torture went on for years; candy, “thank you”, carsick. We’d dream of throwing those bitter rocks into the garbage, but the older man always offered them with the most sincere smile, happy to brighten the day of two ‘sweet’ little girls. So we sucked it up, literally. To this day my sister and I can’t stand the taste of artificial mango.
I was thinking about these moments earlier this week – and though the nauseating taste of fake mango started to ghost my tongue- I surprisingly found myself looking at the situation a little differently:
I realized my sister and I were probably the only little kids in church that received candy every Sabbath like clockwork. The man would bring just two treats every week and go out of his way to give them to us without saying more than two words. He could’ve eaten the whole pack, or simply decide it was too much work for an old man to flag down two little girls, but he did it anyway.
It also occurred to me that I never knew the old man’s name. Not even my parents can recall. We attended that church for a good many years and no one in the family can remember his name. I think I’ll always remember his face though: bright and clear like my Papi’s, with a genuine smile and gentle voice as he handed his last two candies to my sister and me.
There are a lot of moments in life, little ‘mango candy moments’, that seem bitter at first but get sweeter with time. Maybe it’s a heartbreak that you eventually grow from, maybe it’s losing an okay-paying gig for a better one, or maybe it’s finally learning to appreciate the hard ‘mango candies’ you’re given.
Take the time to remember, relive, and rethink your ‘mango candy moments’. Chances are you won’t like that initial negative sensation, but if you look hard enough, you just might find the sugar of perspective to sweeten even the sourest of times.
So, thank you Mango Candy Man, from the bottom of this little church girl’s heart. Even though the smell of artificial mango makes me gag (sorry), it’ll always remind me of your sweet, sweet heart.