Yvette Salinas, presented as part of the May 7 Race, Diversity and Inclusion: A Teach-in Sunday Worship Service
Verónica loved cinnamon. She loved making tea with cinnamon sticks on cold, gray days. She loved rolling pan de polvo cookies in cinnamon powder while they were still warm from the oven. She even loved mixing cinnamon sugar into her mother's cafe those mornings after the baby had cried all night long. There was something about its color, its flavor, that just made her happy...even a little bit connected to the home of her Ancestors, far south from where she lived now.
Verónica lived with her Mother, Mami; her father, Papi; and the baby. Far from any extended relatives, Veronica's little family took care of each other. Always.
One Saturday, Verónica noticed her mother looking sad. Really sad. “Tomorrow we will try going to a new church,” Mami announced suddenly.
“Why?” Veró and Papi asked. It had been years since they last attended any church.
Mami glanced down at the newspaper set on the table. “Because the world is a scary place, and right now we really need a Spiritual Community.”
So that's why the next day, Veró and her family went to the local Unitarian (Universalist) Church.
It was OK. Veró liked the story, and she liked watching the person playing piano. The music was so good, she didn't understand why nobody clapped and cheered at the end. But that was forgotten when she left with all the other children to their Religious Education program. THAT was fun. Even the baby had a place to play, while Mami and Papi were in the Sanctuary receiving the nourishment they needed.
When Verónica joined her parents after service, they were alone. They looked lost, just the two of them in a large room meant for everyone to relax and chat in after service. Veronica took her father's hand. He smiled and nodded to everyone who passed, but nobody stopped to talk during Coffee Hour.
“What's going on?” her mother whispered to her father.
He shook his head and sighed. “Somos diferentes...”
Veró could see her mother needed cheering up. Ever the dutiful daughter, she went to get her mother a coffee--just likes she likes it. But when she reached for the cinnamon sugar, it wasn't there. Just plain old white sugar. Veró stared at it for a long time.
Something had to be done.
The next week, Verónica's family gave the church one last trys. Mami looked pale but determined, as she dressed the baby in the finest Sunday onesie. Papi didn't look so eager, but he would have followed Mami to the end of the Earth. Veró wore her lucky sweater, the one with the huge pockets. They were quiet as they left home.
Service was nice, again. When the music began, Verónica watched the pianist's fingers fly over the keys, imagining herself swirling and dancing along. As the music ended, she couldn't help herself—she hopped out of her seat and cheered. A few of the members frowned her way, and Veró sat down quickly. Papi caught her eye and held a finger to his mouth. Verónica understood. Shhh.
At least the story this week was funny. Everyone else laughed, so she could laugh, too.
After learning with the other kids at RE, Veró ran to join her parents for Coffee Hour again. This time, Mami and Papi were surrounded by a group of church members, chatting away. Veró ran up and slipped her hand into Mami's.
The group was talking about the coming spring. “I can't wait until my tulips come out!” “Hope my seeds get here quickly.” “I don't know when I should plant my seedlings...”
All at once, everyone in the group turned to Papi, who had been quiet. Maybe in an effort to draw him into the conversation, somebody said, “You'd know all about gardening, wouldn't you?”
Papi closed his eyes, and shook his head. “No. Not really. I'm a Programmer.”
Veró looked to Mami, who was looking sadder than ever.
But Veró had a plan to cheer her Mami up. She'd get her Mami her coffee, but this time...she had her lucky sweater. The one with the deep pockets.
Just as Veró pulled the small container out, somebody beside her spoke up.
“Hey. The kid who clapped. Whatcha got there?”
Veró turned to see a church member smiling at her. She held up the small jar she held.
“Cinnamon sugar...for Mam—I mean, for my mother's coffee.”
The person laughed. “Cinnamon sugar. What a great idea! Goodness knows we could use a little spice around here!”
Veró nodded quietly, made her mother's coffee, and zipped back to her parents.
Mami took a long sip and smiled. “Gracias, mi'ja. It's just perfect.” Veró gave her a big smile back, then ran off again to play with her friends. She always felt wonderful when she made her mother happy.
What it was time to go, she remembered she had left the jar at the coffee table.
When she zipped to go get it, there was a Post-It attached. “Thanks for the great idea!” it read. “Don't worry about bringing yours next time—we'd be happy to provide this for our spiritual community!”
Vero stared at it for a very long time.
Then she smiled. Much better.
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