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Sharon Randall: Quick trips to a place called grace

By Sharon Randall

It never fails. When I run to the market for just one thing, I never know what I’ll bring back.

Last night, for example, I wanted to make pesto.

I love pesto. It’s good. It’s green. It’s easy. And my half-Italian husband loves it even more than I do. I’ve seen bloodhounds get less excited chasing a rabbit than he does over a plate of pasta with pesto.

I had everything I needed to make it … except walnuts.

Most people use pine nuts for pesto. To me, pine nuts taste like kerosene. Not that I’ve tasted kerosene. I just prefer walnuts. But all I had were Brazil nuts.

They might work. Or not.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve substituted ingredients that “might work” but didn’t. If the Cooking Channel did a show called “Recipes for Disaster,” I could be their celebrity chef.

So I made a quick trip to the market for walnuts. At least, I hoped it would be quick. I was hungry. And the temperature in my car — I am not making this up — registered 121 degrees.

I parked as close as possible and sprinted to the store. The pavement felt mushy. The shopping cart burned my hands. (Carts are good to lean on, even if you’re only buying one thing.) And when the air conditioning hit my face, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

At first, I couldn’t recall why I was there. So I stuck my head in a freezer between two tubs of ice cream until it hit me: Walnuts. Where were they? I’d have to search every aisle to find them.

Do you think grocery stores move stuff around just to get us to buy things we don’t need? My cart was half full by the time I got to the sunflowers. They were huge. And they were on sale.

I grabbed the biggest bunch and headed for the checkout line. Then something made me go back for another bunch.

Loading the groceries in my car, I heard a voice call. “Miss?”

I looked up and saw an elderly woman, frail as a fallen leaf, leaning on a cart filled with packs of bottled water.

“I’m sorry, can you help me?” she said. “I can’t lift these.”

It’s not easy to ask for help.

One Christmas, long ago, my stepfather was out of work and some good people from church brought us a food basket. After they left, my mother said, “It’s hard to take help. But remember how it feels. Because one day, you will do the giving.”

Those words took on a deeper meaning for me last summer when I broke my ankle and spent months in a wheelchair. Being able to help someone is a gift — especially for the giver.

The water bottles seemed weightless. I felt like Wonder Woman. Then, getting in my car to leave, I saw the sunflowers.

“Wait!” I called to the woman. She stopped, and I ran over to hand her one of the bunches.

“Oh!” she said, “I can’t take your beautiful flowers!”

“Sure you can,” I said. “I have two bunches. This one’s yours.”

She laughed and thanked me again. I drove home grinning like a mule eating briars. Then I made pesto pasta. We ate it all. It was good. Here’s the recipe:

Boil and drain some pasta. In a food processor or blender, puree 2 cups of fresh basil; a few cloves of garlic; 3/4 cup of olive oil; 1/2 cup of parmesan; and 1/4 cup of … Brazil nuts.

Yes, I forgot to buy walnuts. But Brazil nuts worked just fine.

Sometimes it seems we’re always in need of something, always searching for that one missing ingredient that will make everything taste all right.

But one day, if we’re lucky, we will hear with our hearts, more than with our ears, a quiet plea for help. And it will remind us of what we so often forget: That we are whole. Our needs are met. We have all that we need.

There’s more than one way to make pesto. And there’s always a way to repay, day by day, a little of the boundless grace that we’ve been given.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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