No photos for this week. Instead we've decided to share a story with you:
It's been a couple weeks since we met her, but meeting Alka Patel was heartwarming and heart wrenching. It was close to the weekend, so we swung by to buy 2 beers from a shop we'd never been to on the Michigan/ Indiana border. We walked in the shop to only one Indian woman working and by the time we finished being indecisive we felt bad for taking so long. As she checked Jenny's ID, she made an expression. Jenny assumed that she didn't believe that she's almost 30 since so many people doubt that she's even 21, so Jenny asked what was wrong. Alka smiled and mentioned 1986. She explained that that was the year her son was born and that he was only 5 weeks older than Jenny. Jenny went to comment and Alka immediately interjected "But he's dead."
Alka's son Amid was working at one of his 2 large convenience stores in New Jersey just days after his grandma died and was shot in the head for merely $185 dollars and a few lottery tickets. Jenny started crying with Alka as she told us about how great her son was and how he had died about a year ago. She even showed us photos of him and told us how he would be 30 in July. She boasted about his work ethic and about how he worked every single day from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year, how intelligent he was, and how well he did in school. The love and devastation was palpable and it hurt all of us as we cried together. The man who shot her son was luckily apprehended and put in prison for life, but that cannot bring back her son.
Alka lived in Chicago until a couple months ago. She had previously worked 2 other jobs that she greatly enjoyed before making it to Niles and working 6 days a week from morning to night. Her daughter lives in Chicago with her 11 year old daughter and works very hard as well. Alka told us that most of her relatives live in India, but that she has a brother in Chicago and a couple loved ones nearby. She spends most of her time working, though, and barely has time to eat. All she wished prior to us leaving was that we come visit her again.
We went in to J & B's yesterday to re-visit her and she was wonderfully kind as usual. We asked if we could take her photo, but she didn't care to have a photo taken. She told us to call her daughter and get some photos of her son because during one of the 4 times people stole things at the shop, someone had stolen her cell phone with many of her family photos on it. We plan on gifting her something special, but we know that she does not like to receive help. Amidst talking she ran out to her car and grabbed a small pack of Indian cookies to give us along with a couple other snacks while telling us that we must come over and enjoy a meal with her if she gets off of work one evening early.
We wanted to take this blog post to help spread a message of kindness and compassion. In a situation such as Amid's death, there is little we can do to help. What we can do however is give an ear to a grieving mother in a time of need. No matter where you find yourself in life, a shoulder to cry upon is sometimes all someone is looking to find. We're not saying to go out and change the world, but ask that you pause to take a moment and listen to those in times of trouble. Alka's story is no different than countless other individuals who have lost their loved ones to senseless and violent crimes. In giving this kind woman an ear and hoping to immortalize her sons memory in print, we hope to give Alka a way of copoing. We don't know what is like to lose a child, but the pain we see in her eyes makes of sympathetic to her loss.
We know that Alka is one of the kindest people you could meet and we want others to get to know her. Her son's birthday is approaching in less than a month on July 28th and we are hoping to surprise her with the album of photos of Amid prior to then. In the meantime, if you would like to help a kind mother in a time of sadness you can stop by the store where she works and say a nice word or two. Sometimes, a kind bit of conversation can work wonders in brightening a persons day. (Trust me 'Jason' I worked at a convenience store in high school and kind customers are hard to come by sometimes!) Alka expressed with us that she isn't interested in tangible things, so your kind and sympathetic words would go a long way.
Alka can be found six days a week at:
J&B Party Store
3114 S 11th St, Niles, MI 49120
Until next time.
Jenny and Jason