When the world was created, God said, “Behold!” and we were beholden, forever unable to repay the debt. “It is very good,” he smiled nonetheless and he held it up to admire.
“Sit, Kati, I’ll bring you your breakfast,” Doña Juana says and I sit and watch her scramble eggs. She is blind in one eye and her legs are stiff. I jump up when she falters on the step but she does not spill even a drop of my coffee.
“Let me get it,” I beg her, though she always says no. I feel uncomfortable. After so much kindness I feel beholden, though I don’t know what to offer more than what I already pay in room and board.
I wonder what I should do, how I could uphold my side of the bargain. Should in Spanish is “debe,” from the Latin debere. Debe also means must and it also means owe though in terms of repayment my obligation falls somewhere debe and could if I wanted to – no one is really asking.
What is it I would have – equal acounts? Refusing those kindnesses I can’t repay? To let others serve you is itself a type of kindness, to refuse that help a type of pride. I don’t want to debe but I forget that there is no must attatched to receiving, that Doña Juana’s service is as free as grace and equally unearned.
When we eat together she talks about God’s faithfulness. He has given her more, she says, than she can ever repay. “He has sustained me,” she tells me, and the word she uses could also be translated held: “I only pray that he helps me to care for you and the other students well.”
It dawns on me like the dawn does here – I awake and there is light – that we are drawing from infinite accounts. Obligation turns sweet, from I should, I must to I may, I get to, our debts paradoxical: the easy burden, the light yoke.
Together we are beholden to each other, held up by each other’s service and fixed on each other’s needs. In my weakness I take freely; in my strength, then I will give.
“Behold!” they will say, when they see this – “How beautiful it is!”