Prayer For The Week of May 12–Selling Onions

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Go with us to a corner of the sprawling market in Mexico City where an old Indian man name Pota-lamo is selling onions.  Twenty strings of onions lay in front of him.  A guy from Denver walks up and asks, “How much for a string of onions?”

“Ten cents,” replies Pota-lamo.

“How much for two strings?”

“Pota-lamo fixes his eyes on him and says, “Twenty cents.”

“What about three?”

“Thirty cents.”

“Not much of a reduction for quantity.  Would you take twenty-five cents for three?”


“Well, how much for all of it, the whole twenty strings?”

“I will not sell you the whole twenty strings.”

“Why not?” asks the American. “Aren’t you here to sell onions?”

“No,” replies Pota-lamo, “I am here to live my life.  I love this market.  I love the crowds.  I love the sunlight and smells.  I love the children.  I love to have my friends come by and talk about their babies and their crops.  That is my life and for that reason I sit here with my twenty strings of onions.  If I sell all my onions to one customer, them my day is over and I have lost my life that I love–and that will not do.”

Living life in a way that places a higher value on relationships and community than it does on commerce and productivity–this is counter to how most of us have been taught.  We live our lives selling onions.  There is no room for hospitality in a life like that.  We greet the morning sun each day with our to-do lists, while the monk greets the sun with prayer and silence.  We hide out, isolate ourselves, and deny our natural need for others. We erroneously think we need safety the most.  What we need most is acceptance.  You probably can’t understand me, and I might not understand you, but we can accept each other.  We need to connect and feel the deep acceptance of another human being and that will make the world feel safer.  Locks and firewalls can never do for our tires souls what friendship and companionship do. (Radical Hospitality by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt)

More than selling onions

We have a lot on our plates this week.  Already our to-do lists look as though they won’t quite make it to ta-da.  And it’s easy to get caught up with it all and to start living our lives selling onions, rather than with a focus on relationship.  So today we pray for the grace to see the people and not just the projects, to make time for the important and not just the urgent, to see opportunities for love and intentional community.

With that intention in mind, we pray, “Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day, our daily bread…”

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