December 23, 2022

A Thousand Small, Glittering Kindnesses

Today, I've been thinking about the time when we were on a layover at the airport and a young man asked Peter to tie his tie for him. His mother would be waiting for him at baggage claim, and he knew she'd want to see him in a tie. He needed somebody's dad to help him.

Or how my friend was in the middle seat of an airline flight heading home for the holidays, and the college boy next to her fell asleep on her shoulder.  And she knew he's somebody's son, this boy who needs a nap, and they all belong to all of us.

Or how, when the produce section is crowded, we navigate our carts around each other with the unspoken graces of grocery store traffic.

Or the time when I was in a Dairy Queen, and a family came in for ice cream sundaes.  They had a child with special needs riding in a modified stroller, and she bolted for the door while the mom was ordering.  All of the adults in the place sprang to action, blocking the door and catching the child before she could run into the parking lot.  Because we've all been the mother who looked away for just a second.

Or how Anne Lamott says one of her primary ministries is to flirt with old people.  To make sure they are seen, to tell a woman she loves her glasses, to tell a man that he looks dapper in his hat.

Or how my cashier at the grocery store told me today that she'd bring anything to her children's home as they hosted Christmas, until they asked her to bring beer.  Then she said, "Pick something else for your mother to bring for Christmas."

I've been thinking about how mostly we are each doing our best, trying to get through the day without damaging each other.

We want to interact with people around us, to say hello, please and thank you, to have people read our nametags - and sometimes, to not need to read the nametag because they already know our name.

I've been thinking about the thousands of people who responded twelve years ago today, and about the hundreds who remember with me, and the dozens who reach out to me, my sons, my family. Each one has been a stone that paved the path to healing what couldn't be fixed.

As Danusha Lameiris writes,
"What if these exchanges are the true dwelling of the holy,
these fleeting temples we make together
When we say, "Here, have my seat," "Go ahead--you first," "I like your hat."

I would add, "When we say, 'I see you,'" "I remember."

My sons have been learning American Sign Language, and they have taught me the sign that says, "I see you."  Not like, "I spy, with my little eye, your person from across the room."  It's deeper than that.  It is "My soul sees your soul."

We sign this to each other, my men and me.

Madeleine L'Engle says humility comes from the same word that creates hummus and human: from the dirt, from the earth.

I'm beginning to think these thousands of small, glittering kindnesses are what it means to be "poor in spirit."

It is in the knowing that you can't control anything, but you can fix what you can fix. And you can face the world with your quiet grace, and you can hope to see and be seen, to know and be known, to love and be loved. And in the many small kindnesses, in these thousands of moments, blessed are the poor in spirit, indeed.

You can't fix everything, but you can fix what you can fix.

Maybe these small exchanges are the true dwelling of holy, the kingdom of heaven on earth.

3 comments on “A Thousand Small, Glittering Kindnesses”

  1. I love telling people my age and older how nice they look because, at this age, it takes so much more effort to accomplish! With a husband now fighting cancer, when someone is kind enough to open a door for me, I’m usually in tears at their thoughtfulness. Yes, fix what we can for sure. Bless you, sweet girl, for reminding us all.

  2. "poor in spirit" - yes, like Paul says, "With God, when I am weak, I am strong." Those little kindnesses aren't us supporting each other, they are God supporting us to support each other.

    Today at the grocery store, the management announced over the loudspeaker that their electronic payment system had just failed. To the couple in front of me I said, "Gee, if there were a toy aisle here, we could all sit down and play Scrabble while we wait!"




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