As you all know, it’s been hard times around here (but also good times), and I will write about that at some point, when I can sift through the story and determine which part of it is mine to tell and leave out the parts that aren’t. It’s hard when you’re in the thick of it to make those determinations, and at 43 I am luckily sage enough to know what I don’t know (at least some of the time), and right now, I am still too entangled to write out the details. But I will say this: there have been tough times.
There are times in life when the people closest to us (and everyone else for that matter) might judge us harshly or think poorly of us or snicker behind our backs.
People might love us.
And it is only in the hardest of times that we can, ironically, feel the strongest of loves, perhaps because only in the hardest of times do we need it the most.
I have felt that sort of love lately in many ways. A friend sent a mug. I know…it sounds simple. It’s a mug. I put it in the cabinet when it arrived and thought: that’s sweet. And you know what? I reach for it every single morning. I wash it every night, sometimes by hand, and make sure (in the back of my mind) that it’s there waiting the next morning. It’s like a little rabbit’s foot or shield or freshly-plucked daisy for my next day. It makes a difference.
Another friend left me a little gift bag full of goodies including Dove chocolates and kitchen towels and a lavender candle. I burn that candle every few days, and I kid-you-not, when I use those towels, I feel my heart swell a little bit.
There is something about someone taking time to buy you a little something and put it in a bag or send it in the mail or write it in a note that makes the world seem smaller, problems seem milder and hope seem bigger.
I thought about this when a friend told me about her own hard time. Normally, I would consider doing something kind but talk myself out of it. I’d tell myself it would just get lost in the shuffle, whatever trinket I might offer, or it would be a burden to the friend, what with all the useless stuff we have floating around these days. I would tell myself the friend is too busy or in too much pain to have to receive a gift or gesture of some kind, and then I would convince myself that I was just doing it to make myself feel better and, in the end, it was all about me.
See how I just talked myself out of a gesture of kindness and connection?
It’s a thing.
So yesterday and the day before, I spent a few minutes looking for little things that might brighten her day. They aren’t the perfect gifts, and they won’t end her troubles or make her life instantly better. But I hope that on the mornings ahead, she will pull out the mug and write in the journal and remember she, too, is loved.
I know we all have too much stuff. I know we are simultaneously drowning in consumption and starving for connection, but this time in my life has taught me that there is meaning in the small gift, that the sentiment behind the gesture becomes part of the object itself and infuses it with love so that when a middle-aged mother reaches for her morning coffee and sees the mug sent all the way from Arizona, she feels a little less alone and a bit more loved, and that was worth the cost of shipping any day.
One of my favorite poems is by Naomi Shihab Nye, entitled Kindness.
The entire poem is well worth the read, just click the link on the title. I love the ending, when Nye writes, “Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore….”