Someone I had never met before gave me a gift this week—noticing something with which I have long struggled, an expensive need for which all my efforts and funds have not yet sufficed. He offered his skill and resources and kindness, clearing time on a busy schedule and providing the services I have been unable to procure on my own, and then refused utterly my attempts to recompense him for any of that—stunning me into silence and teary-eyed wonder ever since (and long ahead, without question, for I shall carry this one to my grave). What a miracle! I thought, in one long pause and many since, and then I noticed something lovely taking place. All my worries and angst over every little other thing fell gently aside, like snowflakes finding lower branches on a mountainside of wonder. Over and over, the thrill of this gift and ones before and the ones before those going back to infinity have patiently lined up for my attention. No one has to be kind to another being ever. When it happens, it is a miracle.
When I sat down to compose my thoughts for a thank you and this post, though, I realized yet again—for the nth time compelled by more evidence thusward—that I have for years lived in a space of goodness welling up all over. Even in my darkest hours, I have stumbled into grace repeatedly. It has always been easier for me to give than receive, yes, and I have often struggled alone and feeling friendless at least in part because I did not know how to do anything else, but receiving brings deeper humility and a nearly unbearable lightness of being. In the hard edges of now—what with inequalities deepening on every hand and economies no longer reliably offering even the hardest and best-trained workers a steady living and feeling personally assailed thus far too often—it is easy to feel weary and to doubt whether there will ever be a level playing field again. Or simply a field.
And then someone comes along and notices a need and reaches out and, if the shame of having needed anything can be set aside even for a few moments? I walk in grace for good. Knowing not just to bone but to marrow of soul that I belong to all that is.
In the last month I have had the extraordinary good fortune to have enjoyed the hospitalities of three dear friends and one former stranger. Food and lodgings shared, places to work in peace and beauty (first a historic schoolhouse and then a historic house, both of which make my whole being sing with wild joy just for existing!) while I wrestle a gut-wrenching set of stories to the page, time to be in company and alone, conversations on our lives and concerns and hopes: these came to me from three friends who helped to make this month of research and writing possible. Without their assistance, none of it would’ve happened, for on my own I would’ve fallen far short of the resources required. And then came the stranger, who helped with not just a tooth, but a slew and the associated, unresolved issues with them, relieving me so much that the pain of said mouth no longer makes the least impression. And then he spoke of providing dental care on missions for people who otherwise would have none, and I realized yet again—for the umpteenth time and then some—that the ‘haves’ in this society are often just like the ‘have nots’ in this one thing that so many of us share. And I came home and found a way to give a little bit of my resources to someone in the fight of his and his community’s life, facing down ebola half a world away from me and with me having not a single usable skill for that fight? And I remembered, from this month to forever.
What I keep finding is that nearly everyone I meet is looking for a way to help, to render assistance, to make things better, to lighten another’s load. No matter how small our offerings might be sometimes, we still find our ways to contribute, to extend the resources we have been given to those who have greater need. If I had to make a list of all who have helped me here? I could not finish, were I given another whole lifetime and no other tasks to fulfill. So the good that comes to me, as ever, I will appreciate for good, turning back every thing I can lay my hands on to keep such grace moving in the world. Widening our connections, our senses of belonging to each other and to all that is: our little lives steady miracles that feed these deep springs of goodness welling up all over: willing at last to receive as well as to give, for it is in both that we find ourselves one.
With special thanks to Randy Burba, John Neely, Christine Sullivan, and Beth Hahn—for every last thing.
And with a prayer for healing to all who are presently assailed.