Posting a blog is a presumptuous act—some reflection, a few hours of writing/scratching out/rewriting, and then the text goes out. Even when what I post is tempered by “this is how I see it,” language, it’s a bold act to put ideas out for others to read.
In my most recent post, Step Lively I quoted the horoscope advice, “Step lively when the trail is clear.” I urged everyone to put a spring in their step (which actually meant I was giving myself a pep talk.) I also said, with confidence, “ … if you look closely, there are clear trails.” To that point, my critique group queried, in a scholarly way of course, “Yeah? Where, huh?”
It seemed clear to me that I needed to think further, to delve more deeply into the optimism I was spouting.
As I watch the world news, I am dumbstruck by the bravery of the people of Ukraine. Scenes of people standing in front of tanks, barricading the roads. Tires being piled and put to fire in another attempt to stop the invaders. The news is full of stories praising women for protecting their children as best they can. All of that is heroic and to be honored.
It’s easy for me to feel stupefied by all that bravery, and inertia follows closely behind that stupefaction. But, as I become more clear-headed, I realize that my inability to take big, bold, risky actions does not excuse me from taking up the opportunities all around for small acts of kindness.
The Seattle Times runs its “Rant and Rave” listing on the same page as the horoscopes. Since Linda and I are regular horoscope checkers, we often stop to read the daily posting of criticism and appreciation. The following, from the February 26 edition, amused me: ”RAVE to a quick-thinking woman at Sea-Tac Airport. I was running to catch the train to the N gates and my shoe slipped off as I was jumping on the train. Princess Charming had the remarkable presence of mind to kick the shoe onto the train as the doors were closing.”
The image of the shoe-kick was amusing—and then, it reminded me that opportunities to do good are all around. Mixing my examples here, those opportunities could well be the “clear trails” we’re advised to travel.
As is my wont, this blog is loosely linked to scripture. Checking for examples of acts of kindness, I came across these verses, “After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it.” (Acts 28:1-2)
Paul and his disciples had been sailing to Rome. They were caught in a storm at sea, and eventually were shipwrecked on the shore of Malta. The goodness of the people of Malta is simply told—they made these strangers warm and dry. Nothing spectacular, something gratefully received.
Here’s a question that I believe has an obvious answer. Do these small acts of kindness make a difference? Why, yes. Of course. they do.
On February 20, a Facebook friend of mine from Montana posted the following quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, “I do not think that it is naïve to think that it is the tiny, particular acts of love and joy which are going to swing the balance.”
L’Engle, an author, Christian theologian and a scientist, is known for her belief in the inter-relationship of all creation. In her journals, she explained, “If a butterfly winging over the fields around Crosswicks should be hurt, the effect would be felt in galaxies thousands of light years away.” I admit to having trouble understanding the theory, but I am pleased by the concept.
If an injured butterfly can have such an effect, it seems it must also be true that a good deed done—say the rescue of a shoe at the N gate people-mover—has a ripple effect as well. We’ve all seen the image of ripples from a single thrown pebble expand and expand. One smile, a compliment given, a phone call to check on the lonely, a surprise snail-mail greeting to a distant relative—all are single gestures that may well ripple beyond our one action.
I know how my spirits rise when I am the receiver of an unexpected positive. I remember how my heart sings when I take in an unexpected blessing. I pray that I always remember that I have multiple opportunities to be a gift to others in return.
Our church service last Sunday ended with the following prayer of sending forth. It was an unexpected gift to me—a restatement of this blog that was on my mind:
And now, may the God who loves all of creation, especially the ordinary parts,
and Jesus, our companion along this crooked path called life,
and the Holy Spirit, who loves to improvise in surprising ways,
go with us, dwell among us, and give us joy. Amen
Dear Reader, may you continue to find clear paths and may you give and receive blessings along the way.
What a lovely prayer. Thank you for your thoughts, Amory. In my better moments I fully agree that it’s the little things that matter the most.
And, aren’t we fortunate that the “better moments” do appear! Thanks for commenting.
I am fortunate to live with a woman who creates happy moments for me and can communicate so forcefully about tiny particular acts.
Amory, I’ve taken to counting up the kindnesses I see daily. It’s beginning to balance out the tailgaters and hate crusaders. I guess I need to pay more attention, and thanks to your presumptuous self, I will. Thank you! ~ Dick
This presumptuous self thanks you for your comments (as always)!
“Seek the tiny moments of joy…” something I read today in the digital Bellingham Herald. Made me think of this blog, and if I can remember to take time each day to look for those moments I am certain they are always there waiting to be seen.
Yes, that’s exactly what I was saying. I do believe bits of joy are around, just waiting for us to notice. Thanks for adding your comment!