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John O’Donahue wrote, “There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect...something instinctive in us expects it.” His words brought me up short. It is not that I disbelieve what he stated. It is that I am often unaware of the blessings I have received in places I least expect.
I think of the checkout clerk who hands me a receipt with a smile and an invocation, “Have a blessed day.” I remember the chaplain whose change of job and residence forced her resignation from pastoral ministry at the hospital. She did not restrict her farewell message to the bare facts of leave-taking. Instead, she blessed me with a listing of all that she had learned from our affiliation and affirmed my presence in her life.
I continue to be blessed by folks who stop and wait to hear my stories after asking, “How are you today?” I am made whole and holier by witnessing the blessing of individuals who soldier on, despite all kinds of hardships, grief, physical pain, and financial losses.
The delight experienced by women who have just been accepted into a local apartment complex flows over me. It teaches me that wonder is not restricted to the young or naive, but that it is part of our humanity, something instinctive in us. Their joy spills over into my life and causes me to take a second look at all that I have. It asks me to assess my own possessions, prioritize them, and ready myself to move on–whatever shape moving on takes in my life.
I am blessed to be part of a welcoming church family, a community that understands the grace of diversity and embraces it even when it commands challenging pain.
My spiritual well being is enhanced by a Bible study group composed of men and women from all states of life and varying degrees of education and experience. Our weekly meetings are marked with spontaneous laughter, full and deep enjoyment of each other. They are also marked with serious pondering, questioning our degree of commitment to the values we espouse, the mission to which we have been called both communally and personally. No easy answers are given. No judgment is made. There is only the blessedness of being together. We are together as a listening and receiving family, a caring and compassionate group of friends.
Love is deepened in me when I see individuals assisting each other through the vagaries of life. The image of one particular woman comes vividly to mind. She has had her share of burdens to bear, but gives them no mind. Instead, she is quick to offer her home as a respite, her time and energy to listen. “Let’s do lunch” is more than an invitation for socializing and catch-up. It is awareness time–hours she gives to those whose needs are great and often overpowering. She is attentive to the weakness, poverty, blindness, and crippling grief that others experience. Her awareness and kindness empower their transformation–and hers, as well.
Most recently, I enjoyed the blessing of a visiting granddaughter. From the moment she ran (and I do mean that literally) into my arms from the airport arrival gate until her departure 10 days later, Hubby Dear and I were inundated with the blessing of her presence. Our “silent” lives now rang with the exuberance of a 16-year-old’s unique brand of chatter. We learned that quiet and solitude, while good for us in our daily routine, need not be the only mode of contemplation. Our quietness was now being expressed in the silence needed to listen to what lay beneath her words. In turn, she pondered all that was being said and left unsaid.
All manner of topics were fodder for our mill. School issues, academic and social, were discussed. Through her eyes, I saw the challenges our teen’s face, challenges that were unheard of in my adolescence. I tasted the courage it takes to remain whole and holy in the face of insidiously evil influences. I felt the pull of loyalty to friends in the face of the tug to be true to oneself. I cried with the pain that is endured as each teen decides when to keep silence, and when to chance alienation and isolation by speaking up.
We laughed together at our family foibles, finding genetic connections that enhanced similarities and announced differences. We cried together over silly incidents that get exacerbated over time and cause rifts in families, nations, neighborhoods, and friendships. It was bonding time–the kindness that resides deep down in us and presides everywhere, if we permit its presence to touch us.
The bonding was not limited to our household. Audrey went everywhere with me, to all the “old people” places that others might find boring. She did not. By her own admission, she was building memories. She was learning about her grandparents as they were learning about her. She was getting to know us, getting to know all about us, getting to like us, and hoping that we were getting to like her, as well. No doubt, we were doing all if it, and loving it at the very same time.
Our bonding was unlimited. It extended to all the people Audrey met as she journeyed along life’s path with us. For those whose opinion of youngsters had become jaded and somewhat despairing, she provided a bright spot of optimism. With those whose lives were entangled with children, grandchildren, as well as their accompanying friends, she was affirmation of the goodness they had already perceived. Older people were enlivened by her youth.
At the same time, Audrey fell in love with the wisdom generation. More than once, she exclaimed, “I just love them.” She loved their stories and quaint expressions. She loved the fact that they were not wrinkled with age so much as they were marked with the joys and sorrows of life. Being with them was a blessing for her, proof positive that all will be well no matter how sad or dark a particular time might be.
She has returned home. Our house is silent; however, the silence is now filled with her unspoken presence–and we smile, thinking of her return next year. For sure, we are having a blessed day!
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.