It’s getting almost ridiculous how I crave these little prompts. I will myself not to check my email in the middle of the night because I will want to get up and respond right then. How a part of me that needs and craves a weekend after a long and demanding work week also regrets having to wait until Monday for a new prompt.
But I digress. Several decades ago I came across a phrase that resonated deep within me. “There are no small things.” I know and believe this with my entire being. This truth is particularly evident in terms of kindnesses.
A smile. A warm “Hello.” A sincere “How are you?” A genuine “Apology?” (When is the last time you remember getting or giving one of those? I can tell you date and and time and location in the same way I remember hearing on the radio that Elvis died while riding in a tow-truch through downtown SLC).
I hesitate to start for the sure knowledge 8 minutes is too short and I won’t be able to scratch the surface, but I will try.
My friend Kalli once dropped by with a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of homemade peach jam during a very painful time of our lives when no one knew what to say or what to do or what we needed.
I once walked out of Walmart to bump into a woman from my neighborhood I didn’t know well (but have since come to love, appreciate, and call close friend). I smiled at her and said hello, as I was genuinely happy to see her (I am usually genuinely happy to see most people). Later that day I got a note from her telling me that she happened to be having a particularly difficult day and how my smile had lifted her spirit. I learned from this to never hold back a smile and to more fully appreciate the likely un-randomness of chance encounters that lift my spirits.
One day, I found myself walking into church alone with a heavy heart. My Sunday school teacher and his wife passed me along the sidewalk. I don’t recall the encouraging words he left me with, but both the words and the caring behind them affected me deeply.
Once when I was a young–and very tired–college student cleaning offices and classrooms in the Harris Fine Arts Center I came across a note left for the anonymous me by a professor whose office I cleaned. “Thanks for taking out the trash every day.” This simple kindness and gratitude shaped me, and helped me become more conscious and more appreciative of those nearly invisible people who serve us. A sensibility that contributed to my sweet and unexpected friendship with the head custodian in our building at my current job with a woman who followed the spirit to bless my life by openly sharing her struggles and her experience in them to walk with me through a challenging situation with one of my kids. We have laughed together and cried together (also not little things) and encourage one another along this shared path.
In addition to every kindness, I am also moved by every simple beauty and pleasure of this earth. The warmth of the sun on my face on a winter’s day. The joy I feel when my living room is filled with the sprawling bodies of my kids and their friends on a Sunday afternoon, particularly in winter when they are sleeping under homemade quilts or the sun coming through our south-facing window. The almost-too-perfect-for-this-earth light that will hit individual leaves on a tree or patchwork fields of green and yellow early in the morning and just before sunset along my commute. Sunsets. Sunrises. Harmony. Acoustic guitar. Haunting lyrics. Delicious puns. The also almost-too-perfect-for-this-earth phrase in a book I’m reading. The funny things my kids say. The delightful giggle and joy of James that reaches clear down to his toes. Orchids, posies, and other such delights unexpectedly showing up at my door. Clouds. Rain. The relief of finally feeling cool at the end of a hot summer. Petrichor. A good night’s sleep. Hugs.
Sometimes such joys bring tears to my eyes and I say to myself, “very single pain and sorrow of this life is worth it just to have come and experienced this beautiful thing.”
[Day 5 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir]