There are moments when I wonder how the world hasn’t managed to self-destruct yet.
Recently I’ve heard some things–the kind of things that stomp on hearts and make me shake my head at what we do to each other. Homo sapiens is a cruel species. We seem to seek out ways to hurt each other, and we seem to employ increasingly destructive tactics to do it. Some days, some weeks, I find I must turn off the outside world because awfulness overwhelms me.
It’s easy to get lost there. When the awful things happen to people I love most, it’s even easier to click a padlock shut on my side, refusing to let anyone else step in.
I stay there until I can work things out with God, until I remember how much of earthly safety is an illusion. Until the words that are repeating in my brain are more like Psalm 121 and less like what we stretch into headlines on a 24-hour channel desperate for something to call news.
Recently I’ve seen some things–specifically in the form of a young woman I have known since I babysat her long ago. I once marvelled at her mother’s approach to raising her and her siblings. In their home, I never heard a raised voice, never saw frantic scurrying about.
I didn’t know that was possible.
Theirs was a peaceful place that was, at the same time, filled with the deep laughter from much teasing and great wit. Kindness and generosity was plentiful within those walls, and I wanted to experience more of it. I spent as much time with her parents as I could, watching and copying. When they moved away, I missed the interaction.
Decades passed, and now that wee girl is a mother to wee ones herself. I had an unexpected opportunity to visit with her. We recounted stories of how I’d asked her parents to mentor me but life circumstances meant they’d had to say no to a formal arrangement. We talked about how different homes can be, how hers reflected the same feeling her parents’ had, and I shared with her some things she wouldn’t have known about me.
She listened with quiet grace, and I remarked on how kind she was to show this respect to a friend of her parents. How rare this quality is.
We visited over a freshly baked loaf of oat bread, paper thin slices of artisan salami, cucumbers, pickles, lettuce and gouda cheese. Her daughter shared with much excitement what she had learned about the sun and the moon, and her son surprised us both by falling asleep in his chair. We laughed, and learned from each other, and our time was rich and full.
For me, however, the most precious moment was when lunch finished. Her pre-school daughter slid from her chair, pushed her hair away from her face, tucked her little body into her mom’s and stretched up on tiptoes so that her interruption was minor. “Thank you for lunch, Mama,” she said.
When facing some of the tough things that followed that day, I’ve found myself coming back to that authentic, quiet memory. This little girl already has the secret to erasing some of the ugliness in the world.
Whisper honest words of gratitude today. It makes all the difference.