Sometimes our worlds get turned up-side down by events beyond our control. So it’s not surprising how easily we can lose sight of what’s Real and what is illusion, reflecting back at us from some kind of fun house mirror. And getting daily deliveries of doom and gloom from newscasts, social media and many of our politicians doesn’t help any. No wonder how easily we can get sucked into the prop wash of it all. It reminds me of the old cartoon The Adventures of Gulliver and his nasally companion Glum, whose favorite line was, “We’re all going to die, we’re not going to make it”.
But having earned new insights into forgiveness [last week’s post Jonah and the Birds], I’m coming to understand there are gifts to be had when our lives get turned inside out.
Like some kind of locomotive, the wheels of my chaos had finally ground to a stop when I reached Forgiveness. But then what? While it was good to have regained my footing, I wasn’t quite sure of what to do to get my train moving again.
Enter some angels.
And when I say ‘angels’, I’m not talking about some shimmering vision of winged loveliness so often depicted on everything from sunday school posters to greeting cards. I’m pointing to the kind of pictures you saw early Christians drawing in the 2nd and 3rd century – angels with no wings, looking very much like you or me.
Everywhere I went this week, I was confronted with ‘Random Acts of Kindness‘ (a.k.a., RAK’s). At the grocery store: “Why don’t you go ahead, you’ve only got a few items.” The customer running after me at the gas station: “Hey buddy….your debit card”. Time and time again, absolute strangers stepped up and demonstrated what is the best in all of us. A good friend of mine laughingly refers to ‘random acts of kindness’ as “God’s drive-bys”. While not generally thinking of the Cosmos as a street gang, I like the imagery; Angels in black leather jackets flashing peace signs as they open up the throttles on their chariots and roar out of the parking lot on the way to their next RAK.
Catching their kindness like some sort of benevolent flu, it dawned on me that RAK’s might just be the jump start I needed to get me and my locomotive back on-track. But what to do?
For a moment, I thought about staking out the local Wal-Mart, looking for little old ladies to help with their packages. But, 1) I didn’t want to get arrested and, 2) RAK’s are not necessarily about pre-planning. What makes the random act potent is their spontaneity, the unexpected impact of the act. And that’s when it hit me. Elsie’s walkers.
Part One: I’ve mentioned Rick’s mom, Elsie, on several occasions. Her e-mail address said it best, “Elsie_TOB” which stood for ‘tough old broad’. She relished the moniker. In her 70’s and working as a cashier at a local grocery store until a few months before she died, there were two things that allowed her to retain her dignity and, stay in her own place instead of the nursing home. One was the oxygen machine camped out next to her recliner. The other two were her walkers.
Now looking back, the memories of her walking up and down the long halls of her apartment building to ‘get her exercise’ have become fond. Her and her walker (the one with wheels) with Rick or me beside her, ready to offer a steadying arm while pulling the portable oxygen tank behind us made for quite a picture. We knew she needed the exercise but she said it was to cruise for guys. Whatever! The point is, in the four-years since her death, her walkers have stood motionless and folded in our bedroom closet…perfectly good, but now unused of their original purpose.
Part Two: A few towns over, there’s a remarkable free clinic that serves the poor and the uninsured. Staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time and talents, they complete their offering with solicited gifts from the drug companies and donated use of several hospitals in the area. So the other day, knowing I was going to be in their neighborhood and having Rick’s blessing, I loaded Elsie’s two walkers in the car, intent on committing a drive-by of my own.
“Hi, my name is Dan and you don’t know me, but your clinic has helped a very good friend of mine and I wanted to donate these to someone. Could you use them?”
The nurse volunteer manning the front desk just looked at me with this blank stare…like she had just seen a ghost or something. “Excuse me’, I said, ‘I was wondering if you could use these?” Snapping out of her seeming trance, she motioned for one of the other nurses to join us at the counter. “I don’t quite know how to say this, but we were just talking about two of our clients before you walked in…” Seems they had two elderly patients who were having a rough time of it, trying to stay independent and live at home. Smiling from ear to ear, the 2nd nurse said, “I’ll make sure we get these walkers delivered to them this week. Thank you for stopping by”.
The longer I live on this planet, the more I am convinced that, there are no coincidences, just opportunities realized. I don’t think my feet touched the ground once as I floated back out to the car.
I didn’t ask for a receipt. I wasn’t angling for a deduction on next year’s taxes. And the nurses? They didn’t ask for any identification. They simply accepted our gift in the spirit in which it was intended.
We won’t be getting Thank-You notes from the two people who can now get around their houses, because they don’t know who we are. But for having committed our own ‘drive-by’, I know who we are and down deep, it feels good. My boilers newly stoked with Love are once again picking up steam. Inside-out-world or not, it’s good to be moving forward again.
Be looking for it. Maybe this week will present you with your own opportunity to pay it forward with your own RAK. Do that and someone you don’t even know might just be saying a prayer of thanks for someone they don’t know and that someone…will be YOU.
Wings or not, does it get any better than that?
Let me leave you with an INCREDIBLE version of “Walking in the Air” by Howard Blake. The YouTube video arrived in my in-box from Blue Bird Boulevard (a favorite blog spot I frequent). The video features a series of time lapse sequences by the Expedition 30 crew aboard the International Space Station. This is a living, breathing example of what ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ feel like.
Touch the link below and Enjoy!
Courtenay Bluebird is a professional writer and photographer and a sort-of artist.
Photo Credits and Attributions:
Iris: David Pasillas http://iphonephotog.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/iris/, Glum: http://bluemoonstudios.com/blog/index.php/2009/02/itll-never-work/, Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation: http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/oldest-surviving-icon-of-the-annunciation/, Rolling Walker by Tuffcare, Community Clinic: http://www.dupagecommunityclinic.org/index.html, Random Act of Kindness A man and a dog: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/tithing-random-acts-of-kindness.htm, Walking in the Air by Howard Blake: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1097259/He-close-breakdown-composer-Howard-Blake-idea-Walking-In-The-Air-The-rest-history-.html, Random Act of Kindness Graphic: http://mazurkraemer.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/random-acts-of-kindness-in-business/
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