Thursday, April 05, 2007

Miraculous Kindness

Today I thought about an incident that still baffles me. Three years ago, when my Grandfather was in the last stages of a terminal illness, I had a brief but unnerving phone conversation with a family member in California. Up to that point, everyone was somewhat optimistic about the illness being "kept at bay". We could not expect a cure but perhaps it could be treated and maintained in remission. I was informed that that hope was overly optimistic and that Grandpa was not doing well at all. Seeking confirmation, I called the doctor at V.A. who advised me in a less-than-delicate tone that if I wanted to see Grandpa while he was still living, I should get on a plane. Now.

I was not hysterical but I was really, really sad. Ethan must have been napping; Jim was at work. It was the middle of the day and I was alone with my thoughts (This was before McKenna was born). And then I heard knocking on our mud room door. Generally, neighbors and family use that entrance. Solicitors, charity fund raisers, and missionaries are the only folks who use the front door or the "main entrance". So, thinking it was a neighbor, I went to the mud room and, to my mild surprise, greeted a stranger.

He was a genial young man in his early twenties, clean cut with brown hair. Honestly, at that point, I thought I was in for a heaping helping of Mormon or Jehovah Witness hokum. What I got, however, was something very different. He simply said that he was passing our house, felt a sadness or that we were somehow experiencing a hard time. He looked at me directly and told me that everything was going to be alright. And then he walked away. That was it. No Bible thumping, no caricature filled handouts foretelling the end of time.

This was three years ago and I still don't know how to process the encounter. None of my neighbors knew about the information that I literally just received moments before this man knocked on my door. So, it's not like a well intentioned neighbor informed him that I might need some counsel. There is nothing about our home that screams "troubled occupants". In fact, quite the opposite is true. How could this complete stranger know to stop? What compelled him to do it?

This much I do know...A gentle, kind man sought me out to provide a smile and some comfort, however small. How he knew to stop, knock on my door and provide solace to me, an unknown woman, is a mystery. It doesn't haunt me but I think about it from time to time. I have tried to rationalize the whole thing by surmising that he saw me through my kitchen window, speaking on the phone and appearing distraught. Perhaps he intended to give me a spiel but then recognized my demeanor and decided to back off and simply render some badly needed cheer.

Any way you cut it, it was a lovely, unexpected gift. How very blessed I am to live in a town where people genuinely still care about one another. Because of this, I'm learning to part with untold layers of California cynicism. In the middle of my life, I am seeing miracles that I never took the time to notice before. Goodness can just sneak up on you and sometimes even scare you when it is unexpected or when you are not accustomed to it. You wonder what the angle is. Out of sheer habit you almost find ways to dismiss or minimize it. On a really dark day, I might even ridicule it. I'm learning though.

I now think angels appear in all kinds of subtle, vicarious ways, working through people's routine thoughts and actions. And then again, maybe an angel can just skip all of that and simply knock on your door.

Either way, kindness in all forms is truly divine.

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