And So, Good Night

photoBedding becomes at a certain time the only allowable necessity in the list of must-have, must-acquire things: a soft, squashy place in which to drop into docile dreams and a few gentle coverings to keep the nighttime’s monsters reasonably at bay. In the great grand scheme of everything, it is plain that eventually nothing matters so much to us as a modicum of food and a good night’s sleep, and that, with the essential and desirable bits of bedding to line the nest.

These are nearly universal enough desires that I think I can safely claim they’re innate and downright laudable human compulsions. And if that’s so, why then I’m quite happy to claim that as the possessor of an extreme quantity of the urge for lengthy, peaceful sleep and lots of delicious food, in that order, ergo I must be a particularly outstanding specimen of humanity. Fortunately, this approach to a philosophical stance on my being excellent by virtue of having a notable love and appreciation for the most desired of goals is so far removed from logic as to be virtually unassailable. Unassailable, at least, by persons deeply asleep, which in this tautology we all ought to be. Therefore, I adjure you, let us all seek and dive into whatever glorious sleeping comforts we can find, and make no more pretense of being productively

Giving Candy to Strangers

photoMost of us are taught from when we’re very small to avoid all contact with strangers. Don’t look them in the eye; don’t make friendly overtures, don’t speak to them, and don’t go running up and hugging random unknown characters. Above all, don’t accept the offer of candy or other lures from those who might turn out to be very lurid indeed.

All of that is mighty wise advice for little persons. They have no experience of the world, no basis for comparison or judgement, and no inner criteria to help them have a good chance of accurately assessing the situation. But when are we Big enough to learn that unfamiliar people are not only not all bad and dangerous but possibly in great need of any gracious and friendly contact they can possibly be given? When are we smart and experienced enough to realize that others around us are not always up to something nefarious or trying to sell us something we neither want nor need if they approach us out of the blue? When are we large-hearted enough to make a more hospitable evaluation of the risks or rewards in approaching the unknown with openness and warmth?

I have been told several stories recently that remind me of the opportunities that constantly surround us for making moves, both large and small, that have the potential to do anything from brightening someone else’s day to saving a life. Most of us fortunates have at some time and place in our lives ‘entertained angels unawares’–had a few of those moments of unexpected, extraordinary, beautiful contact with persons we didn’t know and understand that there are such agents in the world, even if we can’t immediately recognize them. Why not look for places where we can be those agents for no reason other than that we know from experience how powerful and life-changing, healing or hope-renewing, or just plain day-brightening such moments can be.

It is possible to be misinterpreted or rebuffed, true. But the vast majority of times that I’ve seen this sort of subversive joy-sharing happen without any ulterior motives, even if the recipient–sometimes me–is not altogether receptive at the outset, the end result is an astonished recognition that life is rather wonderful, that people, on the whole, are good and genuine and caring and fine, and that we have in our own small hands and hearts the astounding power of remaking ourselves and the world into better things by the simplest and least extravagant of means. A hug, a moment of patience where there has been tension. A donated dime or a pint of blood. A proffered packet of food or bottle of water that had been meant for something or someone else. Handing off the little trinket that was mine but that I can see another one admires or opening the box of treats I was saving for the family and sharing it instead with someone I don’t even know. Opening doors and assisting with chairs and lifting the parcel that’s too heavy for someone else.

They may seem tiny and insignificant enough. For those of us who choose to give them, they amount to easily made gestures. But insignificant? Hardly. For those of us who dared not, who may not have even known we could, ask–this one little mark someone offered to make on our day may mean, after it all, the whole

Walk a Mile in My Baby Shoes

photoI’ve been thinking about childhood. The freshness and innocence, the naiveté and helplessness, the curiosity and amazement at every new thing–and everything is new–and of the naturally self-centered universe one forms because self is all one knows. I’ve been thinking about how all of these qualities, so clear and natural in childhood, repeat throughout our lives in cycles. Varied by age and circumstance, and certainly by our own personalities as they develop, but there and recurrent all the same.

I’ve been thinking about how little we are all aware of these cycles and patterns in ourselves over time. We humans, though we congratulate ourselves as Homo sapiens, intelligent beings, are poignantly–sometimes poisonously–unwilling and even unable to truly see ourselves all that clearly. It’s not terribly hard to be self-aware, to know the good and bad of one’s personality and character and style, but it’s amazingly uncommon that we choose to acknowledge it, let alone are able and willing to do anything useful to control or change what we can or should. Most of us are rather childlike, if not infantile, in that respect. We want forever to be loved and be the center of the universe in that way we sensed we were as small children, before knocking up against whatever form of reality dented that illusion for the first time.

For the very fortunate (like me) it’s easy to look with a critical eye on those who are in the midst of childlike neediness because of their poverty, ill-health, lack of education or resources, old age or difference from the popular norms. Easy to forget that I don’t have the same obvious petulance or beggarly qualities only because I am so fortunate, so well off and well fed and loved and young and-and-and. I am the lucky center of my universe for now. It’s simple to be placid when I’m so rich.

I can only hope that this good life not only continues to keep me content, but that it affords me the leisure and good grace to look a little less harshly on the struggles of others. To be more patient and understanding when someone else is in that childlike state of need, whether for the starkest, plainest of dignities–sheer life not being at imminent risk–or for food and shelter, for health and wholeness, for peace and hope. If I can’t be an agent of change, bringing those gifts to those who need them, at least I must try to remember what it is to be in that fragile state and know how much I depend upon the rest of the world myself for being, by contrast, not in my childhood of utter