Tokens

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

–from Naomi  Shihab Nye, Kindness

I ran into one of the local moms at the bakery. I hardly ever see her these days, but since my husband died, she leaves tokens on our front porch, often on holidays. She’ll leave three muffins, or half a box of blueberries.

She’s the one who showed up when I moved the panes of glass out of the basement last summer. My husband had 8 or 10 thick panes of glass that I had to dispose of. I was terrified that they would break and one of us would get hurt. I was filled with anger and fear and the panes were so heavy and how was I going to move them without shattering them? I was on the edge of despair. I looked up and there she was, with half a box of blueberries to deliver. I threw myself, sobbing, into her arms. She bent down and helped me load the panes into the car.

She just keeps giving, and sometimes, I receive.

I asked her if she was the kind person who left the strawberries and cream on Valentine’s Day.

She was.

I would have written a thank-you note, I babbled, but I didn’t know if they’d moved.

They did move and it’s okay, she said with a smile. It was clear she wasn’t waiting for thanks. She wants to let me know that I’m not forgotten.

And, I added, I’m sorry that I never join you when you invite me places. (She invites me for same-day events. I just can’t scramble to join her.)

It’s okay, she said. Sometime, you will.

Soon, she added, it will be spring.

I stared at her. It’s like talking to Buddha. These words have meaning, I know.

There will be so many days for hiking, she said, as she gave me a hug, then scooped up her toddler and somebody else’s toddler and cleaned up their crumbs and left the table for me.

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4 thoughts on “Tokens

  1. The kindness of your “gift giver” brought tears to my eyes. How sweet and special it is to have someone like her touch your life in this way, at this time. I think her “soon…it will be spring” has a double meaning, don’t you. She can probably see changes in you easier than you can see them in yourself. I hope so. An outing with a Buddha could be very interesting. LOL

  2. I agree, Jean, there was gravity in her words, and lightness, too. In our grief, we encounter people who always say the wrong thing, who commit social gaffes, who royally screw up their brief interactions with us. (And I appreciate that forum on WV, because it allows us to let it out in a way we can’t in everyday life.) And then we encounter people who are so wise, so decent, so generous, so kind. I can only say “Good morning!” to the former and weep in gratitude for the latter. How do people get so wise?

    And, yes, I do believe that some people can gauge me better than I can myself, if only because they can witness, while I’m just too much in the thick of it. Let’s hope so, because she’s right–soon it will be spring.

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