Sunday, June 07, 2009

Corporeal mortality

I have moments like I did just now, more frequently than I probably realize and since I don't always have a chance to write them down when they come, I wanted to seize the opportunity. I was sitting here at this old folks home that I'm working at and it was quiet. An elderly lady, Mrs. Wilson, was walking by my desk. She was supported by her walker and she was idling quietly by. I thought to myself whether I should say hello. I felt that anxiety that I feel whenever I'm about to open my mouth, whenever I'm about to intrude on someone else's thoughts. I thought to myself how old she must be, whether she could even hear me, how loud I should speak, whether I should stand as she passed. The moment came and I sat where I was and held my breath and I said, as loud as was polite: Hello, Mrs. Wilson.

The old lady looked up. She had severe drooping of her right face, likely from a stroke some time ago. She looked in my direction and the movement seemed momentous, earth-shattering, as if it was the greatest undertaking she'd ever embarked upon. And she smiled. She smiled deeply, genuinely, as if she'd been waiting for an excuse. She smiled broadly, happily as if she was glad that she'd been noticed. She smiled so brightly that the partially paralyzed half of her face lifted. Her hand lifted briefly from her walker to wave at me.

What am I trying to say? What am I trying to express from that moment? I was afraid for a moment, and thought of all the reasons why I shouldn't say or do anything and then I accidentally made an old lady's day by just being polite. I accidentally added a smile to the world. In that moment I felt like there was a massive amount of goodness and beauty in the world. Goodness and beauty hidden from sight...just below the surface waiting to come out, like an old lady's smile waiting to burst onto her face, leashed, waiting for the smallest excuse. How many smiles -- on buses, in offices, on sidewalks -- are waiting for the smallest of reasons to be set free? So much fear and doubt -- fear of doing the wrong thing, doubt of doing the right -- fills our days and our nights and we forget how much good there is within each of us, and not only how much good there is but how badly we'd all like to show it. We want to be good and kind, and show goodness and kindness and be thought of as good and kind, we just don't always know how to let it out.

What would our world look like if all that hidden goodness was brought to bear?


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