~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~


July 1, 2019

To the couple who gave us your booth at Coney Island - 

Thank you for noticing us, standing in the doorway, hungry and spent. Thank you for offering us your booth, since it was just the two of you and you could easily slip over to the small table in the middle of the room. And thank you for sliding over anyway, even after we had refused.

You looked so happy and content, just the two of you, out for a coney and a coke on a Wednesday afternoon. You smiled at each other. You seemed to be best friends even after all these years. You reminded us that it is possible to grow old and not grow crotchety and resentful. And you showed us that even those who have been around for 80 years can still wear their countenance lightly and with an open sort of grace. I want to grow old like you.

I'm certain life has given you many reasons to feel downtrodden or depleted. Thank you for looking so happy and content, anyway. Thank you for not raising your voices or shaking your heads in disgust over what has become of the world. What is it about you both, I wonder, that inspires you still to shine?

All around it seems the world is amiss. Folks are outraged, polarized, depleted and run down. So many of us stand with fists in front of our chests, bracing for a fight.

And then in one serendipitous moment, we cross paths with you. Two elderly folks, in no hurry and apparently not so attached to a booth that they wouldn't gladly give it up to a couple of young kids and a mom looking for lunch. You, who smiled all the way to the bottom of your cokes. Both of you with those twinkling eyes just as bright as Santa's elves.

My sons and I talked about you all lunch. We talked about being a force of light in the world. About how kindness counts. About random acts of kindness, and how easy it is to lift someone else's day, to lighten the load of others, to surprise the world with generosity and care.

We hatched a plan. We asked our server to fetch your bill and to hand it over to us. She sidled over to your table, slipped the receipt into her hands, and almost got away. But you were too sharp, too clear-eyed, and you noticed. You deferred. You laughed. One of you said, "Well, dear, in that case, let's have dessert."

Thank you so very much for letting us keep your tab, for not muscling the receipt out of our hands in some sort of self-reliant machismo. Thank you for accepting our gesture with tenderness and grace. You taught us all an important lesson about the gift of not just receiving, but of offering, too.

We waved when you left, all five of us happier than when we walked in. I don't know about you, but our day was transformed. We learned something vital about how to quietly brush away the darkness with nothing more than goodwill and a tender heart. Through a single and secret exchange, we had become fast friends. We received your generous light with thanksgiving and we vowed to pass it on.

We watched you amble past the plate-glass window one and climb into your car. Both of you looked up, smiled and waved one last time. Thank you.