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


April 6, 2017

Dear 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 to the small table in the middle of the room. And thank you for sliding over anyway, even after we had refused.

Thank you for looking so happy and contended, just the two of you, out for a coney and a coke on a Wednesday afternoon. Thank you for smiling at each other. Thank you for looking like you are still each other's best friend even after all these years. Thank you for reminding me that it is possible to grow old and not grow crotchety and resentful. Thank you for showing us that even those who have been around for 80 years or so can still wear their countenance lightly and with an open sort of grace. I want to grow old like you.

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

All around it seems the world is ranting. Outraged about this or that, filled with the energy of depletion and aggression. All around us folks stand with their fists in front of their chests, just itching for a fight.

And then 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.

We talked about you all lunch. About how wonderful it is to luck into forces of light in this world. We talked about how kindness counts. About how easy it is to lift another's day, to lighten the load of others, to surprise the world with generosity and care.

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

Thank you so very much for letting us keep your bill, 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 in the beauty and thanksgiving of not just giving, but of receiving as well.

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 good will and a tender heart. We felt like, just by nature of our simple 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 last time and climb into your car. Both of you looked up, smiled and waved one last time. Thank you, again.