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day 35: when no one is watching

March 8, 2011

One of the unexpected benefits of my “a gift a day” project is that it has sharpened my awareness of the myriad small kindnesses people visit upon one another — even when no one is watching.

Sunday I took my children to get $6.99 haircuts at the salon equivalent of McDonald’s.  Like other businesses in the area, this salon hires people to wear sandwich-board advertisements on busy street corners.  I am sure you’ve seen this practice before — the folks they hire are often the same people who would otherwise be holding “Will work for food” signs on those same corners.

While the middle-aged African-American stylist was cutting my son’s hair, a woman holding such a sandwich-board came into the salon.  I had seen her on the highway overpass many times before, petite and straw-haired, holding a pit bull by a dirty leash looped around its neck.  She’s often perched on a large bucket across the highway from Mike or Not Mike, holding her cardboard sign up to passersby.

“I’m taking my lunch break, ” she informed my son’s stylist, slipping the board over her head.

Without skipping a beat in her work, the stylist quietly said, “I brought you lunch… in the refrigerator.  It’s in a bag with your name on it.”

Small kindnesses, unfolded quietly, live everywhere.  Even in discount hair salons that smell like perm solution.

As I left the gym at daybreak this morning, a woman walking outside pointed at the sky.  “Isn’t it just beautiful?”  she smiled at the pinking horizon, before wishing me a nice day.

I noticed the forsythia blooming, lighting gray bushes brazen yellow with their blooms.

Overnight, Bradford pear trees were suddenly clothed in cotton white.

Quietly, when no one was paying attention, they unfurled their beauty just for us.  Yet again.

In a moment of calm this morning, I wandered through a photo album from our wedding nearly twelve years ago.  This album contained pictures taken by guests at our rehearsal dinner, using those little disposable cameras we scattered around the dining tables for everyone’s amusement.

One candid jumped off the page at me as I flipped through.  It is a picture of one of my sisters-in-law, Tricia, with her beautiful Grammy, who passed away not long after our wedding.  Its foreground is consumed entirely by a giant floral centerpiece, bright yellow and red, and Grammy is wearing a bright red dress to match.  She is also wearing an expression of pure joy in the company of her beloved granddaughter, captured mid-laugh by the lucky photographer.  Tricia, next to her, is beaming and blond and beautiful as always.  It is a moment captured in time, two happy souls sharing a private laugh.

While I am pretty sure she’s never seen this photo, I know it belongs to Tricia.

Day 35’s gift is this small kindness, this momentary joy, that passed by almost unnoticed nearly twelve years ago.  I slipped the photo in Tricia’s birthday card today.  I hope it makes her smile.

I hope your day blooms with kindnesses, large  and small.  Thank you, always, for showing up.

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