Saturday, April 23, 2016

NIXED BLESSINGS – Laying Claim to Life’s Elusive Gifts

The past few years have been trying times for me. A couple of serious health problems have been taking a toll on both my body and my spirit.

When I’m down like this, I find that one of the best ways to feel better is to get out of myself and help someone else. So I enlisted as a hospice volunteer.

       Why, when she seems so lost about 
       everything else, did she sound so certain, 
       so fully present, about this?

Today I was visiting Bill, one of my patients. Though he still possesses nearly all his faculties, he lives in a facility that specializes in so-called memory care, so I’m accustomed to seeing his neighbors wandering aimlessly, misplacing what little stuff they have left, often looking quite bewildered.

Just as we’re leaving his room, one of them tottered up to me. June is a very quiet, shy woman who walks idle laps around the perimeter of the floor and often mistakes Bill’s room for her own. She rarely speaks to anyone—certainly not to me—and when she does, it’s usually just to ask for directions.

PHOTO: Imgur

Okay, I thought, maybe she’s mistaking me for a staff member or a fellow resident. So I said a casual hello, and then, just as I turned to walk away, she reached out, put her hand on my back and rubbed it sympathetically. “It’s going to be okay,” she said in a sure but gentle voice. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

That scene—the effect of June’s touch, the clarity of her gaze, the knowingness in her voice—has kept replaying in my mind all day. Was she just confused like she is about other things? Why, when she seems so lost about everything else, did she sound so certain, so fully present, about this? Could she possibly have sensed that I’ve been hurting?

    It’s as if there’s this rhythm to life. We can’t 
    always hear it because the dance hall is such 
    a cacophony of other sounds.

I realize now that it’s entirely up to me what the meaning of this little interaction was—and is—for me. And no matter how or why it was given, I believe it was a gift. Not only did it help me feel better; it also reminds me of how many other blessings there are in my life like this one, hiding in plain sight.

Little gifts like this come very close to us all the time—warm smiles lost in passing, inspirations not seized, narrow escapes unappreciated, coincidences rationalized away, Nature’s wonders taken for granted. It’s so easy to miss them in the muddle of agendas, expectations, worries and sheer self-indulgence that surrounds us much of the time. 

It’s as if there’s this rhythm to life. We can’t always hear it because the dance hall is such a cacophony of other sounds. We falter and stumble. But once we manage to turn the din down, even a little bit, sure enough, there it is. And, once we hear the rhythm, feel it, suddenly, miraculously, we no longer have to even think about where to place our feet, for the music is moving us.

Isn’t that the way it is with small wonders? When we allow the background noise of life to get too loud, they don't move us because we can’t hear them. Just like the simple gift June bestowed on me, it’s so easy to miss them, or at least to misinterpret them as chance or error or simply devoid of meaning.

Don’t we have the power—and I would suggest a compelling need—to give them that meaning?


jean said...

I am always on the look-out for small wonders, little moments of the miraculous, nuggets of hope when life is hard. I even get excited about the first leaf that is changing color, or a beautiful stone or even an interesting cloud. Loved this post, Jeff.

four friends and their friends said...

I think this post is so beautiful in many aspects... you bring a gift to June and Bill and Bill and June give you a gift and you give us this gift so we too can reflect. I love your blog...

Jeffrey Willius said...

I know you are, Jean. And your sharing those experiences with others is just one way you shine your light. Thanks for your kind words about OMW!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks so much, Jennifer! I hope you keep sharing your appreciations of small wonders on your sweet blog,
Love the butterfly pic in your latest post!

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