In the midst of our daily routines, little moments sometimes present themselves when you least expect them, leaving you with a sense of appreciation of what’s good in life.
That’s what happened to me on a single day this week. Three random things involving nature, a conversation with a stranger, and news of a child being born. Each thing was disconnected from the other, but every one came as a salve at a time of angst about our deep political divide.
Thursday morning, I left home earlier than usual to arrive in plenty of time to greet a guest speaker in my morning class at Washington State University Vancouver. I was walking from the parking lot to the edge of campus when a sweet sound caught my ear.
I looked up to the right and spotted a little bird perched in the bare branches of a tree, singing his morning song. It was a sparrow, I think, and in the stillness of the morning, before most students had arrived, there was nothing but that sweet sound to serenade me to the front door of the building where I was headed..
In the distance, the flattened white top of Mount St. Helens came into view, combining with the songbird to remind me of nature’s beauty.
I taught two classes that day and hustled out the door, destined to my afternoon job with a nonprofit in Portland. I was running a few minutes ahead of schedule, so I decided to exit the freeway and grab a snack.
I walked in the door of a Panera franchise and the woman behind the counter greeted me with a smile.
I ordered a coffee and bagel to go and, in less than two minutes, it was ready.
“Here you go,” she said. “Have a great day.”
“Thanks. That was fast. Where do I pay?”
She froze for an instant, then laughed.
“Oh, yeah. I totally forgot.”
Her name tag identified her as “Carrie” and “Manager.” No doubt she’s one of those overworked, underpaid managers who hire and train employees, keep things on track in the kitchen and on the floor and, during slack times like this one, run the cash register.
“Well,” I said, “you can’t say you don’t offer great customer service.”
“Come back for dinner and I just might give it to you free!”
Back in the parking lot, I checked my phone. On Facebook, a new acquaintance was announcing the birth of her second child, a son.
This was Sharon, someone who lives in Ohio and someone I’ve never met in person. I learned of her last year when I purchased her book, “Becoming Mother,” for our daughter-in-law. I emailed her to compliment her on her book and she responded warmly.
A couple more emails led to a Facebook friendship and two recent guest blog posts on Rough and Rede II. In one of those, written just after the November election that shocked the world, she despaired at the realization her baby was due on Inauguration Day.
So I was delighted to learn her baby had arrived — and to read, in a blog post she’d mostly written ahead of time, of the perspective she’d gained while her son took an extra two weeks to come into the world.
Today, I simply say that life is unpredictable and messy. No matter how much we like to pretend that we have things under control, we very much do not. We don’t like the storms that plow through our neatly plotted lives. They uproot what we’ve planned. They can undo our hard work and make it irrelevant and meaningless.
But a lot of beautiful things can emerge from the storms of our lives.
Her piece is beautifully written and I recommend it to one and all: “Finally, We’ve Had the Baby.”
To all those who’ve become mothers in recent months, here’s a special wish for you and your son or daughter, that you never lose sight of the moments that bring you happiness, peace and calm. I’m talking to you, Jamie, and cousin Monique, and all the rest of you — Mary, Jen, Rachel — scattered from Washougal to Portland to Cincinnati.