Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Random Acts of Ordinary

“In order to arrive at being everything, desire to be nothing.” — John of the Cross

Do you ever take stock of your day and wonder whether or not you made a difference to anyone? Sometimes it can feel like nothing interesting happened. Or maybe it was that we weren’t paying attention.

This morning a sunrise followed me all the way to work. It started out brilliant cotton candy pink and developed into the most gorgeous cloudy sunrays. I realized that whether I was at home or in St. Paul, MN, I had the opportunity to enjoy this beauty. Sitting in traffic and marveling at the sunlight poring through the clouds in “God” rays, I wondered how many people in their cars next to me were experiencing this moment and how many missed it.

On Monday, I was standing in line at the grocery store. A man ahead of me had a bottle of water to purchase. I figured it would be a quick purchase, so I waited with my one item behind him. Instead, the purchase took about five minutes as the man tried unsuccessfully to use his food debit card. I thought I was being so righteous by smiling and waiting patiently. But maybe I missed an opportunity to simply offer to pay for his water!

Later I took my daughter to have some dinner at a local fast food restaurant. An older woman came in behind us and ordered her dinner. Then she proceeded to find a seat and eat alone. Again, did I miss an opportunity to invite her to join us?

Maybe this sounds over the top in terms of kindness or service. Or maybe we miss too many opportunities like these. Our busy lives feel full, but could they be fuller — richer — if we saw the truth and opportunity behind each encounter? Could we move past our fears of rejection and doubt and conflict and do the right things anyway?

So what if we look weird or the other person rejects our offer? The point is that we stepped out of our comfort zone and made an attempt at connection and plain old kindness.

Seeing an opportunity and acting on it takes practice. We have to ignore the tabloids in the checkout line, stop the running commentary in our heads with its lists and obligations and worries, open our eyes and observe what the heck is going on around us.

Life happens mostly in ordinary time. In the midst of our routine, mundane and run-of- the-mill moments, there is potential for the miraculous. If we’re too busy trying to be somebody, trying to fix something, avoid something or move ahead, we might miss out on being really useful.

Pay attention. Your life is happening right now. And somebody really needs you today.