Small Kindnesses

by Danusha Laméris
from The Writer's Almanac

I've been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say "bless you"
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. "Don't die," we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don't want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, "Here,
have my seat," "Go ahead—you first," "I like your hat."

All of which has me thinking about the person who waved me through the stop sign ahead of my turn, the other driver who gave me a thumbs-up instead of a wave as I let her merge on the highway, the child who said "hello, mister" when I passed him on the sidewalk, the elderly neighbor who drags my empty garbage can up my driveway while we're all out at work, the colleague who placed a jar of fresh jam on my desk after we had talked about her berry picking, the friend whose letter arrives in my mailbox, the friend of my daughter who thanked me so politely for dropping him off at his house and for going all of two blocks out of our way, the woman who told me how lovely my email was excusing the late shipment of something I had ordered, the secretary who told me to have a blessed day, the woman who teared up when I asked if her niece was recovering from surgery, the dog's tail as I handed her a piece of cheese, my daughter's mumbled "I love you too" last night before bed, my wife's gentle kiss on my forehead when anxiety eats at me, and the memory of my father somehow telling me without words that there is more good in this life he has left than bad and I might as well notice all that wonder.