Friday, October 29, 2010

skipping the grace notes

Fall arrived this last week with rain, wind, and plummeting temperatures.

My morning walks to work are now brisk enough to require a light jacket.  And, perhaps a light, as well.  The twenty-minute walk starts in the dark, but the day is in full dawn by the time I enter the shop where people are good enough to exchange a fair amount of money for a bit of my day.

But what I have noticed most are the sounds.  Mainly birds getting a fast start on the day to catch the unwitting worm.  After a bit of song.

The most notable are the Canada geese noisily flying in B-24 formations as if wishing a terrible end for the Ploesti oil fields.  Geese heading east.  Having found their Eden, they are not interested in migrating anywhere.  They can breed and honk here all year long and live the high life without fear of Elmer Fudds trying to turn them into the centerpiece for a Thanksgiving dinner.

As I started through the Capitol grounds, I could hear another gaggle -- closer to the ground.  But it was just a group of state workers chatting on their way to work.

This morning I started thinking about how each day is a gift.  Getting up.  Getting out.  Enjoying.  And all I need to do is share what has so graciously been given to me.

As I sit at my desk, I realize how hollow that thought now sounds.  The last two mornings, I have encountered the same homeless man a block from my work place.  Unshaven.  Damp from sleeping outside.  Carrying his cardboard bed.  Waiting in the same place to cross the street.  We have passed each other without making eye contact.

The first time I saw him, I had the urge to stop him and ask him if he would like a cup of coffee.  Something to momentarily beat back the morning chill.  But I didn't.  I walked on by.  Too busy.  I had Important Things To Do.

This morning when I saw him, I started to stop him in the crosswalk.  To invite him into the warmth of our building.  But I was on my way to Eggs Benedict.  A meal I could have shared with him.  But I didn't.  Instead, I turned to look over my right shoulder at him shuffling away to wherever he was going.

Opportunities to show grace to those around us arise every day.  And we too often simply allow the moment to pass.  Unremarked.  Unreflected.

I do not have regrets.  But I want to learn to be more open to these grace notes of life when they occur.

Maybe I will see him tomorrow.  If I do, I will invite him in a for a cup of warm and a chat.  Whether or not I do, I am going to listen for those moments when I can share the joy that is life.

Whether here -- or in Mexico.


Anonymous said...

Pick up a cup of Joe on your way in preparation to pass it along. If not him then maybe another.

Marilyn said...

This is so true, we listen to the birds, enjoy nature but do turn our heads to our man-kind. What are we so afraid of?
I became a little sentimental, remembering my Mom telling us when we were kids to acknowledge people. We were told to say hello to passers by, walk behind an older person in respect, and yes help someone open a door or cross the street. The walking behind Mr.Panozzo was hard, we were usually going to the Cigar Store (Canadian Seven-Eleven) down the street for our weekly ice cream cone, it took tenacity but my Mom sat on my shoulder my whole youth...keeping me in line. LOL!

Anonymous said...

So often the opportunity to accomplish a kindness passes by so quickly. Too late we realize we could have been of help. How do we know but what God has worked out the timing, so we would have that opportunity and someone would have been blessed. "Forget not to show love to strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware".


Adrienne said...

I know you'll do what is right.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- Good idea.

Marilyn -- My cousins from southern Oregon came to visit last week. We reminisced about an older gentleman in our little town who was a favorite of the kids -- including us. He wore funny hats. Could balance his cane on his foot. He was undoubtedly eccentric. Probably a bit retarded. We all agreed parents would now warn their children to stay away from him. And I see far too much of that mind-set these days. I say hello to almost everyone I meet on the street. And a large number seem almost afraid. We seem to have lost something far more precious than just civility.

Mom -- Opportunities are placed in our path. Too often we ignore them.

Adrienne -- I hope I will.

Tancho said...

The older we get the more we tend to notice things which we passed on during our rush to work, go home etc, in our younger days. Now you appreciate the beauty in nature and should stop to share good fortune with some who have lost it temporarily. ( Not the ones that work at losing it) . You mentioned the geese, my old office in Northern Cal, was located in the flight line of the geese as they flew south. I would always stop and cherish the sight of these gorgeous birds flying in formation, honking as they went...
Breathtaking..nature at it simple and finest. I could have sat there all day looking at them, but they just passed me by like I didn't even matter to them????
One of my favorite films is Winged Migration, if you haven't see it check it out.

Steve Cotton said...

Tancho -- Funny you should mention Winged Migration. I was just discussing it with my mentee. Yesterday, I could not think of the process that causes baby geese to recognize their mother. Another of those words that fell out of my head along with the Spanish nouns I once cherished. While researching online, I ran across Winged Migration again. Quite a nice movie. By the way, the verb I wanted was "imprinting."

Islagringo said...

I heartily agree. I think the current sentiment of Pass It Forward is great.

Marilyn said...

Winged Migration was a wonderful experience, so are the Life Series by Oprah Winfrey on PBS.
But something really fun to do is to go out to the wilderness or even a forest, which I love, with someone and blindfold yourself, have the other person guide you. Then suck in the sounds, scents, and even try touching trees etc. you will be surprised. I did it once on a group hike down to Muir Woods, Northern California. What a exciting experience. You will be surprised how much fuller that little hike is.
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, in the Japanese Garden they have identified different species of flowers in braille, that too is a very awesome experience.
You can enjoy nature with your eyes closed, but open those eyes to that person walking beside you.
Revel, Marilyn (edit the bottom if you can, if not don't print this comment. Don't know how else to talk to you)

ps: Steve I hope I can meet you before you go back to Mexico. I am so sorry for your loss of Jiggs. My daughter lost her Newfoundland, White Paw, or Paw as we called her at 19. We all still miss her so much and Jenn planted a white birch tree in her memory.
Call me if you like, 415-244-7608 (cell), I am in Portland now.

Anonymous said...

the word for the process of ducks and geese learning to recognize their mother is "imprinting."

i too have sometimes struggled on whether or not to help someone. i do when i can by buying them something to eat. i believe i've mentioned that before on a similar post-sorry if i'm being repetetive.

teresa in lake stevens

Gloria said...

I too agree it would be a very kind gesture to bring him a cup of coffee while on your way to work. I've done that and have felt their joy when they receive something from a stranger. Of course there are those that just take and run, but most are very appreciative. You are a good man and you'll do what you feel is best. Have a great weekend.

Steve Cotton said...

Islagringo -- Your "play it forward" comment stuck in my mind yesterday. I was at Safeway. An older gentleman wearing a veteran's flight cap asked the cashier to ring up his order and said he would be back. He forgot to bring his wallet. I felt his embarrassment; I had just recently done the same thing. As he was leaving the store, I stopped him and offered to pay for his order. It was only $6 or so, and he would have wasted that much in gasoline and time. I simply asked him to do something nice for someone else that day.

Marilyn -- Get together we shall.

Teresa -- Repeating good advice is never out of order.

Gloria -- I hope I see him again before I leave.