Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Encounter

...Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
-From the poem 'Kindness' by Naomi Shihab Nye

In Autumn of 2001 my Spouse, who did not yet know he was going to gain that title, sat reading in a cafeteria in a university in Boston, Massachusetts. He was waiting to speak to a professor he did not know, in hopes that he might be able to offer the institution some of his skills and that, in turn, a place in the esteemed university might better his own life.
Spouse was perched on a chair thinking his own quiet thoughts when he felt a presence nearby. He looked up to see an elderly lady of what he guessed was Eastern European descent.
"Young man," she placed a hand upon his shoulder, "I don't know what you're looking for but you will find it soon."
My Spouse was rather startled but he thanked her anyhow.
"That's very kind of you," he stammered.
She returned to her seat. A few minutes later Spouse's time was up and he got to his feet and left the cafeteria. As he was exiting he noticed the lady still sitting and reading calmly at her table as though she had not just performed a curious act.
He swept quickly out the door, took a right turn, sped along by the Charles River and through the streets, hurrying to meet the professor who was in another part of town.
As my Spouse prepared for the light to change so he could cross the street, Spouse noticed a particular face in the crowd on the other side. In another moment the figure was gone, presumably lost in the throngs of pedestrians. How the old woman had managed to scramble out of the building, overtake him and get to the other side of the street before he did is yet an unresolved mystery. Spouse insists to this day that it was most positively the same lady.
I would be happy to think that she was just being kind in offering consolation and encouragement to a lost soul. Perhaps, though, she was more wise than it appeared, for it was a distinctly peculiar thing to lay a hand on a stranger's shoulder and whisper mysterious kindness into his ear.
We cannot ever know what she meant. We can only search, every day, for what the old woman hinted at, and assume that somewhere along the way, everybody finds what they want- even if it is disguised as something else.


mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful little story. and who could this magical little old lady be?

the thing is to be satisfied and content with receiving life's gifts and lessons in all the disguised forms they arrive in....the less we want the happier we be.

thanks for the story and the poem.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Ah, we shall continue to wonder who she was.
Less is certainly more; the initial aim of my blog was to show that- my earliest posts are about keeping life simple. That's how I like to be.
I'm so happy you're coming by and leaving messages :)

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