Although the recent storms that have come barreling through Atlanta I know don’t come close to the one that slammed through Oklahoma this past week. It's as though nature is angry, the air is angry.
I was heading off to work today, driving through the village that is Oakhurst.
I saw a teenage girl with both hands burdened down, carrying something, backpack weighing on her back. She was running toward school. I didn't recognize her, didn't know her. I couldn't tell if she was running toward the middle school or the high school ~ either one was going to be uphill for her. I circled back to offer her a ride. And then I stopped. And after watching her run past, I continued on my way watching her in my rearview mirror. I was a stranger. She didn't know me and I didn't know her. I didn't want to (literally) brake her stride. I didn't want to cause her any more anxiety than she was already experiencing. Her plate was full for this day. I just wanted to offer her a kindness, but feared it would only add to her stress.
Not sure what it means about our days and about us, that we sometimes find ourselves turning away from doing a kindness. We don't want to make it harder for somebody else. In these days when we thirst for a kind word shared in the moment of weariness or hardship, it's hard to know how to convey it. The temptation is to keep our heads down and do what is in front of us, to take care of "me and mine." And especially in these days of natural and human-made violence, it feels as if kindness is what will get us through.
I said a prayer for this young, burdened-down girl ~ that she would make it to school in time and at some point be able to catch her breath. My watching her pass by on the street and then turn at the corner stays in my heart.
And so I will be intentional about "paying it forward." St. Francis' words are speaking down through the years ~ to us:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
We are participating in this world. Together. Connections and interconnections that reach beyond our immediate understandings. When I got to work this morning my hands were full, and a gentle man came from out of no where to open the door for me. A kindness given. To a stranger. (The opening of a door, a change in the air, a shift in what was toward what could be....)
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.