Sunday, December 17, 2017

2017.12.17 Little Things Can Be Big

Sometimes I say to myself: Lyn, bevel your edge!

What I mean is my critical edge. I can spoil the fun when I’m too serious for my own good or anyone else’s. Ask my sister. She is always excessively joyful and it bugs the bejesus out of me— sometimes, but not always. We joke and laugh about our edges and other things too fierce to mention. We have stopped saying: What’s wrong with you, or what what’s wrong with me? We are differently abled, as they love to say in the world of political correctness, but we have made a relationship of trust and mutuality that works. Not bad for intimate sibling enemies. It only took 75 years.

Still, I am naturally wired to look deep before I make any joy-leaps—wary. Christmas is the season of annoyingly excessive joy, and this Sunday is often but not always called Gaudete Sunday—designated for Joy. Some parishes signal Gaudete with a pink candle on the Advent wreath. “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice. . .” (Philippians 4:4)

Joy is that anxious unsettling undefinable energy of anticipation. Something new will happen and it will be good—but not yet.  It’s very hard not to push the season.  Joy isn't happiness and no whoopee; rather it is deep within, nestled in the manger of every human heart. 

Recently I was in Harvard Square walking as I frequently do to get my hair cut for too much money, just because I so admire the owner who does hair and makes me look spiffy and massages my scalp with kind firm fingers.  

Because of a construction site walkers were diverted into a one-lane walkway. That’s when I encountered this beggar in his wheelchair. He wasn’t a new sight. I often give him a little money. He suffers from some crippling condition, possibly Cerebral Palsy. But on this day he, or someone of genius, has placed him directly in the path of the rush of oncoming pedestrians—a startling presence. 

He doesn’t walk or talk; he can only move one arm a bit. He is unattractive, overweight, unkempt, unshaven or badly shaven; his eyes seem a little crossed, but it’s hard to tell because his head stays drooped. He sits slumped in his chair in the same place along the sidewalk—omnipresent. He’s right in my path and I’m annoyed, in a hurry.

I open my wallet. He waits. I have forgotten to get change and have only two $20 bills. Damn!

“Well, look at that,” I say. “I don’t have any smaller bills so this is it for today.”  I retrieve a twenty and start to put it in his pouch. He spots the bill. He looks up. He grins from ear to ear, toothless as well. And then he speaks.

"Thank you, oh thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” I say, or some such vapidity.  I want to move on. But no, he wants to talk.

“You know what I was just praying for?” I shake my head no. “I was just praying for snow” He laughs loudly. “Snow!”

To wish for snow would seem the least likely thing for an outdoor beggar to wish for, and yet the joke about wishing for snow is common. It’s a New England thing. The last thing we wants is SNOW, ever. He knows this and delights in his joke. I react with the horror that is expected. “Oh no, not snow!” 

He motions with his one good hand for me to bend towards him. I lean down. He motions me closer. I follow. He grabs onto my arm and pulls me even closer. I smell his stale breath. I recoil a little. Then he kisses my cheek. The kiss is wet, sloppy,  drooly, and wildly authentic—a tiny moment. As I leave him I tell him I say: “Stop praying for snow, Okay?”  I can still hear his chuckle.

As I walked on I wanted to wipe away the wet kiss using all the proper rationales. But I did not, could not, wipe away this kiss I neither deserved nor expected. I will never forget this little big thing.  

What I tell you happened just as I have said. I dare not say more. So: Amen.