Photo: I don’t really have a great picture to go with today’s post. I suppose that pretty days like the one pictured can send the mind to all sorts of different places.
A lot happened this week and I recounted most of the madness on Wednesday. Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish most of my tasks (though Brioche number one was spilled on the floor before its first rise and Brioche number two was shaped poorly and didn’t bake properly), but I don’t really want to talk about that. Quiet Thoughts are for the heavier things. Something interesting happened this week that I’ve been thinking about.
There was captivating news in the medical world this week, as new research has allowed two men who were paralyzed to regain stimulation, movement, and muscle mass in limbs that they had not be able to move in years. It’s giving new hope to thousands of people that they may someday be able to regain some of their functionality. News like this is incredible in general, but it caught my attention for different reasons. It took me right back to college.
During my junior year of college, I was a resident assistant. I enjoyed the job because I got to work on a staff, be responsible for other people, work on my creative side, and stretch my leadership skills (and also because it cut my costs in half: free room and board! What a deal!). I worked with a large staff, but always ended up partnered with one of the guys who shared my interest in Kung-Fu. We sparred often when we should have been studying and shared a few inside jokes, we also made a pretty good team when it came to enforcing dorm rules. We were studying different disciplines, so only spent time together when we were doing RA stuff, so I wouldn’t say that we were “close” friends. We’ll call him Jeff.
There was an afternoon in the spring of that year that seemed to halt campus. A really bad accident on I-95 shut down both sides of the highway and prevented students and professors from getting to or from classes. It really was quite remarkable… you could actually see the smoke from the accident from parts of campus. The accident did little to my day, and I went about it like the crazy person I was (20 credits each semester, RA, and at the time a writer/editor with the school newspaper). And when my day ended sometime around 11ish, I was excited to crawl into bed and sleep.
So when I got an IM at 1 in the morning (yes, IM, like on AIM.), I was miffed. At myself. For leaving the sound up on my computer.
“Hey, are you up?”
“Hey, seriously, are you up?”
“Hey, I’m coming by your room.”
A soft knock came to my door a few minutes later despite my (not very kind) protest.
In my pajamas, I answered the door. “Jeff, are you serious? Do you know what time it is?”
“I really need someone to talk to. I really need it, like, right now.”
I want to tell you that I was excited to come to his aid. I wasn’t. I complained for a minute, but stopped after getting a good look at him. I got dressed, found my cell phone and locked my door behind me. The air outside was warm, thank God, and the sky was clear. The campus was pretty silent, though there were kids out and about. I stood in the courtyard of my dorm and, still annoyed, asked what the hell the problem was.
“That accident this afternoon? That was my dad. He’s alive, but they said he’s paralyzed from the neck down.”
All of the air in the world might as well have been sucked out into space. What do you say to something like that?
I spent the next three hours of the night walking with, talking and listening to a son talk about his father with the gravest concern. I’m proud to say I listened more than I spoke, though I don’t remember all of the words said.
What I remember most is the feeling and thought that came afterwards, when the listening and speaking was over: He chose to trust me.
Think about all of the people in your world right at this moment. If the sky fell down on top of you, who would you call? Who would you trust at 1am to just walk, talk, and listen to?
It has never been lost on me that at that moment this guy who I knew and worked with, who I considered a person of note but not someone who is particularly close, decided to choose me. Of all the people in the entire world. That is something that is scary to me (I feel like I know nothing) and yet reassuring in some ways (maybe I am doing something right some of the time?).
We lost touch after that year–we were put on different staffs and then eventually went off for graduate school. Something random would happen in life and my mind would recall something he might have said. But when the medical news broke this week and I thought about the implications for him, and his father’s life, I had to reach out and say hello. I passed along the article, told him that I thought of him from time to time, told him that I’m a suburban mother of two.
And he wrote me back with updates of his own that I won’t divulge. He wrote this, “I want you to know that I think of you from time to time as well. Your kindness and friendship really helped me out.“
It might seem like nothing. The entire thing just might not seem like much at all. But my Quiet Thoughts are two-fold here: First, I’m so proud that 19-year-old me was reflective enough to leave her dorm room, walk out into the night and listen to someone grieve for a few hours. I have to think about how to teach that kind of kindness to my sons, just in case they are called to do the same. Second, I’m proud that 29-year-old me was aware enough to reach out again, to remember and care enough to stop and say hello. My Quiet Thoughts are also focused on the idea that simply choosing a person to trust with your burdens (or your joys) is a powerful action. Trust like that can make a connection that just might reach beyond your expectation–especially when it comes seemingly out of nowhere.
Who do you trust when the sky is falling down? Who do you share with when it is high above you, blue, bright, endless? When you share your burdens and your joys, what do you give and what do you gain? I have no answers. Indeed, I think I forgot this lesson over time. I rarely share my burdens with others (not even my husband) and I sometimes forget the share the joy as well. This will be something to ponder over the weekend and some time to come.
It is a warm spring Friday, reader. Congratulations on making it to another one. I wish you blue skies and maybe a little bit of soft grass. I wish you the opportunity to look up at a cloud, see a shape and wonder about it for a given amount of time. I wish you an early morning shower outside of an open window, filling your home with the smell of soil, lulling you to gentle sleep. I wish you soft breezes, new birds singing arias from the trees outside your window, the crunch of new greens in a freshly made salad. I wish you the giggles of children at an Easter Egg hunt, a box lined with tissue paper containing a new garment in bright spring colors, and invitation to tea in a garden. I wish you the opportunity to listen to someone who needs to speak, to share with a person who wants to listen, to feel the connection that we all need to one another. I wish you joy and warmth.
In-law post on Monday? I bought enough booze to numb it all. Until then, take care.