One habit I’ve sort of unintentionally fallen into in recent years is a year-end review. That is, I’ve been finding it interesting to take some time between Christmas and New Year’s every year to consider the highs and lows of the year, reflecting on what I can take from this year to build on for the next. With all the highs and lows that made up 2022, this poem I first heard on Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer’s podcast stands out:
Small Kindnesses, by Danusha Lameris
“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say ‘bless you’
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. ‘Don’t die,’ we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us ‘honey’ when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, ‘Here,
have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead – you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’“
In particular, what gives me pause are lines that “we have so little of each other, now… only these brief moments of exchange.”
Like so many others,’ my life has changed during the past few years. COVID has meant I see students and colleagues far less often. My kids are getting older – one now in college – and they spend less time with us. The people I care for the most I don’t actually spend that much time with.
I resonate with the notion that the moments we have together may be “the true dwelling of the holy.” If I can remember to take one thing from this year into the next, it’s this: remember the sacredness of the times we have together – really appreciate them and make the most of them – for they are the essence of a good life.