The Life Changing Magic of Kindness
In The Storm, by Mary Oliver Some black ducks were shrugged up on the shore. It was snowing hard, from the east, and the sea was in disorder. Then some sanderlings, five inches long with beaks like wire, flew in, snowflakes on their backs, and settled in a row behind the ducks -- whose backs were also covered with snow -- so close they were all but touching, they were all but under the roof of the duck's tails, so the wind, pretty much, blew over them. They stayed that way, motionless, for maybe an hour, then the sanderlings, each a handful of feathers, shifted, and were blown away out over the water which was still raging. But, somehow, they came back and again the ducks, like a feathered hedge, let them crouch there, and live. If someone you didn't know told you this, as I am telling you this, would you believe it? Belief isn't always easy. But this much I have learned -- if not enough else -- to live with my eyes open. I know what everyone wants is a miracle. This wasn't a miracle. Unless, of course, kindness -- as now and again some rare person has suggested -- is a miracle. As surely it is.
For several weeks, a road construction crew was part of my weekly routine. Twice a week, passing over the bridge from West Virginia into Maryland, I came to a stop with a line of fellow drivers along this route where extensive work meant the two lane road was now only one. On each end, a person was positioned with a sign indicating either to stop or to move slowly. The first day I passed through, unaware of the construction, my mood soured instantly as I was brought to a full stop with a handful of cars in front of me. Now the quick errand to purchase fruit and veggies wouldn’t be so quick. Yet, as I made my way forward I saw him—the man holding the “drive slowly” sign was smiling from ear to ear, waving energetically at each driver. I made eye contact with him, smiled a bit. My mood softened.
Later that week, heading over the same stretch of road in even more of a hurry, I cursed as I once again hit the stopped line of traffic. How had I forgotten there was construction happening, I snarled through gritted teeth. This time I drove through with a simple nod from the person holding the sign. When I returned, however, the man from earlier was there. I was on the moving side of traffic but I spotted him right away. I had forgotten about this little pleasure, but once again, he was waving and grinning at each person as they passed. I couldn’t help but smile and wave in return.
The next week, again, there I landed. Stopped by construction, my first thought was I can’t believe they’re still working here. But then I remembered the man who I now thought of as my road crew friend. What a blessing he is, I thought as I was greeted as exuberantly as ever.
Over the course of the next several drives, something in me changed. I found myself remembering this man long after my drive and wondered as I approached the area of construction if he’d be there. I found myself looking forward to seeing him. His presence had imprinted itself on me.