Last evening, I arrived home from Lincoln’s cottage without my cell phone. It was late, after 8 pm, and I was hungry because after dinner I had taken him for a walk…no mosquitos yet, sun gilding the top of Cartier, and a perfect temperature. I had to stop for groceries during which two bags of Orville Redenbacher’s sweet and salty popcorn jumped in my cart and would not leave. Hungry-shopping is always a bad idea!
A young man with a basket containing a few items stood behind me in the line-up at the till so I asked him to go ahead. He could not meet my eyes for longer than a second but quietly said, “Are you sure?” and then, “Thank you.”
I got a chance to notice the crumbling, foam sleeping mat attached to his faded canvas pack. Everything about him seemed to speak to struggle and poverty. He pulled coins out of his pocket and counted them twice.
I slipped around to the other side of the till and asked the cashier to include his bill with mine. This was not generosity— it made no difference to me, cost me money I could easily spare. I had been thinking all day about Chrissy, the young woman from Castlegar who was killed on the bridge in London and her family’s kindness campaign and wondering how people, in the middle of that kind of grief, rise so high. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to respond standing right in front of me.
When she refused his payment, and explained why, he seemed at first bewildered and then turned to me.
“It’s okay,” I said, or something like, “I needed to pay something forward.”
He said thanks and disappeared out the door.
It made the cashier cry.
“I have a son…,” she said.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” I said and I told her about Chrissy and her family.
When I got home, I realized that my phone was still in the bag on the back of Lincoln’s wheelchair and set to ring for my final pill of the day at 10 pm. Waiting until today to go in was not an option.
The cottage was quiet and the lights dimmed when I returned. Lincoln was in bed, comfortably positioned. He opened his eyes when I tiptoed in. I picked up my phone and the also-forgotten bag of rhubarb, a gift from dear Joan, whose husband shares Lincoln’s table. When I bent over to whisper my good night and I love you’s to him, he closed his eyes and he smiled.
My turn for tears.
I lay in bed last night and thought of all of us, Lincoln and me, the young man, the cashier, beautiful Chrissy and all who mourn her, and how our connections spiral out into the world in infinite, con-joined webs of joy and sorrow and suffering and grace and how it is all too big to comprehend and yet each piece is so small.
Good morning. Good. Morning.