A while back a dear friend sent me a book, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I loved the title but loved the book even more. It’s a collection of letters written to the then-anonymous Dear Sugar asking a range of questions from her thoughts on publishing, to friendship issues, to how to find the resolve to get out of bed each day after losing a child. I highlighted nearly half the book, and when I finished, instead of attacking the rest of my stacks of unread and half-finished dog-eared books, I re-read it again. I loved how she responded to people, how even when she told someone hard truths they perhaps would rather not hear, she still managed to do so with compassion.
Yesterday was rough. Musa sported a 102 degree fever and wanted a hug. All day. Frigid temps made me nervous to take him out to get infant’s Tylenol [the one we had, expired] but [I’ll blame it on sleep deprivation] I couldn’t figure out how much of the Children’s version to administer even after the on-call nurse explained the calculations. It’s not her fault, I was so tired I could have reasonably flubbed two plus two, so the decimals and multiplications she lobbed my way just served to make my eyes glaze over. Everyone still in pajamas as morning crept into late afternoon, and the house looking much worse for the wear, I felt tingles along my temples, the tell-tale signs of an impending headache. I sighed and checked the wall clock, it told me I had miles to go before I could rest.
Just then, a text. From our old real-estate agent. Check your front door, it said, there’s a package.
Holding the baby in my arms, the kiddo trailing behind me, I opened the door to discover a brown package wrapped in ribbons and filled with European hot chocolate, home-made marshmallows, and mint-chocolate ginger snaps. Hot cocoa was the last thing on my mind just two minutes earlier, but now I could just imagine it: lighting the fireplace and curling up in a blanket with a steaming mug of goodness. It made me smile. Shortly after, a dear friend called to help with my dosage conundrum. She didn’t judge my lack of numerical dexterity and went out of her way to get me the magic dosing number. Dose administered, a smile arrived, and the headache that loomed? vanished completely.
Two small acts of kindness made a day promising to become difficult, suddenly manageable.
Someone shared this photo on twitter a while back:
It’s an image that has stayed with me because, why, yes. Exactly. That’s life. A constant journey with twists and turns you often don’t see coming. And while we are the driving force of ploughing ahead, we are also propelled by each other and the tiny, beautiful acts of kindness we do for one another day in and day out. The friend who gave an hour of her time to talk to someone in distress might have helped release her frustration so she could find it easier to bite her lip instead of yelling when her son spilled a glass of milk on the kitchen floor, smiling instead that accidents happen, which may have helped the son laugh instead of lash out when his baby brother toppled his ‘ten story’ brick building and well, these tiny things? They add up. They build up to become the life we live and the people we are.
The longer I live, the more I’m starting to understand that life is less about what we have and don’t have but more about what we see and don’t see. And today? I see the power of tiny, beautiful things. They are anything but insubstantial.