Sunday, August 31, 2008

gifts that enlarge us

It was an August day in 2006. I had a quiet week-end ahead of me. The money compartment of my wallet was empty and there would be a few days before the next payday. I just sighed and picked up a book sitting on the side table.

The book was titled "Cross + Wise: a prayer walkers handbook" by Henry Gruver. I picked the used book up weeks before thinking it would inspire me in my own walks. This was the perfect time to discover the authors story and gather some wisdom.

I opened the first page, a twenty dollar bill fell out! I just sat there stunned. I mean, how often does money literally fall into your lap? I read a few pages, maybe the reader used the $20 as a bookmark on a particularly interesting page. Another twenty fluttered down.

Now I got excited and my humanity showed it's face. I fanned the other pages to see if there were more "bookmarks". Nope, but $40.00 was quite a gift , given my temporary lack.

I progressed to feeling incredibly humble. I felt good. I felt wonder. I could have taken the money back to book seller but I didn't. I thought about the previous owner of the book and uttered a prayer of thanks. A day later I used the cash to buy food for the days ahead (not that I would have starved with what I had). I did donate 10% to a charity (I am not one to look providence in the face and go on my merry way)

I remembered this moment last week, as I was reading "Moral Clarity " by Susan Neiman. In her chapter on reverence she wrote: " What you feel in such a moment isn't the kind of gratitude you feel for a gift from a loved one, but closer to what you feel for an unexpected act of kindness from a passing stranger....It's an experience not simply of pleasure, but of silent celebration. These are the feelings that enlarge us and make us better than before."

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