I watched a friend’s two year old boy today, so I had two little boys. To wear out their energy, I loaded them up in the van and we went to the park. It was overcast and a little wet, but warm and we stayed for quite a while. There was a group of ladies at the swings chatting. They had likely come together and I found myself people watching from the corner of my eye between pushes on the swings. The social world of women is strange to me. I’m mostly a loner by nature not because I don’t like people, but because casual conversation bores me to death. My mind wanders and then I inevitably do something rude.
Women are so funny about rudeness. I know I am often rude. The rules of nicety in suburban mom culture are so complex and tedious that even if I did set my mind to learning them, I would not be able to keep them. If, by some chance, I was able to accomplish such a feat–my children would destroy it by being rude for me. So I just look from the outside, trying to seem sophisticated and aloof, while craving authentic interaction.
The little guy I was watching today is just like my boys. He doesn’t have much patience for the little kid’s play area. He quickly headed for the big kid’s playground and made his way fearlessly to the top. I wandered over to make sure I had my eye on him. He tends to wander. There was another small boy over there, daring to play on the big playground. His mother was alone. I thought, “I could talk to her. Maybe she feels lonely too.” She had a dog, so I started with that. Petting the dog and asking her questions about breeds and stuff.
She was very nice, but seemed self conscious and apologetic as our interactions continued. Was it because of her accent? Was it because of her Mexican style purse? Was it because she felt she didn’t really fit in? Her son was too active and adventurous, her skin too dark, her dog too excitable perhaps. Her dog started barking at one point and she made much effort to quiet her. I wish I could have told her that I didn’t care. She was a beautiful dog and all dogs bark sometimes. When I told her her purse was lovely, I wish she could have heard my sincerity. Perhaps she did. I wish I could have told her that she was okay with me; that I didn’t care if she breast or bottle fed her son, whether she vaccinated him, or if she planned to send him to school or homeschool, that thank you cards are overrated, and that whomever she voted for didn’t matter to me. I wish she knew that her citizenship status meant nothing to me and that I was glad she was there with her son. I wished that somehow this stranger could know that there are kind people in the world who aren’t looking to judge her. I want to be one of those people.
Instead we went our separate ways. I looked at the beads in the rotating cylinder as they passed through the holes and sorted themselves. It seemed to be a metaphor for my feelings at that moment. The beads roll and fall and sort and then everything gets turned around and we do it again. There seems to be no point or purpose to the movement. Some beads get lucky and fall through the holes. Or maybe the lucky ones are the ones that don’t fall.
There is no sense to this world. We humans try to make sense of it, and we fail because it is inherently unfair, unethical, and totally random. This sounds cynical, but it’s not because I know that this world isn’t where I belong. That’s not cynicism, it’s reality. I don’t belong with important people looking important and successful. I’m not designed to look like I fit in. Today I found a place for me, with one other woman who was alone with a dog and a little busy boy. Today I helped a friend watch her son. I shared some hard burdens with someone who really needed it. I made a place, however small, where I could belong and things did make sense for a little while. Was I rude? Probably. I was also kind in the right ways and to the right people and it mattered.
The Lord has said that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and that by small and simple means the Lord doth confound the wise. The good works that I do matter. The small and simple acts of love and connection make a difference. I can’t heal all the wounds in the world and fix all the problems that face me and the people I love. I can only live right now in this moment, and do what I can to make the space around me more compassionate. If I have done that, it will be enough.