This morning I received three bits of news on my way from the office to the playground. One, two, three, wham! The information proved a bit more than I could manage and I found myself drifting toward ’tilt’ even before the first bell.
I held long enough to say good morning to the school and I sent the children inside. I took a couple steps, but knew that I needed to sit. Just a minute to collect myself before heading in.
I found a bench that was little more than splinters and chipped paint, but in this instance, splinters and chipped paint were perfect. I let my eyes close, gave myself permission, and then sat down.
Meanwhile, as I paused, folks did not approach to ask what might be happening. The yard drained out. To my internal deliberations, the universe responded with silence.
That’s how things started.
How long the moment lasted I can’t be sure. With eyes closed, I attuned to sounds – scrapes and bangs as classroom windows opened or a trashcan rattled to my right as someone kicked it. Also, among these sounds, I heard a child’s voice – singing – from a short distance off. As the voice came closer singing faded to humming, and then breathing no more than a few feet away.
I felt a tap tap on my knee and opened my eyes to see a seven year old, Vanessa, examining me as if to inquire how I might have found myself waylaid there. She also held three poppies in her right hand which she raised an inch below my nose.
“For you.” Only these words. Nothing else.
A bit farther off, her mother looked on. Such a kind face I said to myself. Thank you I tried to say, but instead I stumbled upon the silliness of the situation. How must I look, sitting all alone, I asked myself? Vanessa laid the flowers next to me and she grinned as she eyed me for a moment more.
“Everything OK?” The mother spoke now.
I took stock, sat up, and pulled in a big breath. “Sure! Just collecting myself here.” Then Vanessa darted through the doorway with her mother following behind. I scanned the empty playground and clutched my keys as if to verify that I existed. I also went inside.
I am lifting this moment up from the day’s misplaced many. Each day offers intersections that can slip away like forgotten songs, but I wanted to hold on to this one. Two people, paused, took time, and took care. “A significant counterpoint to your usual narrative,” as a colleague once said.
On this blacktop, I have to be many things to many people. Today, I got to be try on being no one other than myself, seen in my as-is condition. A brave face hides things, but it offer little to carry the cause. Instead, from simple kindness, I found sustenance enough to stand and start over.
A moment is only as hard as the stories I tell myself. With a full day before me, a greater agency appeared to have touched me through a seven year old. “Stand up.” Her tap affirmed that purpose would present itself – to return me to what I was called to be – enough for at least this day.