At the gym this past weekend, a woman struck up a conversation with me. I believe she complimented my bag (nearly everyone does) and asked if I’m a quilter.“No, no”, I responded, too eager to tell her it was lovingly made by my mother-in-law and has been my exercise catchall since. She mentioned she didn’t realize Saturdays were so busy, that she only comes to swim, that she lives in Hampshire, that she’s a writer, a widow…And my heart vernacular translated her ease of detail to this: she is very, very lonely.
I told her my husband comes to swim too, but I come for the classes. And yes, Saturdays are always packed. Later in the conversation, I mentioned that he loves to go dancing, but that I’m more of a homebody, to which she replied, “Your husband likes to dance and you don’t go? That’s terrible. Shame on you!” I wasn’t prepared for her candor, but immediately reminded myself that perhaps her husband was like mine and perhaps she was like me. And now he’s gone and she’s left remembering no’s instead of yeses and dance floors that could have been explored by anxious feet and a sacrificial spirit.
By this time we were joined by another woman, excusing herself as she wiggled past me wrapped in the club’s small white towel, length-appropriate only for those aged 8 and under. I responded then, with both women’s backs toward me, “Well, I breathe into him in other ways, so I don’t feel too bad about the dancing.” “What was that,” miniscule-towel-woman asked, “you breathe into him? That’s a lovely thought.” “Well, I do,” I responded. “We all do.” And there it was: we. all. do.
I realize there is much out of my control, which is oftentimes why I refrain from watching the news, reading the paper and do a daily dodge of Yahoo News clips. Because here’s the thing: bullets, terror and hatred are out there. They’re in every country and every city on this great big, blue planet. And when we hear of them and see the faces of those hurt or killed by them, I believe something Divine is silenced within us…something that inherently whispers goodness and tells us we’re more.
I’ll remember that Divine voice then next time a terror plot is foiled or carried out, the next time someone is trafficked, the next time a life is senselessly taken, the next time skin color is a reason for profiling, the next time a child is abused for being “different”, the next time a newborn is dumped in a trashcan, and the next time one person’s trauma is put upon another through acts of violence or emotional indifference.
And then I’ll remind myself that while I may not be able to change the hearts of the man wielding a machete in Nigeria or the woman setting her newborn alight in New Jersey, I can choose how and what I breathe into others.
I can choose kindness and love, instead of malice and hatred.
I can choose grace and forgiveness, instead of frustration and hostility.
I can choose Fullness instead of fear and life instead of death.
And if I breathe goodness into you, and you breathe it into others, and so on and so forth, then perhaps we will be the paddles which shock emotional hearts into rhythm. And perhaps then that Divine voice, our Divine voice, will whisper once more.
Our circle might seem small and our impact even smaller, but if we don’t act for fear that our actions won’t be enough, we extinguish our flame before it has even met the breath of opposition.
Make the choice to act.
Breathe Truth, light, Fullness and love into those who cross your path.
And then do this…
ask that they might be, as well.