Friday, November 23, 2012

Humble Hitchhikers

A few weeks ago, I was driving along a back freeway at night. The road was empty and I thought I was alone when I nearly hit someone walking on the side of the road. The person wore dark clothes, but I could see it was a lady. The nearest town was at least twenty miles ahead and we were both going the same direction. I flipped around and scoped her out the best I could in the dark; she didn't seem too dangerous, so I offered her a ride.

It's funny how our intended good deeds always escalate into way more than we could ever have anticipated.

My passenger, whom we'll call Amy, had been dropped off at a shopping center earlier that morning by a family member that had short-term memory problems. She had been waiting for her ride for nearly twelve hours, and after making several phones calls to no avail, embarked on a thirty-mile hike to get home to her seven-year-old daughter. Amy's shoes were far from comfortable and her brown duds were frayed, holey rags.

Amy explained that she was in a vocational rehabilitation program, and her assignment that week was to purchase three new outfits from a department store where her program had an account. She had just completed her online degree and was looking for work. Her distress over her daughter was amplified by a failure to complete her assigned task; the shopping center had so intimidated her with its overbearing fanciness, the poor girl never dared enter the premises.

My opportunity seemed clear; I asked if she would like me to take her shopping — an evil I had long detested — but her reaction confirmed the date, and I was committed. The next morning, her daughter, "Celia," accompanied us.

Photo credit: elbfoto / / CC BY
Amy wanted to buy some jeans and a new shirt before venturing into the "fancy" store, so I took her to Gen-X, hoping to find something inexpensive. 

Amy had turned to a vegan lifestyle the year before and estimated her size to be around a nine, but hidden under those rotting folds of material was a size-three frame, and jeans at those proportions were only ten dollars a pair: she bought five, plus two t-shirts.

Fully attired in her new vestments, Amy was now ready to face the all-intimidating store, which turned out to be nothing more than a JC Penney.

Only after I pointed out the regular folks in the store — a farmer to one side shopping for overalls and an elderly lady digging through purses in the nylon section — was Amy able to overcome her fears enough to do what she came to do: shop.

We browsed around for a while to see what kinds of styles she liked, and from that point forward, Amy never left the dressing room. Her daughter and I scoured every rack in the place, barraging her with a continual feed of different designs and colors, and nine hours later, Amy was down to her final choices. She had never conceived of having so many options in all of her life, and was overcome by such abundance.

Once we were settled into the car, Amy made one last request. She wanted to celebrate her graduation, and she wanted to do it with myself and her daughter, since we were the only people in her life who valued her achievement. I was floored. No one in her family appreciated her hard-earned efforts? I had spent enough years slaving after the pursuit of education to know what a great thing she had accomplished, and we celebrated heartily!

We went to an Italian restaurant — the height of sophistication to my new-found friend — and now to me as well. Amy had planned this event in her head months before finishing her classes, and we took our time. What an occasion it was!

Serving others always seems to begin with this magnanimous image of the generous benefactor, bestowing kindness upon some poor soul, but in the end, it's always the other way around. The giver is often the poor soul in need of enrichment.

If either of us was a hitchhiker that day, it was me. Amy allowed me to hitch a ride on her genuine spirit, her friendship, and blessed me with a change of perspective on a most important principle: gratitude.

How easy it is to take things for granted: things like supportive people in our lives, or clothing that fits, aside from our daily breath. Please join me in spreading joy.

Eliott, Humbled.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Mystery Miracle

Two years ago, around Christmas time, my father lost his wife. My sister wanted to gift him with a clean house, but was unable to make it in to the area. I had been staying with another sister, and had left the day before, but ended up swinging by an old friend's house and spending the night. The next morning, on my drive out of town, I thought, "Hey! Maybe I can help!"

I cruised over to what was now a reluctant bachelor pad and found that a hurricane — or worse — must have passed through the house; but no, it was just the result of two men living on their own, my dad and my step brother. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work and six hours later the place was polished to a high shine. I threw some mix into the bread maker and left a note from my sister, completely neglecting to inform her that I had "delivered" her gift, no one the wiser for my presence.

Photo credit: aussiegall / / CC BY
A few hours later, I got a text that said: "How does dad turn off the bread maker!" I smiled and played ignorant; it was, after all, someone else's gift. Other messages came: "Who did this?" "I thought she was out of town?" — and then from my dad, "How did she get here, clean my house, and get back home so fast?" Other family members were indignant that she had never shown for the family party, being in town after all!

These were delicious morsels to be relished, and it was a befuddling mystery that remained unsolved... that is, until this day.

Once again, I decided my dad could use a little help in his domestic aesthetics. So I snuck into his house and did my thing — this time with rubber gloves in tact — with the full intent of leaving another scandal-mongering note from the self-same sister; but my plans were foiled: I was caught by my step-brother.

An awkward moment lingered between us before he started talking about his hair, which apparently hadn't been cut in the two years since the passing of his mother. I went back to my scrubbing while he continued to elaborate on the status of his matted tangles. When I finally realized he was asking my opinion, I looked up from my foaming, bubbly position to find that the situation was, indeed, beyond repair. 

Photo credit: striatic / / CC BY
Something about his expression prompted me to inquire — rather timidly — if he would like me to cut his hair. Two minutes later I was holding the shears, hoping beyond hope that I wouldn't cause any royal damage, as I was hardly a master stylist. Luckily, he had a thick nimbus that hid most of my mistakes.

It was a day of cleansing indeed. A change overcame my estranged brother and a renewed feeling settled over us. It felt like a new beginning for him. His grief had swallowed him whole, and in the shedding of that frizzy afro, I watched him emerge as if from a deep pit. I know it will be a long road for him, but how grateful I am that I took the time from my busy do-gooding schedule to notice where the real service needed to be performed.

In life, people are what matter most, not clever stories for my blog: people. There were no texts to be reveled, or demands about the bread machine, but instead a quiet peace that made the subsequent cleansing all the more enjoyable. I didn't get to finish everything on my list, because, thankfully, it was usurped by the most important task of all: serving our fellow man.

Later that night, I got a text: "I knew it was you!"

Please join me in spreading joy this holiday season; I may have started prematurely, but it's never too early to indulge in a bit of fairy mischief. You are welcome to share your adventures in the comments section below and inspire others to action.

All Best until Next Time,


Monday, November 12, 2012

Faith Returned

Last week, while driving, I saw this book sprawled on the road — right before I ran over it. Being a writer, curiosity struck and I flipped around to see which unlucky title had — sadly — been left for roadkill.

What I found is a book on faith, written by a preacher of a small denomination. It's the kind of book where the reader fills in the blanks. The book was nearly completed, aside from the last ten pages, where the final entry was angry and frustrated, and I suspect, was tossed out the window.

I kept thinking I didn't want that person to lose their faith and after a few days I made up my mind to track down the owner. It took some digging, as there was only a signature where the person had dedicated their life to God, and one of the letters was hard to decipher, but I'm fairly certain I got the right person. We'll call her Susan.

Picture by: Maggiemae 
Yesterday, I embarked on the task at hand, not really knowing what to expect. What if the door got slammed in my face or the dogs were set upon me. I had this whole speech prepared to help minimize the chances of getting splattered in the face with rotten peaches. My legs shook as I approached the door, and I kept thinking of that line from that movie, We Bought A Zoo:

"Sometimes you only need twenty seconds of insane courage, and I promise, something great will come of it."

So, I knocked, and waited, and knocked again, and waited, the frog in my heart thumping for escape — but no one was home.

Kids were playing in the street, taking advantage of the sunny weather, when I did a seemingly insignificant act: placed the book at the door with a note, "from someone who cares." I didn't want Susan to feel obligated to contact me by leaving my information. Plus, she might feel awkward, knowing I had thumbed through her faith diary in order to ascertain her identity. My note indicated I had respected her privacy as much as possible.

I was once told that each of God's creations were graven upon the palms of his hands. It makes sense. When a carpenter works out a new creation, he runs his tools lovingly along the grain, and each curve is a delicate result of the pressure in his palms. I like thinking that I'm graven there too, in God's hands, as well as Susan.

I solemnly believe that the world's problems can be straightened if each of us resolves to be a better person and shows love for our fellow man.

Please feel free to pass this message along and join the throngs of fairies out there making the world a better place, one Susan at a time. I hope she finds her faith. Please feel free to add your good deeds in the comments section below and inspire others to greatness!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Irish Fairies & A Holiday Challenge

Once, while staying in West Cork, Ireland, at a place called Crab Cottage, I found this special note to the Irish Fairies hidden atop a wardrobe. My favorite line was this:

Please, please, please reply to us. We would LOVE to know you're out there, and to meet you... leave your note behind the swing tree.

Now, this was no ordinary swing tree. It was an orange ball that hung from a rope at the edge of a cliff, and that daring little swing flitted right over it. The wind in a place like that can get crazy, and more than a few times that ball flounced about — I liked to think it was the fairies having a good time in the wild Irish winds.

I just love the "i" on this fantastic envelope:

"i" believe in fairies... the kind all around us, the people in our lives that make things magical. My life has been touched by an Almond Joy Fairy (who left miniature Almond Joy's sprinkled around the house), a Toblerone fairy, a Secret Santa fairy, who left me a personal message on my bathroom mirror when I was a kid, and an Oreo Cookie Fairy.

Fairies of joy! Fairies of love! Such sublime fairies of happiness!

My self-proclaimed mission in life has always been to spread joy everywhere. I'm not always great at it, but I like to think I'm a bit of a fairy too... and so is anyone who wishes to bless the lives of others. Do you think those blessed Irish Fairies answered our young investigators, Mille and Esme? You bet they did, just the way you and I, and all the other fairies in our lives did — thank our lucky stars!

My Holiday Challenge:

This year, my holiday challenge is to open my eyes and do small, creative kindnesses for others and blog about them as often as seems appropriately sharable. I'd like to invite you to join me and share your fairy-like deeds in the comments section of my blog and help inspire others!

These are the beginnings of Eliott's Life Adventures.

All Best,

Eliott McKay

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