Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Valentine

A couple of days ago, while driving, I happened up this sign: Seren-dip-ity, it said. A small thrill warmed through me, and ever sensitive to the power of positive suggestion, I was now on the look out for serendipitous events.

Today, being Easter, I went to the graveyard to visit a friend who died in a car crash while I was still in high school. I had never had an opportunity to visit his grave before and it took me well over an hour to locate the spot, but I was grateful I took the time. I kind of thought he might have known I was there.

Later in the evening, the fine weather once again seduced me out of doors; I fancied a stroll. Across the street from my house sits a school. I went over to plod along the track, which is situated on high ground to afford a nice view of the mountains.

Upon approaching the track, something in the sky caught my attention. A bright red balloon — a Valentine's balloon — bobbling along at a leisurely pace. Curious to see what it would do, I walked toward it just as the balloon floundered and then stagnated in the air. Before long I was standing immediately beneath it, and I watched in amazement as the balloon descended gently before my eyes. My hand calmly lifted and clasped the tail, as if merely choosing a lollipop from the sweets aisle.

This was a Valentine gift like no other, because it came from the heavens, and what better day to receive it than Easter Sunday? I thought of the dove descending upon our Lord near Jordan and my heart flooded with joy.

These are the moments that make life magical. As I pottered around the track, enjoying the sunset, the balloon trailing behind me, the smile in my chest expanded wider with each step. On my way home, I passed by the swing set and figured, Hey - why not? I liked the sound the balloon made as it flapped back and forth with the motions. I even took it for a quick zip down the slide before heading home.

My older brother once taught me an all-important lesson about leaving things in a better condition than they were found, so I gathered up some bits of trash along the way and came across yet another amazing find: a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Hidden treasure was everywhere! I just love those silly little jokes, and this one happened to suit the occasion.

Question: What flies and helps people?

"Balloons from Heaven!" was my immediate thought.

That, of course, was not the answer on the wrapper, which turned out to be: "A Helidoctor."

Whether this special balloon was gifted to me from the heavens (which it obviously was), was a Valentine gift from my friend on the other side (which I like to think), or a sprinkling of serendipity from the heli-doctor (which I kind of doubted), it matters not. What matters is the ridiculous amount of pleasure I've received while writing this blog and watching that wondrous balloon dance merrily across my bed.

Happy Valentines from a girl who believes in Easter miracles.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Messages Under the Desk

In high school, an old boyfriend of mine used to tape notes to the bottom side of my desk for me to find in sixth-hour Physics class. I loved it. It was the pinnacle of my day, and because of it, I developed an ambrosial affinity for secret messages... and somehow, miraculously, managed to pass Physics.

I recently went for a nature drive up by this mountain lake. Although it was frozen over, the weather was fine, and brought out more visitors than I would have expected. Wishing to be alone, I wandered down a path cordoned off to vehicles.

Some small way down the path, I came across a camping area, complete with picnic tables, restrooms and a dumpster. I also encountered a sleeping bag — one that appeared to have been hastily abandoned. Mushroom stubs littered the area, and upon closer examination, it appeared they had been picked from the roots of a tree. Someone had to have been pretty desperate to scavenge for those.

In my car, I always keep a 72 hour kit. It's pretty bare bones, but I figured even a few small items would be an improvement over those awful mushrooms. As I booked it back up the hill, the wind grew brisk. My ears began to ache from the cold and many of the fair-weather sightseers were driven away. I dug through my trunk and located the kit and found four ancient granola bars, an eighteen-hour candle, a small box of matches, some cough drops and a pair of earplugs... just in case the sleeping bag's owner also suffered from earaches.

I drew a heart on a piece of cardboard and stuffed all of the contents into the baggie with the granola bars and made my way back down the hill, where I carefully folded the package into the sleeping bag. I wished I had better to give.

A few days later, I decided to go back and check on things. This time I toted a lunch bag with sandwiches aplenty — plus a bit more; but I could see from a distance that the sleeping bag was gone. My heart kind of sank for a minute until I spotted something else: the baggie.

I raced closer to make sure. It sat in the same exact spot as I had left it — minus the sleeping bag. A hole had been ripped in the bottom and the granola bars and ear plugs were gone. The candle had also been used, but only just. It had probably been too windy to stay lit. But the most important thing left behind was the heart I had drawn. It seemed to have been placed just so, as if to serve as a reminder — a beacon of sorts — in returning what wasn't needed to the rightful owner.

An occlusion formed in my throat. It felt like a message under the desk.

For many years now, I have lived with a broken heart — the kind that doesn't mend. I might always be alone, but I'm grateful for the lessons that have taught me to empathize with those of an isolated status. I'm also grateful for the lessons that have taught me to find companionship and solace in a remnant of a note I once wrote for someone else.

I may or may not have helped someone, who may or may not have found value in it, and may or may not have left it behind for me on purpose... but I like to think they did, and I find joy in believing so. That's the trick of life: choosing joy.

There are many notes under the table for all of us if we will but take the time to see them. It could be a quick text from a friend or a "thank you" from the grocery store clerk, or it could be as big as a peace-offering from a loved one. Don't let them pass you by. Heed the call. Find the messages. Be generous with your optimism. And always, always find the good in others.

All Best Until Next Time,

Spreading Joy Writing Books

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Archbishop's Cope

My mother used to sit on the edge of my bed at night and ask this question:

“What's my wish for you?”
The answer was a little bit different for each of my siblings, but the gist was the same: to identify the people who loved us. Most of our answers included the following: Mom, Dad, Grandma, all eight siblings, the kitty, various cousins, the Dukes of Hazard big wheels, and even God.

I love that my mother took the time for each of us to rattle off the names of the people who loved us… one kid at a time. Bedtime was special for that reason, or rather it was my time to be special. The results had the effect of a warm cloak that instilled security and well-being, and made for adults who reflect upon people individually.

My wish in life is to be a blessing to the people around me, although, it often backfires in an aux-de-contraire type of way. Maybe that is how love works, the more we give the more we get. 

One of my favorite books — aside from the obvious classics, Calvin & Hobbes and Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow — is Les Misérables. Not because it's popular right now, but because it's deeply reflective on the moral integrity of the soul, and I find great value in those reflections.

I can’t help but think of M. Myriel’s words — AKA: The Bishop — who, after traveling on a mountain road for two days to visit a small parish, found the people too poor to provide him with a basic surplice in which he could perform his pastoral duties. Word soon spread and the next morning a fancy chest appeared in the village. It contained a rich robe, embroidered and delicate — an archbishop's cope — a much grander vestige than the humble priest had ever envisioned. It had been stolen from a cathedral months before and delivered during the night by thieves — the same thieves who had ensured the good bishop's peaceful passage over the mountain. Overcome with gratitude, the beloved priest uttered these words:

Photo credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography / / CC BY
“To him who is contented with a cure’s surplice, God sends an archbishop’s cope.”

Such heartfelt gratitude! There are a lot of people in my life who qualify as archbishop’s copes. Friends, neighbors, and even strangers with a smile. Blessings seem to abound everywhere when we choose to see them. I think my mother’s wish for me has been granted a thousand times over — or at least four or five, which is just as good. 

Along my journey in life, I hope to answer another mother's wish, the way others have done for mine... archbishop style. Please join me in this great endeavor.

Eliott McKay
Spreading Joy Writing Books

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Crank Call

A few weeks after hanging up my sign, I received an interesting phone call.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will recall that I found five dollars in the street and did a small experiment to see how much good I could accomplish with it. You can read more about that here.

I am happy to report that I have found the owner of the lost funds!

Surprisingly, I only received one phone call about it. I had expected to receive at least a few false claims, and perhaps that might have been the case if my sign had advertised fifty dollars, as opposed to five... but that's an experiment for another day, and a much greater pessimist than myself. :)

I was sitting at at my desk, wrangling with the right descriptors for my new character when the phone rang — a number I didn't recognize. I sat up, alert, at the possibility of a candidate, and flipped through the  mental files in my brain for the list of questions I had organized to help ascertain the true ownership of the funds in question.

My list comprised of these four questions, in progressive order:

1) Was your five dollars: a) a stack of ones; b) a roll of dimes; or c) a five dollar bill?

2) What was the condition of the bill: old? new? flat? crispy? wadded up? folded in half? starched? torn? stained with Cool-aid? scribbled upon?

3) Whereabouts did you lose the money?

4)  When did you lose it?

I was all geared to question my caller when:

"Did you order a pizza?"
This unexpected confabulation was followed by loud laughter from several people before the call was cut off.

I sat dazed for a second then realized that I had just been crank called! The last time that occurred, I was barely a teenager and the boys across the street were trying to lure me into a trap involving a tub of mud and a high-powered hose.

I had just expelled a lively chuckle when my phone rang again — the same number. I clicked the button and waited, but this time I got a "Hello?" quickly followed by, "Ok, guys, that's enough!"

The crank callers continued to snicker in the background.

How could I NOT have expected some super-great cranks with a sign like that? It totally made my day!

Photo credit: This file is lacking author information. / / Public Domain Mark 1.0
But this caller was serious, so I got down to the business of asking my questions, which he answered easily, with nothing to cast aspersions on the legitimacy of his claim. He lost the bill somewhere on his walk between the bus station and his girlfriend's house, which was right along the path. I asked my caller to tell me something interesting about himself, a hobby or something unique, and his reply was that there was nothing to make him special.

His friends razzed him over the comment, so I didn't press him further, but took down his mailing address so I could post his lost-and-found funds. I made sure to write him an encouraging note, having observed several nice qualities about him during our short conversation. He was of a sober mind, considerate, and embarrassed by his friends' behavior in crank calling me before he could make a serious inquiry. I liked this young man and felt he had a great future before him.

I have yet to meet a person on this good earth in whom I did not discern something particularly special.  Perhaps it's a talent of mine, developed from an early determination in life to leave behind a rather rotten side to me. It's my belief that hidden qualities are only hidden because people rarely pay attention to anything beyond the five inches of space immediately before their noses. I would wager that if we all took the time to observe, we would find, more often than not, that we were in the presence of greatness.

It occurs to me as I write this blog, that if someone would take the trouble to call over so small a sum as five dollars, they must be in real need of it... I think I'll send him ten.

Thanks for tuning in,

Eliott McKay
Spreading Joy Writing Books

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