My friend Anne doesn’t ‘do’ computers. But no hurdle is high enough to stand in Anne’s way; the one she cleared Sunday evening — of tracking down her long lost friend ‘me’ — took over three months and help from her husband and oldest daughter.
It had been twenty-four years since Anne and I had talked. And before that, ten. Two conversations in the space of thirty-four years is scary witness of the fragility of personal relationships. Once a close friend, Ann served as one of my three bridesmaids; she was a staple of high school years, though seeds of friendship were first sown in the sixth grade Camp Fire group which my mother led. I had forgotten this last connection until Anne reminded me of it Sunday night. But, of course, the intervening years and physical distance lulled me into forgetting something more important.
While I was forgetting, Anne has been in the business of making connections. That’s how Anne approaches each day — she wakes up and says out loud to God, “Okay God, what are we going to do together today?” I’m not kidding. And I don’t think Anne is either. Because Anne lives her life doing one good deed after another.
Anne littered our two-hour conversation with evidence, though not to make a case. She talked in the matter-of-fact way of catching me up on the last 34 years of her life. Until recently, Anne devoted herself to the care of an elderly woman. They had no ties to one another, but a tie was built, as the eighty-year old grew to depend upon Anne’s time.
As I write, Ann has a young mother and an infant living with her — Anne offers free care to the infant so that the young mother can work. And there have been eleven other people before this, people who needed a helping hand and a place to call home.
A few weeks ago Anne ran into a woman in K-Mart, while picking up some little item. She noticed a customer with a shopping cart full of household goods. The cart proved catalyst for good conversation — one sentence led to another before the woman told Anne she was new in town, that she was buying the household items due to her recent move. A veteran of twelve moves herself, Anne convinced her fellow K-Mart shopper to empty her cart of those items which Anne had at home — then the woman allowed her daughter go with Anne (the stranger) to Anne’s house, so that the woman’s daughter could bring back Anne’s offering.
Anne makes light of the way she lives. But after our conversation, I began to wonder: What would the world come to if we had more Anne’s — if we had more strangers — or even close friends and family — like Anne? It was news of Daddy’s death which caused Anne to overcome the hurdle Sunday night. She tracked me down because she had read of Daddy’s death and wanted to let me know how very sorry she was. When she heard the news about Mother, she let me know how she had loved spending time at my house growing up, how Mom and our house had been her refuge.
All that to say this: We can never know how our lives will impact another — for good or ill. Nor do we realize the incredible power we hold to do good for each other. And even when aware of the simple good we do — like making others feel welcome in our home as Mother did — even then, we can’t fully appreciate the good that will someday grow from our own.
Good ripples through life, without boundaries. Good overcomes hurdles. Good even sneaks up to catch us unaware — only after we broke our connection Sunday evening did I realize… that I had been Anne’s good deed for the day.
I am wrestling with the apparent uselessness of my life, despite efforts to the contrary and knowing its as much perception as it is facts. We just don’t know.
Yes — we just don’t know.
Of course, the truth behind my Sunday tale is not ‘news’ — yet, it’s a message that never grows old, one we need to hear over and over, less we forget it’s power — or our own, for doing good.
By the way, because of you, I am in the midst of enjoying The High Flyer — I loved the Starbridge series and did not realize Susan Howatch had begun this new one until you wrote of it in your blog. Did you know it was from Howatch, that the seeds of desire were first planted of my finding a spiritual director… which led to me becoming a spiritual director? Reading Howatch again is a homecoming of sorts — and I’ve you to thank.
Isn’t it funny that we had just talked about Anne last summer one day. Glad you reconnected.
It was good to catch up. And because one good deed begets another, I passed along Anne’s contact info to Debbie — through her sister Terri.
Funny that none of us connected by Facebook — Debbie and Anne don’t even have pages (and as for me, I go on long enough to confirm a friend request.) But thankfully, we all have loved ones who ended up re-connecting us. Ann’s husband connected with Don on Facebook — and I got on yesterday long enough to connect with Terri so she could connect Debbie to Ann.
There’s a lesson here I’m sure… if only I could connect the dots!
I’ve been trying to find it without success – a comment and response on one of my posts to the effect that everything counts, every single thing. There is no act too small, no word too casual, no thought so hidden they will not affect the world, for good or for ill.
Of course the trick is learning to do good without regard for consequences – without thought of recompense or recognition. Soon enough the pure pleasure of speaking good and doing good will become apparent, and we’re well on our way to those “habits of being” that are transformative for our lives.
I mean – my goodness. Look how much good you just did for me by giving me such nourishment for my lunch hour!
After spending the last few days reflecting on my conversation with Anne, I finally decided I had to write about it. Writing does help me sort through everyday life — but of late — I’ve just had to drag myself to the computer. I don’t know why — I guess this is something else I need to think about.
But no thought is required on the words your wrote. You said it so well, my dear blogging friend. Just yesterday morning, as I was thinking about how friends enrich my life, I thought about the few blogs I keep up with — those on my list and a few off (and why they aren’t on the list when they are seems silly, as I think on it) — and how they enrich my life — your idea of a Lenten anthem still nourishes me to this day.
In a staff meeting one time, my boss once said about a co-worker: “She doesn’t know how good she is…. and not knowing is part of the reason why she’s so good.” Being less self-conscious, doing what comes naturally without fear of being found ‘wierd…”, which of course reminds me of your final bumper sticker in your latest post.
You’re very welcome. There is one more book in the series, The Heartbreaker and that is all. She isn’t planning on writing more.
There is also a yahoo group for Howatch fans too; I can forward you details if you are interested.
I sometimes think I’d like a director but then I think I’d drive even a good one mad….!
Only one more? With greed, I’d hoped for more.
I read “The Wonder Worker” years ago — and bought the next two after reading your post. Only 100 pages in to the second, I’ll be sure to take time to savor these stories.
But, of course, even good spiritual directors feel overwhelmed at times — and in real life, none can hope to measure up to those created by Howatch! Even so, I don’t wish to imagine life without one.
Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said:
What would life be like indeed?
I wanted to answer my own question — by saying this would happen which would lead to this and that happening…
the possibilities are too heady to contemplate….