Lately I have been thinking about life and all its rich minutiae, the little moments that make everything so acute and achingly real. The long drag of the work day and the sudden lightness of its end. The earthy tang of kale tinting my morning smoothie, made all the more wonderful by the miracle of waking up early enough to make it before 6am. The drowsy pleasure of a 1am phone call. The startling gift of warmth on a January day. The silence of a mid-day meal spent slowly reading poetry. The hum of Adrienne’s words settling inside my chest.
On Friday I climbed the stairs to the fifth floor of the library and gazed out its endless windows, soaked in the sunlit buildings, and marveled at the intimacy of watching strangers enter and exit bearing their armloads of books. How lucky I am to work here, I thought, contemplating the shelves around me. How blessed to benefit from this sanctuary of education and learning.
Last week a woman and her granddaughter entered the store where I work, disappeared down its aisles and returned bearing coupons and a quiet request for colored pencils held behind the desk. I rang up their transaction; the grandmother gathered the pencils and pressed them into her granddaughter’s palms; and as they turned to walk away, I fought the urge to surrender to a sudden burst of tears. Something about their patience, their politeness, their gentleness — the tender shift of colored pencils from very old to very young — struck me as impossibly kind, and my heart swelled with gratitude for having witnessed it.
Small moments like these — incongruous, unpredictable — have heightened my awareness of this world. For every ragged sob over bruised feet and soul-sucking retail, there is the comfort of a day off and a bath in epsom salts. For every unbearable hour spent longing to hear someone’s voice, there is the release of writing a letter. For the helplessness that overtakes me as I watch Little Rock’s homeless leave the library for the bitter cold each night, there is the ability to hand out canvas totes to replace the duct-taped trash bags they haul behind their backs.
This world is not perfect. It is cruel and unfair and unkind. But even in the darkness, there are moments of improbable light.