The Web of Good Deeds

Recently, I was talking to someone I hadn’t talked to in ages. She is the cousin of a dear friend. She lives here in the Seattle area. When I was moving 3100 miles, I was really stressed out about my housing situation, because I was bringing my two dogs and all my stuff with me, so if I didn’t have a house lined up before I got here, I’d have been in a real fix. I couldn’t afford to fly out in advance and set this all up, so I had no idea what I was going to do.

I did find a house on line, and my friend called his cousin, and, without knowing me at all, she took the time out of her busy schedule to go and check out the house for me and take pictures, so I was comfortable enough to put down a deposit sight unseen. I couldn’t have done it without her. The whole relocation thing would have crumbled like a house of cards.

That means that all that came afterwards, my great job, my financial security for the first time in my life, my husband, my happiness… none of that would have happened were it not for her kindness to a stranger. Needless to say, I thanked her profusely. But I’m sure she doesn’t get what a significant thing that was for me.

If you look at the big picture, our entire existence can be attributed in some way to the kindness of others. I’ve had so many people throughout my life who have given me a leg up. Scholarships. Crowdfunding. Letters of recommendation. Most of the clothing I’ve worn throughout my life has been from thrift stores, made affordable only through donations by others. Most of the furniture I’ve owned has come from the side of the road. People have given me advice. Others have stood between me and violence. Untold numbers have helped me find my way when I was lost.

We all walk upon a web of good deeds that is so densely woven that it has become a tapestry. I feel certain that much of the goodness is behind the scenes. We are able to stand tall for reasons unknown and often unappreciated. This decency forms the very fabric of society.

Even in these times of great division and conflict, I genuinely believe that most of us are fundamentally good. It’s important to remember that. It’s important to appreciate it, and never forget its value.

So, thanks again Sarah, and thanks to all the others who have come before you in my life, and all the ones who will surely come after you.

Tapestry

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No Good Deed…

Yesterday, I was driving to the grocery store, thinking about how mad the world has gone and how helpless I feel about everything. I don’t know how things came to be this way, and I don’t know what to do to stop this slow motion political train wreck from happening. Nothing I do as an individual will ever be good enough.

While I was in the grocery store, I bought some flowers and decided to drop them off at the Idriss Mosque on the way home. I can’t imagine what it must be like to feel as if you are surrounded by people who want you gone, and I wanted them to know that not everyone feels that way. In fact, the majority of us do not feel that way.

When I pulled in to their parking lot, there were several cars there, and I certainly did not want to disturb them in the middle of prayers, so I decided to simply leave the flowers on their front porch with a note.

As I approached, there was a woman standing on the sidewalk around the corner. She was a tiny, older woman. I really took little notice of her. I assumed she was waiting for a bus or a ride or something. But as I was leaving, she confronted me and asked me what I was doing.

When I told her I was leaving flowers, she asked me why, so I told her I wanted to give support to people who were being discriminated against.

In a thick accent, she then began quizzing me as to my family background, and I said Danish, and she shouted that I was not an American, then, and that I had better take care of myself instead of worrying about anyone else.

When I told her I couldn’t disagree more, she pointed at my flowers and said they were bullshit, and that I called them Islamic f*****s. As I walked away, I said I would never call anyone that. The hatred in her eyes is something I will never forget.

I went back to my car and wondered if she was going to throw the flowers away. That bothered me a great deal. But I knew I couldn’t sit there, guarding the flowers all day. So I left.

As I drove home, I grew very upset. Here I tried to do something good, and this woman had made me feel much worse. But was I leaving the flowers just so I could feel good? If so, then maybe that woman was right. Maybe they were bullshit, and I wasn’t doing it with a pure heart after all.

I came home and I sat down and I cried. I cried for me. I cried for the mosque. I cried for humanity in general. And I am still left with the feeling that nothing I do will ever be enough.

The experience was very surreal. I suspect there are lessons I will learn from it as I reflect on it over time. The only thing that I’m certain of is that I really did hope for a positive outcome.

I don’t know what that woman expected to achieve. I don’t know why she perceived me as being such a toxic force and felt the need to respond in kind. I just hope that one experience with a random hate-filled crazy woman will not keep me from trying, in my admittedly inadequate way, to heal some of the wounds in this world.

Update: Recently I received a lovely card from Idriss Mosque. It said, “Thank you for your continued support and friendship.”  I’m glad they got my message, and the encounter with the crazy woman was not their fault. I wish them well.

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