When I say this phrase ‘moments that change our life’ I imagine we all think of an event of magnitude. Something that anyone witnessing would immediately identify as a life-altering event. But what if it isn’t? What if the experience is so small, or ordinary that it virtually goes unnoticed by anyone other than oneself? In my mind these are the big moments because the meaning is not inherent in the event but comes in the form of a personal message.
I had one of these moments when I was twenty. I was at the home of my soon-to-be husband, Bill. Bill’s family consisted of his parents, Betty and Howard, and his four brothers: Jimmy, Bobby, Johnny, Tommy. Bill was the eldest. As the new addition, I was the girl. Bill and I had our own apartment but we were often at his parents house with the other brothers. In this instance, we were around the dinning table when Jimmy asked John to get him something from the kitchen. John, without hesitation, got up and retrieve whatever it was. That’s it! The whole story is in that moment.
What struck me was John’s action. It wasn’t easier for him to get it, more convenient, or requiring knowledge only he had. He just did it! In my family we kept an emotional distance to one another. I don’t recall us doing for one another unless it was perceived to be one’s duty, or a chore, or a response to a demand. We did not just act because asked or, at least, I never recall such an event. In the world in which I grew up, acting from self interest seemed quite ordinary.
When Jim asked John I remember thinking “get it yourself”. Perhaps that is why John’s response stuck with me. He didn’t do what I thought everyone would do, he did the opposite – he acted without any self-interest. He didn’t make a smart retort or an exaggerated act of compliance, he wasn’t doing it because Jim was older/bigger or he would get some future payback. He just did it. It was a simple act of generosity.
We live in a culture that laughs at snarky remarks, the glib put-down, the humor of aggression. A world where the clever remark demands to be noticed; wants to know that the arrow has hit the mark. We also live in a culture of quiet generosity, where the act of open-heartedness often goes by unseen. Where there isn’t any intention to teach or insist on acknowledgement of virtue.
I like knowing that in any moment someone is acting from pure generosity, no strings attached. I like that generosity is quiet and the moment often goes unnoticed. Unless, there is someone there who is ready to benefit from being the witness, then that moment changes their life.
What moments have changed your life?