“In Praise of Small Kindnesses”
Today’s is a soft meditation in praise of the enormousness of small kindnesses. Like the café worker who waved enthusiastically to my father as he walked in the door of the coffee shop like she was expecting him, like he was a regular in this hipster enclave instead of a septuagenarian in khaki shorts and white tennis shoes. He met me here on my workday so I could help him format a document — something he couldn’t figure out how to do at home no matter how many buttons he tried, something my mother always did for him in the decades after he gave up his trusty typewriter. So he arrived at the coffee shop vulnerable and exasperated in that way that only technology can make us feel: like slow, dependent children — and sorely missing my mother. Like the barista who didn’t blink when he ordered his coffee the wrong way, when he said la-TAY instead of LAH-tey, who took his order from our table as if we were in a sit-down restaurant and she was our waiter, who smiled the whole time like a halo of warm light, softening the space everywhere, who made him feel like he belonged. You cannot know how those small gestures matter, unless you are him, unless you are me, watching, unless you see his shoulders relax, in that way that we can do only when we feel safe and seen enough to let go, and his eyes dampen, the tiny liquid pools held in at the rims, barely noticeable, as he smiles and says, She always knew how to do this for me. For years she did this. She would have been 69 today. How I miss her.
This poem is reprinted with permission of the author.