Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Good News

When I was 18 my grandmother gave me a book. It was called Daily Power Thoughts and, although she didn't normally go in for anything like self-help or any demonstration of faith more public than communion at the Episcopal church at the foot of the hill, she'd bought it for my uncle when he was beginning to go through problems as a teenager, and when he cast it aside, unread, she'd picked it up herself and dutifully filled out every list and questionnaire that the authors demanded. So what she gave me was, in fact, many of her private thoughts on faith and life, far more than I'd ever have learned otherwise from such a private woman. Although she was as kind and as good as anyone you'd ever meet, the book was filled with self-recrimination and her struggles to better accept her husband's bouts of temper or be better. There was one part of the book that asked her to list "Nourishing People" in her life. I was shocked and humbled to see my own name written there (along with Billy Graham's) and ashamed, because I knew I wasn't really worthy of such a compliment, and that in her goodness she was seeing only the best in me, too, not all the smallness and selfishness she could not even have comprehended.

I remembered that phrase, though, of "nourishing people" because it's so apt - there are people in one's life who do indeed provide a sort of moral fuel, a reaffirmation of what we can be and what's worth sticking around for. There is one such friend - I'll call her L. - who's very much on my mind because I just saw her, and learned she is engaged to someone as kind and as dear as she. To call her a person without meanness makes her sound like a Beth March, and that's to deny her tremendous sense of the absurd and incredible goofiness and perfectly mordant comments on whatever author's absurdly overblown at the moment. But it's also true: she has a capacity for kindness, for unconditional support, and for spreading joy that I doubt she's even aware of. In short, she deserves happiness, and she's found it, and it's wonderful, and indeed nourishing; congratulations, L. - I wish I could be more articulate but sometimes when really in earnest I have trouble best expressing myself. I know you'll forgive me.