Sunday Morning ~ Kindness
Ufulu ubwezera ufulu. ~ Kindness calls for a return of kindness.
~ Chewa proverb
July 21, 2019
Fifty years ago yesterday I was in a little general store in Montana with my father and siblings buying camping supplies. There was a small black and white television set on a shelf over the cash register tuned in to the lunar landing. I don’t know if it was timed for us to get our provisions at that time, if my father knew there’d be a TV in this little store, or if we even were aware of what time it was happening. We didn’t get news when we were camping. But there we were with every customer and employee huddled around the checkout counter watching a historical moment through this miracle of broadcast television. I was twelve years old, preoccupied with how to purchase sanitary pads in a discreet way so my brothers wouldn’t see them. Having a menses was somehow shameful in my adolescence. I remember being distraught seeing the holdup at the counter, wanting to get my necessities paid for and into a secure location. It was before I was allowed to use tampons and those boxes of pads were huge! It was my youngest brother’s birthday, and I think we were buying something a little special for his birthday supper. His head barely reached over the top of the counter. I think I used him as a human shield for the Kotex. Then we stood there, trapped, watching the grainy screen.
I’d never cared too much about space travel, much the same way I never cared to see what was under the ocean. I was (and still am) happy to have my feet on the earth, but I’m glad to know others have interests I do not. I have an image from that day branded into my brain that I think about now and then. It wasn’t the enormity of what was happening on the moon, but instead was two healthy-looking teenage girls, sitting on the floor behind the counter looking up at the television. They worked in this store and they’d sat down to give the people on the other side of the counter a better view. I thought that was so considerate. They said something to each other, smiled and nodded, then reached out and held each other’s hands. It was really beautiful to me and I couldn’t stop staring at them. They looked like such good friends and such good people, tanned, with long ponytails and sensible clothing. I wondered if they were just that excited about watching someone land on the moon or if they were sharing some other happy secret? I’ve often wondered why the image of them recurs over the years. It was a small town in Montana but must have been near the National Park. I wondered if they wanted to be astronauts? Was this that exciting for them? Or had one of them just gotten a date with a boy she had a crush on? But they didn’t look like the kind of girls that had crushes (like me). They looked like they had much more control over situations. Like they were the ones that boys would have crushes on. Now I wonder if they wanted to be lovers with each other? They looked full of self-confidence whereas I had none. I remember hoping I’d have a friendship like that when I got to be their age. I wonder what they are doing now and wonder if they have any idea that a young girl that day watched them and wanted to be just like them–– kind and thoughtful, employed and healthy, responsible, compassionate, happy and smiling?
And it makes me think of what each of us can contribute during this time of flux in our country. A very few can walk on the moon, some brilliant minds can make that possible, many work at less glamorous jobs that make our societies functional, some can donate, and some can run for office. But all of us can reach out, smile, and hold a hand. We really don’t know how far that will reach but it doesn’t matter. Some young kid somewhere might see it and want to do the same.
Love to all,