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A Season for Believing

As published in the Tampa Tribune November 21, 2007.

Years ago, late on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting in my favorite café in the North End of Boston, calculating whether to buy another cappuccino or save the few dollars I had in my pocket for subway tokens to get back and forth to work that week. Post-college, I was broke, as usual, and relying on cigarettes and coffee to keep the stomach from rumbling too much.

Suddenly, this big Italian, an older guy who worked the counter, approached my table. With his jet-black hair, crooked smile and bellowing voice, he had the charisma of a playboy, and as I soon learned, the heart of an angel.

He asked if I’d “watch the shop” while he stepped out. “Sure,” I said, figuring he was going out to buy a pack of smokes.

He returned about thirty minutes later carrying a paper sack and went behind the counter. Shortly, he approached my table again — only this time carrying a plate piled with pasta and peasant bread, and a glass of red wine. He set it down in front of me. “You look a little hungry,” he said, and walked back to his post behind the counter.

I was stunned. But not so stunned that I didn’t scarf down every morsel. When I finished, I left my few measly dollars as a thank you and, belly full, pockets empty, headed home.

I’ve never been an overly religious person, don’t go to any one church, and question sometimes how God exists in a world so full of suffering. But that day, as I walked home through the darkening city streets, I felt wonder at the simplicity and grace of what had happened:

I was hungry. And I was fed.

Surely, it seemed, an angel had interceded between heaven and earth, connecting two mortals through kindness.

That man’s action – whether guided by an angel or not – nourished me on a day when I didn’t know when or where my next meal was coming from. He didn’t just feed my stomach; he fed a part of me I didn’t even know was hungry.

And despite the cruelty and indifference in the world I’ve seen since — the arrogant impatience, the lies, the outright meanness, the disappointing characters of men and women — I still believe, perhaps a bit naively, in the fundamental goodness of people. A belief that had its incipience in that long ago unexpected meal from an unexpected stranger.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” — Michelangelo

I’ve come to believe that at our most basic and yet highest function, our earthly lives are a mission to carve away the petty and ugly aspects of our natures and unfetter the angel residing within.

When we act in kindness, music begins; a drumming beat reverberates through and out of us toward others, traveling through time and space like some kind of ephemeral sounding of the heart, thrumming at a frequency we can hear only if we are willing. Truth is the frequency on which kindness travels, and, it is truth – acted upon — that sets us free.

We can’t know the distance a kindness, once made, will travel. How it will be received and passed on, transmuted and re-gifted, countless, needful, hopeful, times, over and over, ad infinitum.

We can’t know. But we can believe.

To everyone who donated to the All Faiths Food Bank, thanks for believing – and acting –in kindness.

Thanks for chipping away at the marble.

Sidebar: (as published in the Pelican Press)

If you’ve ever wondered whether angels have wings – the answer is yes, and they’re Pelican wings!

As of Friday, November 16th, Pelican Press/Reality Chick readers had donated $6,330 to the All Faiths Food Bank! That’s the equivalent of 10,913 meals being provided for men, women, and children across Sarasota and Desoto counties. Put another way, that’s like providing Thanksgiving meals — turkey with all the trimmings — for about 530 families of five!

I can hardly believe the extraordinary generosity of all of you readers out there – the willingness you had to reach out to strangers and send in your donations to help feed hungry folks in our community. No matter how large or how small your donation, every single dollar will make a difference to someone you don’t even know. I particularly want to acknowledge the out-of-state Pelican/Reality readers who sent in donations to a community outside their own. Though I never know the names of who donates or how much, I was told that some checks came in from some pretty far off places!

As my column this week shows, the kindness of strangers can have long-lasting impact. I only imagine what ripple effect will come from your individual and collective efforts in helping All Faiths provide meals to our neighbors in need.

Posted on November 21st, 2007Comments RSS Feed

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