The Wandering Poet

Buffy Brinkley on the Things that Inspire my Life, my Pen, and my Heart.

What’s Important…and What’s Not

on December 24, 2016

In our little town of Central City, Louisiana, USA, the people have hung their Christmas Lights, they’ve begun to light their Menorahs, they’re preparing for Kwanzaa, and we’re all looking forward to a new year with the hope that it will bring better times. In our little town, you won’t hear reports of theft or senseless shootings, or vandalism. It’s not so much that we all know one another as much as we all have a mutual respect for one another.  It’s been a trying year.

Flooding devastated our little community in August of this year and more than half of our citizens lost much of what they’d worked so hard to have. Houses. Cars. Clothes. Beds. Toys. Jobs. The simplest things that we all take for granted every day, gone. Over the past several months, our citizens have been working diligently to put the pieces back together.

On Black Friday, there were no brawls or shoves or pushes or angry urgency from anyone who ventured into the local Wal-Mart. People respected each other’s space. If a person got to a sale item another person hoped to buy, there wasn’t an uproar or outburst of anger. There were smiles and congratulations and the thought that maybe that person needed that item just a little bit more.

Last night and tonight, there weren’t whines of how tired everyone was (and trust me, we were all exhausted), there were blessings of good tidings, and smiles shared among complete strangers. And, patience–even from the children who were among us. We know what we’ve been through. There’s a long road ahead for most. And, empathy has made us all a little nicer, a little more patient, and a lot more generous. Because you never know what a smile, a little empathy, and a few dollars here and there will do to help someone else out.

At the end of every year, I look back on the past 365 days and try to weigh in on what happened, what I did, what I didn’t do, what I should have done, and what I shouldn’t have. I categorize these into things that are important and things that are not. If something is deemed important, I will either hold on to it and treasure it, or I will learn from it and try to let it go. If it’s not important, I try to cast it aside like so many stones. Stones I’d picked up in anger or sadness or both. It’s good to be rid of them, though I confess the ones picked up in sadness are so much more difficult to put down. But, who really needs (or wants) the extra baggage? And, just in time for the New Year. A new beginning for new treasures and new lessons.

The important things are always things that cannot be bought or sold or bartered. Like family. Friends. Love. Kindness. If money could truly buy happiness, would we worry so much about the tangible, inanimate things around us? It might make us more comfortable, but, honestly, it’s just stuff. That’s the lesson this year. It’s just stuff. It can be replaced. But, I can’t. You can’t. No one can. And the littlest act of kindness goes a long way.

This morning, as I was getting my breakfast in the drive-through, the nice lady at the pay window informed me that the person ahead of me had paid for my meal. I was surprised. It made me smile. The person who had treated me to breakfast was just ahead of me at the second window, so I tapped lightly on my horn and waved at the car ahead to show my thanks. I then proceeded to pay for the person behind me. I have no idea if that person kept this going or not. Just like the kind person ahead of me, I had no idea what the person-behind-me’s circumstances were. For all I know, that person could have been a billionaire who burns money in his fireplace instead of wood. But, maybe he wasn’t a billionaire. Maybe that person was digging for change in his car seat cushions so that his family could have breakfast. I’ll never know and it won’t matter that I’ll never know. But, this small act of kindness might mean that his kids get a little something extra from Santa this year, or his electric bill gets paid in full instead of almost, or just that bit of gas money lets him visit his parents. The thought of these latter things I imagine are what prompted the person ahead of me to start this small act of kindness and what inspired me to continue it. And, if it ended with the person behind me, then the chain made at least two people smile at a time when so many are hurting. It was worth it.

It doesn’t take much. And most of the time, it doesn’t take money. Roll your elderly neighbor’s garbage can in from the curb so they don’t have to get out in the cold. Smile at those you meet and look them in the eye.  Your smile might be the only smile they’ve seen all day, all week, all month, or all year. Say what you mean to say, but be respectful. Respect is something you must give if you want to get it. Genuinely compliment someone. Reach out a helping hand to those in need when you can. You never know when you will be the person who needs the help. And never pass up an opportunity to tell those you love that you love them. Your mom. Your dad. Your brother. Your sister. Your friend. Your neighbor. Whoever it is, tell them. Because no one is promised even a second longer than now.

Good tidings to you all, my dear friends, and to all a good night.  The new year is just around the corner and may it bring better times. May my neighbors and friends and community heal from devastating losses and may we all be more kind to one another. Here, there, and around the world, may we all find the courage to love one another.

Sweet dreams. And, remember: I love you.

 

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