Silent Gift

October 17th, 2022

This last week has been a struggle. Tuesday evening was an ugly scene, and we have spent the following days cleaning up the resulting mess. A traumatic event doesn’t just end. It is radioactive with a half-life like that of plutonium. It takes time for nerve endings to stop quivering, and there is edgy alertness that just won’t go away. It would be nice to be able to flee from all the emotional fallout, but that can’t happen. Life goes on, and problems still need to be solved.

I told a number of people about what happened at our house that night. Several responded to me and offered their sympathy and prayers. I am grateful to each and every person who contacted us. There really wasn’t much that they could do for us in any practical sense, but they at least indicated that they cared. Some of our friends understand our troubles quite well, and their words were very meaningful and heartfelt.

Words can be helpful. They can be healing. However, words can only do so much.

On Saturday, Karin and I were busy with many things. We still felt troubled in spirit. I had just come home from shopping, and Karin was trying to put our little grandson, Asher, down for nap. It was warm outside, and I had left the front door open. I had to let the dog out, or maybe let her back in. I can’t remember anymore. My thoughts were everywhere and nowhere. In any case, when I went to the door, I found something unexpected.

It was a bag full of food. There was a loaf of rye bread, a package of sliced ham, a bottle of whole grain mustard, and a glass jar filled with sliced red onions in vinegar. There was also a picture book for Asher that told the story of a construction worker.

The bag looked like this:

I looked at it, and I knew immediately that it was from Chris, one of our Buddhist friends in the Zen sangha. The circle is a Zen symbol, and the words on the bag are classic Zen:

“Only this, this!”

Zen is about being in the moment and focusing what is happening right here and right now. The fact is that there really is “only this, this!” The craziness and chaos of previous days don’t matter. The fears for the future don’t matter. The words and the gift cut through the confusion in my mind and brought me back to the present moment. It was (and is) a good place to be.

Chris never rang the doorbell. She didn’t want to bother us. She did what she needed to do and did it without words.

It was silent gift.

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