By Bren Dubay
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.
I didn’t know how thirsty I was.
It was my birthday. And we are ten months into a pandemic. I spent that Saturday (January 23) in the Fuller House where Koinonia is getting ready — each of us at least six feet apart —for the coming Spring interns. I received happy birthday texts and Facebook messages; there were signs on my office door that made me smile and shouts across the lawn wishing me well. It was a good though uneventful day … then came Sunday.
It’s been awhile since the community has gathered. It is so odd for us not to be together but a virus rages, changing the usual ways of how we do things. Friends from another community had come to begin a stay with us (following all the protocols, of course) and we had a good excuse to give a hearty, warm welcome. We decided to gather at a distance. I know our friends felt welcomed but come dessert there was a surprise awaiting me that I never expected.
I love baseball. Everyone at Koinonia knows I love baseball. There it was, a cake in the shape of a baseball and, as it was presented to me, everyone singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. It was perfect. The traditional Happy Birthday song followed but forever when I hear Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I will remember this birthday and that song will from this day forward be my birthday song.
The whole thing felt like a long cool, refreshing drink of water. I gulped it down like a sojourner welcomed in for the night. That cake and that song were kind. And not just kind, they were proof that this community sees me, knows me. No one else would have wanted to hear Take Me Out to the Ballgame on her/his birthday, But I did. And the community knew that. Kindness.
I think we’re all thirsty. Humans drink from many different wells but nothing seems to slake our thirst for long. Am I naïve to think that many small acts of kindness might?
We’re aware that this is a time of extreme polarization in our country. Is there an antidote? Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” In Proverbs, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”
We thirst for big things — social justice, an end to apartheid, an end to systemic racism, for good paying jobs, that our children will be safe, that this planet can be saved, for an end to systemic sexism, and for so much more. It is all right to thirst for big things. But we also thirst for kindness. We are starved for cool, refreshing drinks of water. We want to be seen, to be known, to be shown kindness on the smallest scale. Small, kind gestures give life. And many small kindnesses just may add up to accomplishing some of these bigger ambitions.
It is time to give our friends and our enemies a cool, refreshing drink of water. Or a cake in the shape of a baseball. Not once but day in and day out. Small gestures of kindness again and again and again. Small acts that say “I see you. I know you.” They give life. They satisfy a deep, deep human thirst.