" I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder."I actually believe territorialism and fear lie at the heart of human existence. But how does that explain the sweet kindnesses that dot our landscape? On this gorgeous fall Saturday, in Austin, TX, I experienced nothing but kindness, over and over, in a myriad of ways. Nothing life changing, nothing dramatic, just small and real. The cumulation creating the greatest joy.
Simple moments - a brunch with two relatively new friends. Women I barely know yet the conversation runs excitedly and bubbling over a slew of topics. I think I'm there to support the one who's expecting her first child. Instead the conversation keeps tilting back to me. It feels more generous than narcissistic. It's fun, it's lively. It's a tangible exchange that's invigorating.
Next new classes at the dance studio. The room is full of regulars but the sound is different. We move to the samba beat, helping each other over the tricky parts. We're still anonymous but the kindness is growing. No histories, no judgements, just pure movement and wishing each other well. As we reconvene several days a week, week after week, the familiarity breeds more smiles and concern. The doctor I like rubs my arm to signal he's my partner. We don't need words. We're in this together. Vulnerable and caring. I don't have a clue where he's from. Not to be too melodramatic but it's an essential way of relating, without the bullshit of too many details. In the third hour, during a momentary lull, a guy across the room catches my eye and demonstrates a step I'd been stumbling over earlier. He's reminding me, amusing me, he's making the connection. We say thank you everytime we change partners, rotating around the room.
It continues as I hit the Central Market. I stop in first at Origins for some new hand cream, then make my way to pick up ingredients for Chicken Tortilla Soup, my new Saturday cooking ritual. It's dusk, and the market is crowded. I see a couple from Tuesday night's dance class. They smile as they move by. A butcher, not my regular, says "no problem, ask away" when I warn I have a stupid question. His answer is surprising and useful. I'm delighted rather than humiliated. A cashier off duty, smiles in recognition as our carts pass, or perhaps she's an intern where I volunteer. I don't know. Still we wish each other well without words, in a moment, in passing, and it lifts me somehow. The working cashier teases and chats, for no apparent reason. He could just go silently about his business. But he chooses not to. We're people on a Saturday evening, humans who relate.
I walk out now almost deliriously happy. The weather is gorgeous. The sky is dark. A true nightbird, I'm thrilled. I'm on my way home, buoyed by a day full of strangers and kindness. I don't know what its like for so many of my dance partners. Are there rooms small and empty? Is the dance rotation their only companionship or are they just like me? People with full lives who love to dance? For a second earlier in the food aisles I'd started to despair. I remembered how hard it used to be to return home alone. Though that hasn't been my reality for decades, the pain is just below the surface. Then, as it is now, the slightest human connection makes all the difference.