December 2, 2010

Socks and Secret

There's a woman who sits outside one of the subway stations I often use on my way back and forth from school. She asks people for spare change. I suppose that she is homeless, but I don't know. I usually say hi.

One day several weeks ago she asked me if I had any socks. Not being in the habit of carrying any socks apart from those on my feet, I had to say no. Later on in the day, though, I remembered that I had an unopened package of socks back in my room at home. So I put it in my school bag for the next time I saw her.

Some more of the semester went by. I don't always take the same route to or from school, and when I did go through this particular station, my friend wasn't there. Finally, after several weeks I ran into her again, and thought that I would finally get rid of the package of socks from my bag.

"Do you still need socks?" I asked.

"No, I have plenty of socks, thank you," she responded.

So, when I got home I put the package of socks back in my room where it started.

I find in all this a helpful reflection for myself. I carried those socks around for several weeks, thinking that I would be able to do a little act of kindness. It didn't turn out that way. It reminds me that the charity and kindness we actually receive from others is only a small subset of what others are willing to do or even of what they have intended to do.

In other words, since I can never know how kind others have been to me--since the love that is actually expressed in action is conditioned by circumstances and my freedom to accept it--I should always consider others as even kinder and more loving than they appear.

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