1. When Someone Asks You for Help—and It’s Ridiculously Easy to Do It
A friend texted me excitedly on what I thought would be her darkest day, saying, “The most wonderful thing just happened.” She said that a young woman, an intern in town for the summer, had asked her to be her emergency contact. Unbeknownst to the intern, my friend was capable of little else. Her husband had asked for a divorce, her mother was spiraling into dementia, and her cat had died. She was feeling exhausted, unproductive and unworthy. Until the universe sent someone to ask for the one thing she was fully able to supply: her mere existence (and a 24-hour phone number). Being needed is a message that says we are supposed to be here, that simply being here is enough.
2. When a Robin Poops on Your Stoop
For seven years now, a family of robins has chosen the eave over our front door to build its summer nest. When my two daughters were little, we used to spy on the birds through the transom window, watching the mother’s spring nest-building through the weeks when she laid and guarded her eggs. We waited for the turquoise eggs to crack open, for naked, begging babies to fill the nest. Mostly, the robins delighted me, but as the novelty wore off, the nest became less of an enchantment and more of an annoyance. Smears of mud and grass stuck to the window, egg shells blew out and littered the porch, and then, of course, there was the poop. This past fall as my daughters left—one for college, one for her first big job in New York City—the symbolism of the nest struck me anew. One morning when I walked down the stairs and saw the empty nest through the window, I drew a deep breath, and tears came to my eyes. I sat on the stairs in front of the window and had my first good empty-nest self-pity cry. I had seen a mother create a home and push her babies out of it year after year, and it had never occurred to me that we had anything in common. In that moment, I felt one with every mother in the universe.
3. When Someone Can’t Control Her Laughter, and Then, Neither Can You
Only a universe with a sense of humor would make laughter more contagious than illness.
4. When a Stranger Becomes a Pop-Up Friend
You know those times: when the weird, overly extroverted girl on the bus gets a little too close to your face but says just the right thing about your new boots—the boots you bought the day your best friend moved away. Or when the woman in the produce aisle tucks in the tag sticking out of your collar, or the cashier at the liquor store tells you that maybe you should check the mirror before you go to that party because lipstick only works as backup blush when you blend in the stripes. (That’s a mistake you only make once.)
5. When You Slam on the Brakes (and a Light Turns On)
I had a near miss with a truck making an illegal left turn last week. As I gathered my wits and said prayers of gratitude, I was struck by the uncanny way we glide through life most days. Every day, millions of us climb into a 4,000-pound vehicle to drive 35-plus miles per hour toward other 4,000-pound vehicles coming just as fast in our direction. The only thing that keeps us from colliding is a 4-inch-wide line of paint. How is that? Yes, accidents happen, and I’d never wish one on anyone, but it’s those freak moments when—by grace or skill—we avoid dying that we also realize, hey, life’s pretty good.
6. When a Newborn Wraps Her Fist Around Your Finger
…and you notice her tiny, perfect nails.
7. When the Universe Puts Its Arm Around Someone You Can’t Reach
We all have them. Those people we believe are not quite ready for the world or who just can’t stop making bad choices, people for whom we feel responsible. We can go crazy with helplessness when we can’t reach them, whether it’s because they are far away or because they just won’t listen to our counsel. That’s when the universe grows extra arms. People come along to help, like the friend who lets your kid couch-surf while he figures out that he really does need a degree to be an architect, or the daughter who talks her sister out of quitting her day job to become a stand-up comic after one comedy class, or the hairstylist who informs your husband that, yes, he needs his eyebrows and ear hair trimmed every single time. Bless them all! Nothing is more comforting than knowing that ours are not the only arms around the people we love.
Becky Blades is the author of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. Find Becky at LaundryorDie.com or read more of her advice here.