Powerball. Or about all the horribly random things that happen in not such kind ways.
Kindness is a way of life. It's opening the door for anyone in front or behind you, not because they are old or infirmed, but because extending energy to benefit another being is like constantly living inside one of those Snuggie blankets my kids want to buy for the dog.
I'm in a playful mood today. And that would qualify as random since my SOM (state-of-mind) has been decidedly depressed, angry, resentful and exhausting/ed. How did this shift happen? No, I didn't land the job of my dreams. Bill Gates didn't Google my new domain names and decide to give me a blank check for my new venture. Publisher's Sweepstakes didn't arrive at my doorstep this morning with cameras and balloons.
How did my mood shift from yesterday's melancholy to today's almost giddiness? Simple. Kindness knocked on my front door this morning.
Well, actually, kindness first drove up in a large white truck and came in the form of two energy audit employees from Longs Peak Energy Conservation program. in Boulder County. This past December, in a frantic last act of 2009, I submitted a weatherization application for families in our financial situation. We live in a 1950s ranch house that could double as a flappy tent in the winter. Every summer and fall we promise each other to try to save up to pay for what it would take to stay warmer and stop paying so much in heating bills each winter. Ten years later, I know that our current situation will not let that happen and after a few too many mornings of iced-over windows, and as the clock neared mid-afternoon on December 31st, I faxed in our application. By January 4th, we were qualified for an energy audit, insulation, sealing and possibly an energy-smart refrigerator. When they told me that it could be up to six weeks until we were scheduled, I shot an email back telling them that we had ice on our windows and our heating bill was approaching our mortgage and equally unpayable. They set an appointment with us for the next week.
Today's kindness had two names. Gary and Zump. Gary wore a beautiful blue glass cross he later told us he and his wife make for friends. Father of two home-schooled children. Works all day weatherizing homes and a few nights a week as a dishwasher. Zump studied anthropology in college and reads Michael Ondaatje and is a dead ringer for a half dozen Hollywood actors. I immediately scroll through my mental list of available friends in a match-making frenzy. When Zump tells Jack that his ex-roommate is also a photographer and had been laid off his newspaper job and that after many years in the business is unable to work in his field, I see a long held and tense part of Jack relax. They gently talk us through how the process works, walking through our house, pointing thermal cameras at our walls.
One of the things I love most about Jack, my life partner and best friend, is how instantly he puts people not only at ease, but willing to talk about the loftiest things. It's something that still makes me stop and shake my head with admiration. Very few people go away from an encounter with him untouched. Within 30 minutes, we'd put up another pot of coffee and were talking religion, raising mindful kids in a mindless world, surviving these tough times and more, as if we'd had this conversation with them a hundred times before. Jack's pulling books off the shelf and sharing Norman O. Brown's Love's Body with Gary, who has now been joined by another Longs Peak Conservation employee named J.D. The synergy of his initials are not lost on us, having just absorbed the news of J.D. Salinger's passing. Gary had called J.D. to look at our huge single pane picture windows to see what we can do about the biggest source of heat loss in our house. During this discussion, a new weatherstrip is installed on our front door, our old light bulbs replaced with LED ones, and a blowing test is conducted that shows us just how severe our thermal loss really is.
Zump also did the favor of showing us, or I should say Jack because I refused to look at them, our last year's gas bills. Well, it seems like our house has a bit of a consumption-envy problem. Our bills reflect a much grander and bigger household than we've been living in. I guess our house has been heating that much imagined finished basement I've been yearning for all these years. And we've been footing the bill for our house's identity crisis.
The details of the day don't really matter. What matters, at least to me, is this - we were brought to the this process purely because of our financial means, or lack of them. What could have been another in a long line of humiliating experiences in being without much of a pocket, was in fact, a day in which we were cared for by people who performed their work with steadfast attention and -- yes -- love. They could have gone about their day and done an excellent job without touching our lives, but the fact that they took the time to connect with us as humans and as humans who understood because they are much in the same place.
Their kindness allowed us to relax and to stop blaming ourselves for our leaky, cold house. Their kindness let us celebrate that we were able to benefit from a program that is here to help people in our situation and that sometimes all it takes is just that - to ask for help. Their kind approach to our house, to their work, took away my sense of despair and isolation, at least for today. They helped me feel secure again in my own home, something I haven't experienced in a while.
Today's kindness was not random, it was deliberate. It was part of a way of being in which we take the time to at least consider kindness as a mindful choice with everyone we come into contact with. I feel blessed to have had these two fine people tending to our home with such humanity and integrity.
The constant leaking of heat out from and cold in to our home for all these years is an obvious symbol. It speaks of the blinders I've often put on in regards to our financial roller coaster. It speaks of an imbalance of what I give myself and what I give to the world. Of the veneer I put on in the face of stress - one that is very much like our single pane windows.
But today, because two strangers entered our lives with deliberate acts of kindness, the cold will have to work harder to gain entry. The windows still need work, but I have a number to get that started.
Today, this day before February 2, before the loyal groundhog checks her shadow, and tells us what we already know, that winter is far from over, our house is warm. Our home is warm.