A past participant once remarked in response to this mission that everything we stumble upon was left as a random acts of kindness. Is it conceivable that every experience in my life has been an act of kindness to me? If so, just what does this say about the universe?
In chapter 2 of Annie Dillard’s book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Dillard tells the story of how when she was a small child she’d sometimes hide a penny in her neighborhood for someone to find. She’d write out directions with chalk that lead to the penny, with statements like “Surprise Ahead” or “Money This Way,” and imagine the excitement of the person smart enough to follow the directions to the prize. Dillard refers to nature as providing “lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.” She says, “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.”
Could it be that what Dillard is saying is that there are all sorts of kindnesses out there just waiting for us to find them? But maybe these acts of kindness aren’t so random, like the class participant suggested. Maybe they are part of a bigger picture being carried out by a user-friendly universe, what Dillard calls a generous hand. And maybe we, individual people, are just the vehicles designed to provide each other all we need in any given moment by this friendly universe.
Thinking this way, I find that every day can be a little bit like my birthday, filled with presents for me to open. The smile I’ll receive from a stranger, the smell of the street this morning after an overnight rain, and listening to my daughter talk about a babysitting job she has tonight are examples of wonderful things I think I’ll find today.
Taking this further, Dillard asks, “But who gets excited by a mere penny?” That’s our problem, isn’t it? We think that what we do or what we encounter isn’t big enough, as if finding a penny hidden by a young child isn’t a big deal. She writes, “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”
Read that again — The world is in fact planted in pennies. And now imagine these pennies as having been hidden by a child flush with the wisdom and purity of her youth, with signs pointing to them, signs that say, “SURPRISE AHEAD!”
How wonderful does the world look now?