Here are three little stories I came across in recent months. Each one made me say, “Wow!”—for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them:
The Ice-Cream Chain:
Tina Jensen manages two Dairy Queens in Brainerd, MN. Occasionally, she said, a drive-through customer will pick up the tab for the strangers in the car behind them. Sometimes those strangers pick up the tab for the strangers behind them, and the chain goes on. At times the chain lasts for 20 cars. But last December, something amazing happened. In the midst of the Christmas season and the Covid pandemic, “the kindness almost never stopped.” In fact, the chain lasted for two days! Over 900 cars paid for the ice-cream of the strangers behind them. This means people bought over $10,000 worth of ice-cream for complete strangers!
Heidi Bruse, one of the customers who “paid it backwards,” said, “During times like these it kinda restores your faith in humanity a little.” She adds, “The way the world is now, you see a lot of anger, tension, and selfish behavior. What we witnessed was pure kindness, and it was a breath of fresh air.”
Have you ever had a stranger pay for your ice-cream or meal? How did it make you feel?
Have you ever picked up the tab for a stranger? How did it make you feel?
The Quiet Room
I’ve never been in the United Nations building, but I picture this huge building filled with offices, meeting rooms, and enormous auditoriums. But from the very beginning, the plans for the structure included a tiny space in the center of the building dedicated to silence where people could go regardless of their faith. Dag Hammarskjold personally supervised the creation of this room. He was supported by a group composed of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The room contains one central symbol: a six-and-half-ton rectangular block of iron ore (a gift from Sweden). It is polished on the top and illuminated from above by a single spotlight. On one of the walls is an abstract mural of interlocking geometric patterns which represent “the essential oneness of God.” The room has no symbols of any specific religion. Said Hammarskjold, “People of many faiths will meet here.”
When the room was dedicated in 1957, Hammarskjold wrote a text to be distributed to visitors of the room. He said, “This house, dedicated to work and debate in the service of peace, should have one room dedicated to silence in the outward sense and stillness in the inner sense.” He explains the simple symbols in the room and then writes, “We all have a center of stillness surrounded by silence… There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.”
Do you have a place or places that serve as “a center of stillness” for you? What or where are they? How do they serve you?
How important is silence in your life? On a scale of 10 to 1 (10 being VERY important and 1 being NOT important at all) where would you rate the importance of silence in your life?
Have you ever been to the Quiet Room at the U.N? If so, what was it like for you?
Drinking a Glass of Beer: A Triumphant Human Act
Someone has said “lifting a glass of beer to your lips is a triumphant human act.” The same thing applies to drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, lemonade, or soda (or pop… where I live, we say pop, not soda). Says Mark Denny, what is involved in this “simple task” is quite incredible. He continues, “Complex hand-eye coordination guides your hand’s couple of dozen bones, muscles, and nerves with a flexibility and finesse unmatched in the animal world.”
Here’s an amazing fact involved in drinking anything: One-fourth of your brain’s motor cortex is devoted to fulfilling this seemingly effortless task. One-fourth! He gives some details. Muscles control your grip on the glass. You must not hold it too loosely or too tightly. Sensory feedback from your fingertips allows you to make adjustments to the glass without breaking it, tilting it, or spilling it. Then you have to raise the glass to your lips. In other words, you have to find your mouth. Then you have to tip the glass at just the right angle to allow its contents to go down the hatch comfortably. Yet all of this seems to happen automatically! You don’t even think about the process let alone appreciate what you are actually doing!
One way to appreciate this feat is to observe a toddler who is just learning to drink without her bottle or sippy cup. Note how the toddler may grab the plastic glass with both hands, for example, to steady it. She might even drop the glass until she learns to hold it with just the right pressure. Or notice how long it may take for her to find her mouth. She might even bring her mouth down to the glass rather than attempt to raise the glass to her mouth. And note how many times she might spill the contents before she learns the correct angle for the glass. Suggestion: Today, be aware of the many times you perform this “triumphant human act.” Pay attention to every sip of water you take or any other beverage you enjoy.
What did you learn by paying attention to your drinking today?
Can you think of any other human tasks we perform every day that are “triumphs” which we tend to take for granted?
Have you ever had to have physical or occupational therapy to re-learn how to perform simple tasks? If so, what was that experience like for you?
PS: I am facilitating a retreat June 25-July 2 with the Benedictine Sisters of Bakerstown, PA (near Pittsburgh). Our topic is “Everyday Epiphanies.” These are the sisters I lived with for two years while I was studying at Duquesne many, many, many, many years ago. (Each “many” represents one decade!!!) I ask for your prayers. Thank you!
I’ve chosen two short videos. The first was sent to me by my friend, Kay. It too made me say, “Wow!” The videos highlight the work of the Swedish designer and graphic artist Andreas Wannerstedt. His perpetual motion 3-D animations have been described as mesmerizing, hypnotic, calming, and meditative. The first video (3 mins.) simply shows you several of his art pieces. The second video (5 mins.) is an interview with Wannerstedt.
Here is the interview with Wannerstedt:
Now it’s your turn. I welcome your comments below! I would love to hear some of your responses to the questions after each story. But you certainly may comment on anything else in the reflection, pictures, or videos. Thank you!