Corn and butter. Depending on who you are, this is either a major treat or an insurmountable feat.
My buddy Sonja sat across from me at our favorite Thai restaurant, tucking into sesame chicken. Hers was hot. Mine was not.
I hadn’t seen her for more than a year, which has been hard. Sonja grinned at me in between bites, then began regaling me with a story about corn. On the cob, if you will, which was the whole point. I dunno about you but as a Southern farm girl, there are few things I like better in summer than hot buttered corn on the cob and watermelon on ice.
But first, some essential background.
Two years ago Sonja married a White Ozark boy with bad teeth. After years of dating and many hours of talking to dentists, it was decided that they just had to come out. He would eventually get implants, which is what I have, which allow you to snap in your perfect pearlies. But until then, he’d look a little too much Deliverance, if you get my meaning. A proud man, he was shaken to his core. I was too, back when I heard the bad news about my losing battle with eating disorders.
He was terrified Sonja would leave him in the precise way I never let my ex know about or ever for god’s sake see me without my toofs. It’s pretty appalling, especially at first. Your ego takes a massive hit. You go from normal to the guy in the Bitter Beer commercial.
Yeah. That. I will never quite get used to facing that every single morning, but there it is. Great for Halloween. Scares the crap out of the kids, you keep the candy. But I digress.
At the time , in 2003, I was with a very different guy. That man, when I called him in tears on the day I got the bad news nearly twenty years ago, told me in no uncertain terms to come to his office. NOW.
I thought we were done for sure.
He met me in the parking lot, wrapped his arms around me, and told me that there was no way he was going to leave me. That’s what Sonja said, too. It’s hard to express the level of gratitude you feel when someone provides you with a safe space to deal with your vulnerable humanity.
Now to the barbeque.
Sonja’s now-husband and she have been living with, laughing at and getting comfortable with his new face, still not yet supplied with implants, long enough so that it’s no big thing.
Until the Sunday barbeque.
They were sitting at a table with a gay couple. All four of them had picked up a cob, slathered the hot corn with butter. Sonja saw her love’s consternation in her peripheral vision.
She promptly balanced the cob on one end, and used her knife to expertly slice off the bright yellow kernels.
The gay men watched, entranced. Then, they both did precisely the same thing, making a game out of it. Laughing, and sending buttery kernels flying in all directions.
Kevin looked at Sonja, his eyes nearly tearful in gratitude. Thank you, he mouthed.
It is in these small but magnificent gestures of great kindness and grace, which I consider the feminine principle (having nothing whatsoever to do with one’s gender), that we demonstrate our character.
These are where our intentions are revealed. When we show that we take other’s needs, fears, desires and comfort into consideration, that these are important to us, the way we demonstrate honor is to create those experiences for people. Friends, lovers, strangers.
Before I drove into my friend Melissa’s driveway after a very long drive, I asked her which side she needed me to park on. She thanked me for remembering. Then she asked if I still preferred to sleep with lots of pillows. I thanked her for remembering.
I am often moved deeply when something small that I do for a stranger turns out to be, for them, a very big deal. Giving the guy who fills my gas tank a big fat cold Honey Crisp apple, for example. Nobody expects that.
Our thoughtlessness, from cutting people off, allowing doors to shut in folk’s faces, leaving feces on the floor of a women’s handicapped toilet (I did not make that up, that really did happen at a rest stop off I-5, and no it wasn’t animal) all speak to a dearth of consideration, care and valuation of others.
One reason my most recent but long-term ex is an ex is that he is incapable of such gestures. He is happy to receive them, and was always and forever stunned that I would remember and retain minute details about him which would lead to the Best Christmas Gifts Ever. He doesn’t possess that gene.
My social media buddy JC, who visited my then very new-to-me home last year with his fiance, gave me a Christmas gift that was the result of his swift and accurate read of my house. He saw where the wood pile was on a hill behind the house, and where the insert was in the living room. The leather and canvas Duluth Trading log carrier he gave me has been one of the single most used and useful tools I have in this house, making the daily trip up the hill to my stack of wood easy and clean. It never would have occurred to me to get one, yet that gift was utterly perfect. When my next cord of wood arrives for winter ’21, carting that massive amount of wood uphill will be a lot easier.
When I gave JC a small collection of gifts when we met up in Boise on my way back home, he got several items which were perfectly sized for Wynona, their home on wheels. A small, hand-loomed mat from the Ortega Weavers in Chimayo, and a perfect-for-cutting-limes-and-lemons cutting board just large and small enough for next to an RV sink. Small decorative items with great character, which take up no room at all, but which add color and life to a tiny house.
Those folks who do have it are the world’s best gift-givers. They study, watch, notice and remember.
But it’s not limited to that. Those are the folks who let people into traffic, pick up trash that isn’t theirs, and wipe down the counter in the public toilets where water is pooled. Why? Because we women put our purses on those counters. It’s polite. Considerate.
We put our shopping carts away, and often put other’s away with ours especially if they are blocking traffic or parking spaces. It takes seconds. But it sure matters inside us and to those who would have to chase down an errant cart.
The feminine principle is part of the gentle glue that makes us a society. Without those small gestures, we feel isolated and mean. When people take an extra six seconds to give us their cart when heading into Costco, it matters.
The research backs me up.
This isn’t a hack or a meme. It’s a statement about a way of being in a world that is getting hotter and more crowded every day. As much as I might rail at it, or be irritated, I still let folks merge, I still hold doors open, and I still pick up trash. Because it’s my world, not just my town or my street. My world.
While I find folks my age likely to agree with me that this is part of our responsibility, it’s not a generational thing. JC is a Millennial. Kindness, awareness of others and finding ways to be gentle in the world isn’t limited to an age or a gender. The young man who held me in the parking lot was 22 years my junior. That kind of grace doesn’t know an age or race or skin color or culture.
If you can’t bring yourself to be nicer to people, then do this (which I also do): put water sources in your yard, preferably in shaded places, for parched animals. That could save their lives. After all, the world is hotter because of us, and we took over their lands. The least we can do is offer a little kindness when the world around them isn’t kind at all.
The Goddess will most definitely notice.