By Matt Gordon
The other day I was hungry and providence arrived: A small older woman with a giant red bag walked past my office. Mask to face, I hurried in pursuit, figuring this lady was a Chick-Fil-A angel—surely her cup would overfloweth? What big meeting doesn’t order extra catering? I dogged her footsteps to an empty conference room and feigned activity in the kitchen across from it, wanting to gather intel—pretending to wash my hands felt like a common enough diversionary tactic in these plagued days. She set things out on the table and then went to the bag. Money time: Here comes the chicken! I approached the room waffling (fries) between courses of action: a dash and grab, a winsome conversation, or outright begging?
I popped in and out just as quickly; truly a dash but no grab. No chicken either. For this woman, in red collared shirt and with red jumbo bag, was indeed a Red Cross employee there to give a seminar on CPR.
“Are you here for the seminar on CPR?” she asked at my arrival.
“Nah, I’m good.”
In search of a chicken biscuit, I stumble across an opportunity, quite literally, to give life. But I was there to take, not give, and I moseyed back to my vain pursuit, settling for some vending machine “biscuits,” which sounds so much better than admitting to eating “cookies” at 10 AM (again).
Moments after this misadventure a person emailed me. She and I had exchanged an awkward “Hey” in passing. Awkward on my end for the fresh air of disappointment breathed into me by the CPR fraud. For this messenger’s part in the awkward? I had no clue—too consumed with my own life to take heed of hers. An email cleared it up.
She wrote to me, moments later, informing me that she had read something I had written and was moved in some way by it. To the bathroom where she had been going when she passed me, for one. Not precisely the motivation I had hoped my words would provoke. But, hey, you gotta start somewhere, I suppose? But beyond the visit to the bathroom, the masked passerby apprised me that she was challenged to a “wholeness” in processing something she had just read—something I has stumbled into writing. She just wanted to let me know the difference I had made in her day (and maybe life?) and apologize if she came off strange in our abbreviated interaction. Yes, absolutely, she was the strange one, not the guy shaking down an elderly Red Cross volunteer-woman for some chicken.
What I was left with was the difference between this email encourager and me. I was bent on my own fulfillment, eager to take something and oblivious to the opportunities—the sheer abundance of them all around me, around you, all the time—to give. She took the time, after the bathroom I presume, to give. Just a few sentences in an email. But could any of us argue with the sheer, beauteous weight of joy a few sentences can give? The whispered I love you of your mate; the atta-girl from a beloved boss; the pride, packaged in words, from a parent; an email from an awkward passerby.
CPR is there for all of us, moment by precious moment. As for chicken, who knows? But we all walk about with bags of life we can choose to breathe into the world around us. Would you? Today? Would you think of a friend or sibling or impactful stranger and breathe life into them? Just a gentle breeze, affirming and refreshing and renewing. A breath, true and gentle and kind.