We arrived at exactly the wrong time.
Dressed in t-shirts and sweats, Erik carried the faded grocery store flowers, I clutched a card and rang my friend Angela’s doorbell to offer condolences on the death of her mother. I anticipated a quick hand-off, a few words of sympathy on the doorstep and a promise to talk more later, since we’re in a pandemic. If I’d thought it through, I would have brought the flowers in a vase and chosen not to disturb my friend at all.
Instead, Angela’s voice rang through the front porch intercom, “We’re in the backyard, please come back.”
We skirted around the house, through the gate and walked down the steps right into the tail end of a formal memorial service. Everyone was dressed in elegant black suits and dresses, massive flower arrangements adorned the tables and stood on easels (in the same color scheme as my Trader Joe’s yellow and ivory bouquet), a Steinway piano had been hauled into the backyard and a string quartet played melodies from Bach.
I wanted to turn on my heels and run away. But Angela spotted me, excused herself from her conversation and walked towards us, exclaiming, “How kind of you!” She told us about the memorial service, shed a few tears and admired the flowers.
“But you have so many gorgeous flowers.” I said. Feeling embarrassed about my meager offering.
“Oh those are going home with other people,” she responded, “I’ll keep these on my kitchen counter just for me. Thanks for making me feel so loved.”
After a few more words, we said goodbye. I waved shyly to a few people I recognized as we slipped away and breathed in relief to Erik, “Maybe that wasn’t such a terrible time to drop by.”
“Oh it was definitely a bad time,” Erik replied, “Angela’s extraordinarily kind and knows how to make people feel loved. That’s what gracious people do.”
I keep coming back to Erik’s words and Angela’s extraordinary example. We’re all talking about gratitude, but to be gracious…
when it’s just part of who you are,
how you treat people,
even when it’s a bad time,
or you’re in a hurry,
or your heart is broken.
Gracious. Exactly who I want to be.