One windless night, just beyond my bedroom window, Fowler Lake froze, luminous as mercury glass.
Ever the social caboose of my class, pre-teen me hunkered in bed. Crushing thoughts made it hard to breathe. No grace for being me.
I woke to 99 acres of gleaming ice: no pocks or blisters. Nary a wrinkle. Picture the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Now picture 12 of them, frozen, side by side, shaved smooth by an epic Zamboni.
I pulled on my figure skates, freestyled across the ultimate playground. Greenish-black depths glinted with bubbles seemingly lit from below.
Translucence draws us. The pristine awes us. Who doesn’t want to coast and glide and skim, grab each hem of these shirttail verbs related to wheel and rise and soar?
Who can skate around the whole lake?
How far (and how fast) is enough?
Eventually, snowdrifts laminated themselves over the ice. And I was still me: tweenish, undersized, insecure.
One night a hockey lover with dark eyes and a shy smile jogged across town, laced on his blades, and slogged across that snowbound, starlit lake. To see me.
Tidings of comfort and joy … in my own backyard! Beneath floodlights we mumbled into our mufflers, two misfits becoming friends.
Then off he went again, into the dark, his trip home even colder, my jaunt to the back door interspersed with erratic earthbound spins.
You never forget a gift like that, never feel worthy.
The graced improbable expands your notions of the possible.
It doesn’t require money. It does require heart. Time and energy.
And generous, focused attention … on the recipient.
Sometimes, it’s you.
She sits with you all day in the hospital waiting room.
He totes rags and polish to a house of mourning and quietly shines all the shoes.
Anonymous leaves homemade pies in people’s cars during a meeting.
Every December a fellow believer supplies our Food Bank with two brimming grocery carts. Her yearly donation is now a personal rhythm.
Making as well as receiving the occasional extravagant gesture bolsters a shaky sense of self—often for both parties.
Like ripples in a thawing lake, one gesture inspires another.
O. Henry’s young Della sold her hair, then bought her husband a watch chain; he’d already sold his watch, to her buy tortoiseshell combs.
Three Magi braved the howling unknown to worship a Child. Three decades later, precious nard anointed that same Child’s head, poured from a cracked alabaster jar.
Heaven knows, stories live on.
And now one more: a boy skated through darkness to offer friendship.
How gently the Man from eternity glides among us.
Talk to me about extravagant gesture . . .