Sunday, February 3, 2008

"...And the moment is slippin' away and the answers you give aren't that great..."

"You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that." -- Charlotte, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I have a few moments to myself as I sit in this lovely house just outside of Philadephia, where people have come and gone all day. And I find myself thinking something so mundane that it might just be sublime...

When something happens, be it good or bad, and people gather to eat and talk and laugh and cry... there is one thing that most people want and need and when it's there, it is accepted willingly and almost unconciously. And when it's not there, it's a letdown --

It's a pot of coffee. That's it. It's simple and it's ordinary. But when you walk into someone's home and there is a pot of coffee sitting on the counter, it's like you're being told, "yes, it's okay to stay long enough for a cup of coffee. Actually, can you? I'd like that."

I've never been the strongest person in my family or even in my group of friends nor am I one of those amazingly poised people who just instinctively knows what to do in troubling situations.

But if there is one thing I know how to do, it's make a good pot of coffee. And today, that one gesture is (aside from hugging my dear friend) the only substantive thing I've been able to do.

And somehow... maybe that's enough.

The point of exposing this particular soft and extremely personal anecdote to all of you is to point out another norm with which I think we all struggle: having the humanity to know when to stand back and not say anything even when you want to talk and think you know the right thing to say. Because more often than not when someone is grieving, nothing you say can help. So you stand back. And hold a hand. And be a friend... then walk away to put on another pot of coffee.

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