Notes from Jan

Wasn’t Nothin’ Much

July 9, 2024

But it was something. And I told her so. The woman, weighed down by stuff and years, looked for a bench outside Marshalls. She needed a place to rest while waiting for the bus to show up. Meanwhile, I stayed inside my cool car, observing life, waiting for courage to venture out into July’s heat.

From my car, I watched a dad and two young children, grab a vacant bench, while the older woman headed towards another. But before sitting down, she turned towards them and started talking. Each boy looked at their dad, then all three put their heads down. Some secret code said,” Ignore her.” She tried again to engage them, then shuffled over to her bench. Head down, like theirs. I felt sad for her, for them and a world where we’re scared to look each other in the eye.

And I thought about lines from Phil Eaton’s blog, From My Study. They came from Wordsworth’s sonnet, “The World Is Too Much With Us.” These words written around 1802, feel too current for comfort. “The world is too much with us, late and soon….we have given our hearts away….for this for everything, we are out of tune.” And that’s what I felt as I watched that scene unfold. Something was out of tune. It left me wondering about the three with eyes cast down, who ignored the woman, “was the world too much with them”? Did fear-filled stories, lawsuits, images keep them huddled together, resisting any connection with a stranger, possible enemy, or germ carrier?

And then along came a mom with two daughters. The youngest around three, swinging a pink plastic purse. All three holding hands, laughing about something, when the old woman tried to connect, again. But this time, all three stopped to listen. None looked frightened. Then the old woman reached into the pocket of her pink floral pants and pulled out something. She shuffled over towards the littlest girl and held out her hand. “Somethin’ for you.” And none recoiled. The little girl looked up at her Mama and got a smile and a nod that said,” It’s OK.” And so she held out her small, trusting hand, took the coin and placed it into her little pink plastic purse, but not before saying,”Thank you.” As did the Mama and the elder sister. All smiled at the woman, as they walked away. Each much richer than they knew.

The odd woman took her seat, but with head held higher. I got out of the car and walked towards her. While smiling, I said, “I saw what you did. That was so generous and kind.” She mumbled, “Wasn’t nothin’ much. Just a dime.” But it was something. The power of connection, of being seen. And the simple gift of a dime for one and million dollar smiles for the other, along with a generous serving of gratitude for “nothin’ much.”

In a culture where distrust and despair wield too much power for our good, the good of others and this world, it’s worth considering ways we’ve allowed the world to be “too much with us.” When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” what’s possible? Maybe for starters, we could stop to listen, look each other in the eye and say,” Thank you.” Thanks for what’? Maybe just for being one more person trying to do a little something. Even a dime’s worth of kindness matters in God’s Kingdom “on earth.” Kindness is catchy. Lets spread some, for Christ’s sake.

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  • Reply Carolyn Sylvester July 9, 2024 at 6:46 pm

    As always – great post. Thanks Jan.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 9, 2024 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks, Carolyn, for stopping by. You know the difference kindness makes. Thanks for yours over our years at JOY Bible study.

  • Reply Kathy Sullivan July 9, 2024 at 7:10 pm

    beautiful. that’s how we build the kingdom here on earth

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 9, 2024 at 9:50 pm

      When I saw this name, I wondered, is this my neighbor from when we lived on Martel Road? If so, that would be so wonderful. If not, I’m glad to meet another one who gives a dime. Thank you for reading and responding. I’m grateful.

  • Reply Dale July 9, 2024 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks Jan,

    These are tender moments when our prayer should be for the Lord to prick our hearts and not just our conscience. We need to teach this to our children but only if we as parents and adults believe it as well. Blessings, dear friend.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 9, 2024 at 9:54 pm

      For sure, it was a tender moment for me, as I watched this scene unfold. You and Marty have blessed many with your kindness, humor and generous hearts. I’m grateful to be among those recipients, dear friend.

  • Reply Jon Utley July 10, 2024 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for sharing Jan. I am definitely the guy putting my head down! Praying I am more like the Mama and her daughters!

  • Reply Jan Carlberg July 10, 2024 at 9:23 am

    What a wonderful surprise to see your name appear, dear Jon. Please give Lorraine a hug for me. As for putting your head down, our culture’s not an easy place for men and boys to know how best to relate to women and girls. But it’s still possible to be civil, listen and look people in the eye. It’s when we look elsewhere we can get into trouble! But that’s another topic for another day, which I may not touch. For sure, I’m thrilled you connected by responding to the blog. May God bless the creative work of your hands, heart and mind.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold July 10, 2024 at 10:28 pm

    It is good to recognize kindness. Thanks for your bravery talking to a “stranger” and for the reminder to spread it.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 11, 2024 at 9:18 am

      It can be risky to talk to a stranger, for sure. But when and where matters. It was daytime and other people were around outside of our local Marshalls. But we have become too easily scared of “the other”..some one who looks different from us. And we feed fear to each other. I think how Jesus tells us to “welcome strangers.” That’s still a custom in some parts of the world today. I grew up in a family that didn’t just risk talking to strangers but welcomed them. Like the Bible says, it could be an “angel in disguise.” How exciting!! Hugs to you and Andrew.

  • Reply Phil Eaton July 11, 2024 at 10:22 am

    Love this, Jan, just beautiful. You bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven every time you write. You notice these things and in the writing the world is made fresh and new.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 11, 2024 at 6:01 pm

      Now, this is a wonderful surprise, dear Phil. I loved quoting from your blog, From My Study, and hope it nudges others to read your wise words. Like you, I’m grateful for this means of connecting with others. Writing helps me pay attention, encourages me to look for ways God’s at work. To give in to despair is to allow “the world to be too much with us.” I’m confident Jesus is not sitting around wringing his hands. Please give Sharon a hug for me and greet the Andringas.

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