It was just a routine trip to the nursery. I didn't expect a life-altering experience. So many things to do—and, well, getting wood chips for the yard seemed like the least taxing job on my list. So off I went, barreling down the highway, feeling a little scattered, a bit guilty—because there were other things that seemed more important, more pressing.
My real need was to put on the brakes, pause, pray, listen for God's tender guidance. There's a great line from Science and Health about this approach: "Beholding the infinite tasks of truth, we pause,—wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured, and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory" (p. 323).
THERE WAS A PURE JOY IN
But I wasn't really paying attention.
That isn't to say that my heart wasn't in the right place. Turning to God in moments, working to be more patient about everything, is something that I strive to do daily. So even though I was feeling a bit disjointed, longing for a break, I knew that deep desire within me—a sign of the impelling, peaceful presence of God's guidance—was actively at work. In my thoughts I was endeavoring to slow down and listen, and to know that every moment includes all the fullness of God.
Once I got to the nursery, I remembered needing several bags of dirt as well. The prepackaged bags were $3.99, or you could shovel your own for about $2. Looking down at my favorite green sandals, I decided they'd be OK—it was worth it to shovel.
I got in line behind a tiny woman wearing even more delicate, and high-heeled, sandals. She turned to me and said something in heavily accented English. I didn't understand her. And so it began. I had to ask her to repeat herself three or four times. I was embarrassed—but so wanted to know what she was trying to say. I listened and prayed ... and finally I understood! She said, "We will help each other?" And I hastened to say, "Oh yes, we will help each other."
Our turn came. I'd hold her bag, she'd shovel some dirt. She'd hold my bag, I'd shovel some dirt. Two women heaving dirt in dainty footwear—I still want to giggle when I think of it. The soil was dark and moist, the air crisp and clear; there was a pure joy in our work together.
When we'd finished, she turned to me and said, "Now you go get your car, and we'll load these bags." It was almost as if she was on a mission to give me a hand. To be honest, her offer to help really caught me off guard initially. I hadn't even thought of assisting her, or anyone for that matter—I was all business. So while I appreciated the help, I felt in some way that helping her should have occurred to me as well.
The bags were really heavy. Once we had my car loaded, I said, "Now you go get your car." She said, "No, you just go now. I'll be OK." I felt surprised, not quite sure what to do, but stayed to help her anyway. Then we both went on our ways.
I don't know if that woman will ever know what she did for me that day. It meant the world. Such a small gesture—but it felt like the literal hand of God. All the hurried, anxious, burdened thoughts I'd been carrying around melted away. I couldn't help but think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, or the passage from the 23rd Psalm: "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." I felt washed, loved, restored, encouraged, cared for, and worthy—I felt the conscious, inclusive presence of God.
As I drove home, it was like driving on air. I felt so loved. I also felt rebuked—but only in good ways. I had learned a little better that:
• All moments have value.
• I am never doing it alone.
• There will always be time for kindness.
There is no act too small, no task too trivial: All things are holy when they're fueled by love. For me it was this message from above: "Love your life darlin'—love the moments. Life is your ministry, and I will minister to you."
Joni Overton-Jung is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher living in Toronto, Canada.