I’m taking a bit of a risk to write what I’m about to write because the woman who started this whole thing is an occasional reader of my work, and I’m not absolutely certain she will take this story in the spirit in which it is intended. But I’ve already committed the act, so either way, she’s likely to find out. I’m just hoping that, rather than being offended, she sees she actually inspired a delightful ripple effect in the world.
The exposition (backstory for any of you not in the theatre world)
Nicole and I have been loosely attempting to connect in person for the past three or so years. She lives a bit out of town, and we just couldn’t quite make our times and days work, ever. And there’s the fact that, while we have mutual friends who praised both of us to the other, how many more friends does anyone actually need? That’s one of the great joys and challenges of middle age: your friend network is often pretty well set. I mean, at the end of the day, there’s only so much time in our lives to engage in new relationships for the simple sake of curiosity. Sad but true.
But earlier in September, Nicole wrote to me and said, Hello! I know this is going to be an absolute shot in the dark but the Universe has gifted me with a last-minute TSA Precheck appointment tomorrow morning at 9. Since I’m going to be in Fargo, I was wondering if you’d be available to meet for coffee? I could meet as early as 7am or we could meet closer to 8am. I don’t know that being on the receiving end of good karma twice in one day will happen but I thought I’d lean into it and make the ask! 🙂 And I recognize I’m asking on short notice here so feel no obligation to make it work. If not tomorrow, I haven’t lost sight of this!
Amazingly, my next morning was free. I wrote back and said, I could absolutely meet at 7am. I have to be back by 8:15 for Daily Dose, but I’m an early riser and would be happy to meet then.
I’ll just add to the overall karmic-ness of this finally happening…want to meet at my house? That way, we don’t lose travel time. I’ll have tea made, but if you are a coffee drinker, bring that. I have four peach almond scones that I need to bake up this week, so I’ll have those, too. If meeting at my house feels weird to you, name a place, and I’ll see you there. I have a lovely sun room we can sit in with blankeys in case it’s cool. 😀
Looking forward to finally meeting you!
She responded: I AM SO EXCITED! Meeting at your house doesn’t feel weird to me at all and honestly, I’m thankful to live in a world where these invitations exist. I’d MUCH rather meet in someone’s home where I feel comfort and coziness! I’ll be at your house at 7am tomorrow morning.
I had breakfast with my friend _________, a few weeks ago and she mentioned you. I told her how we’ve been trying to connect and it hasn’t worked out. I told her we considered Zooming but I just felt like you’re someone I wanted to meet in-person, and I knew it would work out.
I am THRILLED that this is happening! I cannot WAIT!
I concluded: Funny—I almost wrote to you to say ________ recently spoke so highly of you that it re-reminded me that we were supposed to be trying to get together.
Nicole turned up at 7 on the dot. She got out of her car with a cup of coffee, a pretty little gift bag and her arms open for a hug.
I’m sure the coffee was good, and the hug was nice after all these months of barely touching another human being, but it’s the gift bag we’re going to focus on.
She presented me with a beautiful little bag, bursting with tissue paper, and said, “My mom taught me that you don’t go to someone’s home without a gift.”
Sidenote: my mom taught me many great things, but that was not one of them. We didn’t have that kind of relationship with anyone in our lives. My mom and her friends didn’t exchange birthday presents—there wasn’t money for that. I didn’t grow up seeing my parents bring flowers, wine or chocolates to people’s homes when we had supper together.
Perhaps because we always went for supper and not dinner? Dinner implies something formal; it seems to require a hostess/thank you gift. Supper says, “We’re having sloppy joes, and I made a ton. Come on over.”
I rarely think to stop and purchase a small gift for someone, even those who are important to me. It’s not on my radar. In fact, it always surprises me, even embarrasses me a little, when someone does it for me because it’s so out of my experience. So I said “Thank you!” and set it aside for a later viewing.
Sidenote: when should you open a gift from someone in a non-birthday party, wedding or baby shower kind of scenario? In front of them? Afterwards?
Nicole and I had a fabulous time together. She is as delightful as I always felt she would be, and our 85 or so minutes flew by.
Later that day, I opened the gift bag. It contained a thoughtfully written note card and the plaque in the photo above.
One part of the notecard said: I…saw this little gem…and thought of you immediately. I hope you enjoy it and accept it as a small token of my appreciation for being the voice you are in the world, for showing up authentically and for inspiring so many, just like me.
So thoughtful, right?
This plaque has been leaning against the wall on the table in my sun room, next to where I work during nice weather. While I appreciate the sentiment on it, it’s the physical plaque that has had me thinking these past weeks. I’ve looked at it many times and wondered how I might incorporate a more gift-giving nature into my habits.
Then yesterday, I had the perfect opportunity to practice.
I was going to my friend Gina’s new house for the first time, and I thought, “I need to bring her something.” Thank you, Nicole!
I had a flash of inspiration: I would not just get her a “little something,” I would give Gina this very plaque.
So I wrote on it, and I explained the story of how I got it and why I was giving it to her. And I told her that her job was to keep the plaque as long as it served her and then to find another person to pass it along to.
She read it, and I watched her consider how it related to her life. And then she said, “I know exactly who I’m going to share this with next.”
We both said we hope it makes its way back to us someday so that we can pour over the names and dates and think about the relationships and conversations that were had because of it.
Nicole, I hope you see what you started and relish it. I also hope you tell your mom she did a good think instilling that thoughtful quality in you. I appreciate the gift, but I appreciate what it launched even more. Here’s to passing it on!
Dayna, I love this story and this idea!
Dayna Del Val
Thanks so much for reading and writing, Ruth!