My mother once told me that the most beautiful things in life are often the things that go unnoticed. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that.
I believe she’s right. After all, I’ve never known Mama to be wrong.
Mama was right when she told me to always wear clean undies. She was right when she told me to never eat yellow snow. I believe she was right about nearly everything.
As it happens, this morning I read about a few beautifully unnoticed things. These items came to me in the form of emails.
I receive a lot of emails. Many of these messages come from people I’ve never met, who live in places I’ve never been. These perfect strangers write to me about small events that took place; microscopic happenstances that go unseen by society.
Like the woman from Michigan who told me about a young single father who lives in her building.
The father needed a ride to work because his car died and he couldn’t afford a cab. His jobsite was located nine miles away. So he walked.
This became a routine. The man arose each morning and hoofed nine miles. Then he walked home after work.
He was walking 45-plus miles every week. Until last week.
Last week an older woman who drives a truck for a courier service had been noticing this man each morning. She pulled over and offered him a ride.
The man said no he’d be fine, and he kept walking. But the lady insisted, she did everything short of begging him to get in.
He got in. When she dropped him at work she asked, “What time you get off, hon?”
He told her.
She smiled. “I’ll be waiting right here to take you home.”
She’s been giving him rides all week. No charge.
I received another message from an elderly man in northern California who said he was out for a walk when he saw a teenage boy by the side of the road, clutching a bloody arm. The kid was clearly injured.
The old man approached the kid. The teenager was Latino, and couldn’t speak much English.
So the old man whipped out his cellphone. He called his ex-wife in Pennsylvania, who is a retired high-school Spanish teacher.
It bears mentioning: the old man hadn’t spoken to his ex in over 20 years. When she heard his voice you could have knocked her over with a quesadilla.
The old man put his ex-wife on speaker and she translated a very confusing conversation from across the North American continent.
It turns out the kid’s arm was severely broken when he fell from a moving vehicle. Thanks to the marvels of cellular communication, and one totalmente increíble ex-wife, the man was able to get the kid help.
One more for you.
A guy outside Alexandria, Virginia, found a stray dog in his neighborhood. The dog was female, with a sagging midsection and a thickened belly.
The old girl had been reportedly stealing cat food from local porches and nosing in garbage cans.
The man tailed the old girl into nearby woods one day where he found a litter of wiggling newborn puppies nestled in a pile.
That afternoon, he coaxed the old girl to let him carry her puppies home using an old Radio Flyer wagon. The mother followed close behind. He set the dogs up in his den with blankets and quilts.
And it gets better.
A few days later, a couple of kids were wandering the neighborhood, handing out posters for a lost dog. They knocked on the guy’s door; he responded by introducing them to their missing dog and nine newborn puppies.
Both kids erupted into a mess of saltwater and snot. “We thought she got hit by a car!” they said.
The old man plans to keep one of the puppies.
One last story before I go. A guy in Texas sent this one.
Dan and his girlfriend, Cherilyn, have been volunteering at a small homeless shelter. Last month, while serving food to dozens of hungry people, Dan asked Cherilyn to marry him publicly, in front of the shelter’s dining room.
She said yes.
Immediately after the proposal, many of the homeless onlookers were so overcome with emotion that several began digging into their rucksacks and ragged pockets for impromptu wedding gifts.
The people in rags formed a single-file receiving line and gave their humble scrapyard gifts to the happy couple, along with well wishes and occasional tears.
Among the gifts Dan received were an iPhone charger, a plastic cup, a slightly used sudoku book, a warm can of Coke, and a hand towel that was apparently confiscated from a Hampton Inn and Suites.
“I’ve never been so moved,” said Dan. “These people gave us some of their only possessions.”
Well, I could keep going, but I’m running out of space. So I won’t tell you about the birthdays, retirement parties, or about the Little Leaguer who rescued a turtle with a cracked shell this week.
I won’t tell you about the young woman who, on a whim, quit her supermarket job to teach piano and voice lessons, and now makes a living doing something she loves.
Neither will I tell you about the old lady who, for the first time, met the child she gave up for adoption 56 years ago.
What I will tell you is this: Mama was right.