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The Last Time You Were Astounded?


The other day, a close friend asked me to recall a time when I was astounded by an unexpected event.

The first memory that came to mind was when I had moved to the Bay Area after graduating from school. I was living in a studio apartment on Athol Ave in Oakland, California. Saddled with student loans, my days consisted of leaving for work at 7 am and returning 12 hours later.

Being new to the area, I led a Spartan-like life. All of my belongings fit comfortably in my Honda civic. I had one mattress and did not own a single piece of furniture, choosing to eat breakfast and dinner on a cardboard box.

One morning as I washed blueberries to take to work, the kitchen faucet broke off and a powerful geyser of water shot upward, taking a bite out of the popcorn ceiling.

My first reaction was to cram the broken faucet in place. It took all of my focus and strength to hold that faucet down against the upward force of water. If I budged a bit, water would shoot out in all directions with great force.

Not having much life experience, it took me a few minutes to realize that my only choice was to let go of the broken faucet so that I could go under the sink to find the water shutoff. Until I was able to find and turn the water supply valve off, it was like being next to an open fire hydrant.

There was water everywhere, including a layer on the tile floor. Knowing that the water supply was shut off and not wanting to be late for work, I spread all of the towels I owned across the kitchen floor and quickly packed to leave for work - I figured I would deal with the mess when I returned.

As I left, I saw my elderly neighbor, Rosa, who must have heard the ruckus and had come out to see what was happening. Thinking I had woken her up, I apologized for the noise and told her that there was nothing to worry about, as I turned the water supply off.

When I returned in the evening, I was stunned to find a spotless kitchen with my towels neatly folded up in a stack on the counter. Upon checking in with Rosa, I learned that while I was at work, she reported the broken faucet to the apartment manager, who came during the day to repair it. Rosa took that opportunity to gather my wet towels and run them through the washer and dryer in the basement. She told me that she had plenty of time as a retiree, and in seeing how simply I lived with no furniture, she was happy to surprise me in that way.

I don't remember all of the details of that day, but I clearly recall how surprised and deeply moved I was by Rosa's kindness - it was an experience that reminds me of Maya Angelou's thought on how we will forget most of the things that people said and did, but we'll remember how they made us feel. On that day 26 years ago, Rosa made me feel cared for - it was clearly an act of goodness with no expectation of something in return.

So here's a question worth reflecting on:

When was the last time you were genuinely astounded by an act of kindness?

Recalling such acts of grace can be a powerful way of filling ourselves with gratitude, the most powerful fuel for healing and happiness.


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