The doorbell rings, and I ignore it. We're not expecting anyone, and I'm in the middle of cooking, tending three pans on a hot stove. Our kitchen is readily visible to anyone approaching our front door, so there's no pretending we're not home when the door bell rings. I've tried various measures to avoid answering the door, none successfully. I've found that gesturing wildly to indicate my preoccupation with the food on the stove, inspires a cheery wave in return—along with a hopeful look I cannot ignore.
Tonight, however, my husband is closer to the door than I am, so I wait for him to respond. He's watching the game, but he pushes back from the table and makes his way to the door. I listen in to discover the cause du jour: selling magazines for a school? Re-painting house numbers on the curb? Soliciting donations for a good cause?
Instead I hear, "Do you have a blanket?" All of my cynicism flies out the window. "I'm staying down at the church, and they don't have enough blankets," the voice continues. "They do have food tonight, and I'm glad for that but it's supposed to get real cold and I wonder if you have an extra blanket?"
Dinner can wait. I turn off the burners and go to the door. I take in the weathered face and gentle countenance of the weary traveler on our doorstep. I'm transported to a time and place when traveling pilgrims could expect charity by knocking on the kitchen door and a venerated monk's bowl would be filled without even asking. "Yes," I say, "wait just a minute." I search the basket full of blankets in the living room. "What a bounty," I think. I press the warmest blanket into the Traveler's hands. He nods and says, "thank you now." I watch him as he turns and ambles back down our pathway, my eyes brimming with tears. "I've seen an angel," I think.
There are no end of opportunities to give these days. Letters from charities asking for donations arrive daily. Hungry people stand on corners with battered signs. Commercials of abused animals and starving children parade across our flat screens. The kids bring home pleas for money from school in their backpacks. There is so much want and hurt and need in the world that I have to shut off the noise of it all to make it through the day.
It's easy to feel suspicious and jaded with all the stories of corruption in organizations we entrust to be our agents of compassion—of wealthy people pretending to be homeless while racking in thousands. And so I pretend not to see the homeless vet crumpled on the corner, I toss unread letters from charities straight into the recycle bin, and I turn off the TV at the first sign of discomfort.
And then someone knocks on my door and asks for a blanket, and I'm reconnected with the power and the blessing of Giving. How rare the opportunity to connect directly with another human, a fellow traveler on this Life journey, asking for something so simple for me to give—and so meaningful for him to have. No charitable organizations in the middle, taking their cut. No wondering if the cash will be used to buy liquor. Just a simple act of Ask and Receive.
Don't be afraid to ask, I've heard my teachers say, because you deprive someone of the opportunity to give. Giving feels good. There's no quicker path to Gratitude than the experience of giving, freely, lovingly, gladly. And Gratitude is the bullet train to the experiencing the essential Joy of this life.
On this day of Thanks Giving, I give thanks for all who read this blog post. I am grateful for the traveling soul who reminded me of how blessed I am--and how easily I may shift my perspective from the mundane to the miraculous with simple appreciation. May we all appreciate our warm blankets tonight and all of our simple blessings.