Ordinary Tenderness

For the the last several nights, at 8 pm, our neighbors have opened their windows and clapped, cheered, and shouted “thank you!!!” for all the essential workers in our community in Los Angeles. Hearing disparate voices unify gave me chills.

We know none of our neighbors. Coming from New York City, where we only spoke to one other building resident once for a few minutes after she had a baby, we assumed, “People will be so much friendlier in California.” We live now in a four-plex, which in other words means that our one lot is divided into four dwellings. We have lived here for nearly four months, and we have only waved at one neighbor once through their car window as we walked by.

LA has mostly felt vast to us. While four weeks ago, that vastness felt like unbridled possibility. But now? That vastness has felt overwhelming, inhospitable, as we have tried to tend to the corners of our home, trying to make them feel comforting, welcoming, familiar.

But for a few moments, then, I felt a part of something. Awash in the beauty of humanity, I thought, “We will be okay.” Human beings are capable of grace, together.

Jean Vanier said, ““Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.” Our lives are now grounded, for better or worse, by ordinary things. By computer work and laundry and cups of coffee.

This week, do little things with great love. Do ordinary things with tenderness. Somehow, they make the world a brighter place to be, a kinder place to grow and exist.