Bent Road, Lori Roy’s debut novel, is published today by Dutton. Lori Roy was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas, where she attended and graduated from Kansas State University. Her work has appeared in the Chattahoochee Review. She currently lives with her family in west central Florida.
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Strength and selflessness
We come this day from many different directions. Some of us have left a job early to be here. Others have dropped off younger children at a sitter before making the journey. Still others picked up high schoolers early from classes so that we could bring them along.
Walking up the church steps toward a set of double doors, we wear dark suits, knee-length skirts, freshly pressed shirts. Our children—most of us have brought sons—wear ties and beige pants we have pressed and belts we have fished out of the backs of closets.
We come because a friend of ours has died.
I recognize many of the faces, particularly the adults. Years ago, I sat on bleachers with them, a little league game unfolding before us. We yelled at umpires together, cheered for a stand-up triple, patted backs when our sons lost. I sat across a basketball court from some, lounged on a beach chair next to many, scanned baseball rosters and registered players with a few. I recognize the sons only because I know the parents. The boys have
grown since I last saw them. Their necks have thickened, shoulders widened, voices dipped an octave. A few probably shaved before coming.
We give each other small nods, shake hands, don’t really say anything. We are remembering little boys with round cheeks and dimpled chins and are shocked that they have turned into young men. We are shocked our friend is gone. As we filter through the double doors, all of us wondering where the time went, we wait to greet the woman whose husband has died.
She reaches out with both hands as each of us approaches her. She wraps us in a hug and thanks us for coming. Her eyes are clear, her long black hair is smooth, she stands with a straight back, her chin high. When it is my turn, I can’t speak. She wraps me in her hug and then looks up at my son. She smiles because she can’t believe how he has grown, how they have all grown. On this day, she extends herself by thanking all of us, putting us at ease, welcoming us. On this day, perhaps her worst day, she knows we are frightened and she comforts us. She is kind.
Six weeks ago, I was asked if I would contribute something to this blog about kindness, and for six weeks, I have considered all the different things I could write about. I am fortunate enough to have been the recipient of many acts of kindness, and I hope I have extended a few. But what occurred to me after six weeks of thinking is that, while all acts of kindness are considerable and worthwhile, the greatest acts display the strength and selflessness that I witness that day and will remember always.
Next week, Barbara Brockway visits Quest For Kindness.