Can You Spare a Square?


A couple days ago, my daughter and I had to run to our small-town grocery store for some bread. I didn't realize going into all this that feeding my family would take more planning than usual. They eat an enormous amount of food. So we found ourselves at lunchtime taking a quick trip. After the lecture, "don't touch anything, don't get close to anyone," we walked into the store. As we walked in, a woman walked out, carrying a case of toilet paper. My daughter excitedly whispered, "Mom look how much toilet paper she has! They must have toilet paper!" My heart skipped a beat, and we moved into the store, my feet barely touching the ground from the weight being lifted from my shoulders

When we got to the paper goods aisle, it was bare except for two rolls of paper towels. Two older gentlemen were asking about toilet paper, and the clerk stocking the shelf said they had none. I saw their shoulders slump. I felt their disappointment ripple through me, and I wished at that moment that I had a square to spare. The clerk looked as though he wanted to disappear behind the box of paper towels he was unloading. The two older men moved away their hopes depleted and their carts empty.

In a Seinfeld episode in 1994, Elaine finds herself in a bathroom stall without toilet paper. She asks the woman in the next stall if she can pass some over, and the woman answers that she can't. The two go back and forth with Elaine pleading for just three squares. The woman in the other stall responds, "I don't have any to spare. I don't have a square to spare." It was funny at the time. Right now is just feels mean.

Thankfully what I see right now from my limited vantage point is the good in people. I haven't seen selfish or stingy acts. I have only seen a terrible situation bringing out the best in us. Last week during a grocery run, a woman handed me a basket when she saw my eyes searching for one, I saw another woman offer a re-usable bag to a man who had forgotten his. I saw someone offer a hand bagging groceries to another person. Of course this week maybe that would be too much contact but last week that was to me, kindness. A silver lining in what was beginning to get very dark for me. But there is always a silver lining. Sometimes it may only be a sliver, but all we need is a sliver of light to take total darkness away.

The news, although filled with a whole lot to make you nervous, also has some bright spots. They are highlighting the good in small ways. People are turning their sewing talents to making masks for healthcare workers. We have a woman in my town who has already made hundreds of them. Restaurant owners are delivering meals to hospital workers. Schools are handing out meals all week to students who need them. People are doing what they can, when they can and it all adds up. It doesn't have to be large, it doesn't have to get media attention. Every kind gesture helps. Mother Teresa said, " We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." And that is what is needed now. These are the silver linings, all things great and small.

We all have something to share. It may be the ability to sew or just sharing a few rolls of toilet paper. It all means something. It all points us to doing for the greater good and not for the greater self. If we aren't careful, this pandemic could set us all on a spiritual path. Brene Brown says in her book "Gifts of Imperfection" that "spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and the connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion." When we practice compassion, we cannot help but share our gifts and when we share our gifts we find those silver linings.

After two trips on Friday to two different stores and not finding a square to spare, I told my family to brace themselves; we may need to use leaves. As that Seinfeld episode was playing in my brain, Elaine running from the bathroom hoarding reams of toilet paper, and trying to reconcile my current reality of lack with her reality of abundance, my husband came home on Saturday from an errand with a big smile and an even bigger package of toilet paper.

He earned a vote for Sexiest Man Alive and gave me a silver lining for the day.

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