The day before Thanksgiving, I was walking through Trader Joe's, my coat over my arm, when I heard something clatter on the floor.
"I think it went under there." The woman behind me pointed to the tall nearby shelves.
"Maybe it was a button?" I asked, looking at my coat.
While I was looking, the woman, who was probably older than me, bent down and reached under the shelf. "Got it!" she said, getting up. And she held out a black rock to me.
"My rock!" It didn't look like much, so I explained.
Years ago, wearing my green winter coat, I went to the beach in Mendocino with my husband. As we walked, I spotted this black rock. It's not perfect, but to me it looked like a heart. I put it in my pocket. I have carried it in the pocket of my winter coat ever since. I can reach down anytime, feel the smooth rock in my hand, and be reminded of our love. Sometimes I remember to take the rock out before traveling so I don't lose it in an airplane overhead bin, but sometimes I forget. It's a miracle I've managed to keep it so long.
I would have hated to lose it in the Trader Joe's canned goods aisle.
"Thank you so much for finding it!" I told the woman, after explaining the rock to her. She could tell how happy and grateful I was.
"Happy Thanksgiving!" she answered, obviously pleased.
I was reminded again of how important kindness is. She was probably trying to finish up her Thanksgiving shopping. The store was buzzing, carts four deep at every register, large empty shelf spaces where packages of dinner rolls used to be. Yet she had taken to the time to stop and help me.
And I was also reminded of how important gratitude is. I was so sincerely grateful for her help that I could tell it made her feel good to have stepped in. Honestly, I wanted to hug her.
In writing, I try to practice both kindness and gratitude towards my characters. Kindness, by trying to understand the battles they are fighting. Some of my craziest characters are my favorites, because I know what is making them crazy. Considering their lives, narrators of "Just in Case" and "Dear Squirrel" are doing the best they can. And gratitude that the characters have come to me in fiction. I'm grateful for whatever inspiration sent them my way.
So today on Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for kindness, and gratitude, and that I can still reach into my coat pocket and touch love.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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