When I was five, my grandmother who was a Russian midwife and healer told me a creation myth about a huge crystal bowl in the dark sky. One night it shattered into millions of tiny seeds of light that lodged inside of every being on the planet. Each was called a spot of grace. She told me that our task as humans is to find, grow, and shine that seed into the darkness of the world. She said that when everyone does this, the bowl will be made whole again.
These days, in a fragmented world of more than 6 billion people, it’s more important than ever that each one of us understands we’re unique and make a difference. So I decided to ask people to send me stories about the people and moments that helped them recognize that uniqueness and grow it. I asked people in workshops I taught, in speeches I gave around the country, in conversations on airplanes. I sent out an email inquiry to 2,500 friends and people on my mailing list.
The stories began to drift slowly into my mailboxes. At first many people said to me, “What do you mean, ‘Who taught me that I’m unique’? Unique? There are more than six billion people on this planet, Dawna. I’m just ordinary, normal, like everyone else.” Then, thirty stories appeared one day, forty the next. Some came from people I knew, others from people I had never met. Most of them came with expressions of gratitude. “Writing this was like taking an antidepressant. I was pretty bummed out when I started, but writing it made it all come alive again.”
A ripple began when people who received the email sent it to their friends. Stories came from Capetown, Auckland, Shanghai, Paducah, and Bruges. I was amazed at the response. Each story had its own voice. Some were as simple as a South Dakota corn field, and others so complex that I had to read them out loud to understand. How could one question evoke such a wide variety of responses? A mother passed the invitation to her ten year old son. All the members of a book club in Chicago responded. Four grown siblings who are scattered all over the globe each sent in a story without consulting the others, and a hospice nurse from Denver sent stories from her dying patients.
The stories revealed to me how connected we all really are. Conversely, we are unique individuals, distinct from one another. Two sides of a mystery, two banks of a river. Each story was completely different: a man’s life was changed just by the fleeting smile of a stranger. Another woman sat with her dying brother for days recalling the decades that had profoundly affected how she was in the world.
On the other bank were the amazing synchronicities and connections running through the stories. A woman from New Zealand wrote about learning to love more deeply than she ever knew could be possible through tending her daughter, mute and vegetative during her last years of illness. At the same moment, on the other side of the planet, I was learning the same lessons while sitting with my sister in Colorado during the last fifteen months of her life, when she was unable to speak or move. Her daughter and my sister, Yarra and Joan, died within hours of each other in June of 2007. Though they had lived thousands of miles apart, they were buried within miles of each other in Colorado. Yarra’s mother found my poem in her daughter’s journal and read it at her memorial service.
I also realized the real power we have to influence and be influenced by each other. Again and again, the stories pointed to how one moment, one gesture or event could illuminate the intrinsic value in a person’s life, his or her self-worth, and trigger the need to contribute to the larger community.
In my grandmother’s mystical tradition, it is taught that we are angels to one another. It is said that we are sent, without our knowledge, to various places in order to do our destined work and make love multiply. Thus any person on earth may be called upon to act as an unwitting angel for another.
Pick a day, any day. Make the commitment to yourself that you will listen and watch for the spot of grace in the people you meet and tell them about it. For instance, as the building super walks to the door of your apartment after he has unclogged your drains at two in the morning, you might pause with your hand on the knob and say, “I have noticed, Paul, that you are always here for me when I most need it. It really means a great deal to know that in an emergency, you keep your cool and take charge.” Notice the effect this has on your energy and sense of connection. Acknowledging someone else’s spot of grace, no matter how he or she responds, ignites your own.
After a time of creating these moments of grace, you may find that your life begins to have a life of its own. The people you meet, the events you experience, and the things that you do all become part of an unfolding story, one that until now you weren’t aware was being told. You may find yourself trusting that, as with a seed, greater forces are at work supporting your growth. You may find that, more and more, you are glad to be alive.
Join the revolution of secret angels. Who says you need feathers?
Based on the book, Spot of Grace © 2008 by Dawna Markova. Printed with permission from New World Library.www.newworldlibrary.com
For more information, please visit www.dawnamarkova.com