On a recent morning I opened my front door to an unexpected visitor. She had stopped by our home to drop off some eggs. We hadn’t requested eggs and indicated as much but she was unfazed. She would leave the eggs whether we wanted them or not.
After urinating in our garden, she proceeded to dig a shallow hole, deposit her clutch of eggs, cover the hole and then, without further fuss, parade off in the direction of the other turtles who were sunning themselves by the pond a few doors down.
Surprise visitations come in all forms. Some, like the turtle visit, are delightful interruptions of our normal routines but others cause us deep pain by handing us news we never want to hear- a scary diagnosis, a miscarriage, a job loss, or even a death. If only we could refuse to accept delivery by narrowing our eyes, pressing our lips firmly together and protectively crossing our arms over our hearts. But we cannot.
And yet, sometimes in the midst of the ensuing trial or while processing our grief, we realize both what’s important and what definitely isn’t, so we reconsider our priorities. We may gain newfound gratitude for something we previously took for granted. We discover grace through the unexpected kindness others extend to us. We humans need such things in order to flourish and thrive so I want to be the sort of person who practices setting meaningful priorities, noticing small blessings, offering grace and doing acts of kindness.
Ultimately, painful surprises present this paradox. Despite our wish to dodge it, pain offers an opportunity for those of us suffering it and those of us witnessing it to realign our actions with what we say truly matters. It may even bring out the best in us.