I was telling a friend about my crossword puzzle work.
I don't do crossword puzzles. I don't understand them, all their obtuse clues--Bestselling Michale Buble album--make my eyes glaze over, and all those blank squares waiting-to-be-filled-in make me tense. So why every morning am I cutting these puzzles out of the newspapers we get delivered--The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times--and decorating them with stickers? I wait until I have a pretty big pile and I stuff the whole bunch into a colorful envelope--turquoise, pink, orange--and send it to my niece in El Paso.
"That's a random act of kindness," said Johnnie, bequeathing unto me a huge, unexpected compliment out of the blue.
I hadn't thought much about my crossword puzzle "work;" and I hadn't labeled it one way or other. About a year ago, my husband and I were visiting Chris, my nephew, and his wife, Jennifer, and somehow she mentioned about loving to do crossword puzzles. She said they help her relax. As the 30-something mother of two young boys, I could see how some relaxation, just for her, could be helpful. She also said that she never gets any mail in her mailbox. It would be fun for a change to get some mail.
I had been so uninterested in crossword puzzles that I'd been oblivious to their existence. I hadn't realized most newspapers carry them regularly, daily. As soon as we got back home, I noticed crossword puzzles everywhere. In the second section of the Wall Street Journal, the Arts section of the New York Times, even the sub-par Los Angeles Times has a crossword puzzle.
Every morning I started tearing out the puzzles, and because I wanted Jennifer to remember me, just a little, as she was solving the puzzles, I decorated them. Depending on the season, and what stickers I had on hand, I glued on stars, pumpkins or Christmas trees. I was careful only to put on the stickers where they wouldn't interfere with the puzzle.
Jennifer said getting my colorful envelope was the highlight of her week. That might be hyperbole. But still nice. She said that when she went away, she'd take the envelope on the plane and it was her way to relax.
When I started tearing, clipping, decorating, and mailing these puzzles I had no way of knowing that this activity would assume the quality of a daily zen ritual, and also send a message: We may live 1,000 miles apart, but I think of you daily, Jennifer, and I care about you.
I certainly had no way of realizing that once I started, I wouldn't stop. And I had no way of knowing that my friend, Johnnie, would say, This is a random act of kindness.