By Julie Wright
Today is one of those "I don't know how I feel about today" days. I have owned and operated a little store in west central Utah for fourteen years. I have counted out pennies over the counter for children and then watched those children grow up so I could count out pennies for their children. Today it is all over. We closed our doors for the last time.
But though I'm in the middle of all the emotions of such an event, that isn't what this post is about.
This post is about all the women in this town.
Yesterday, one of my neighbors who has a very sick husband with MS, came over to help us get things settled. Not because she had to, not because she gained anything by it, but because she knew we needed help, and even in the midst of her own trials, she is looking to help someone else bear theirs.
I have spent years living in the shadows of these sorts of women--the kind who show up in their pajamas on my doorstep at nearly midnight because I can't figure out how to use a pressure canner and had started an overwhelming project in the middle of the night and needed someone to bail me out.
These are the women who have helped take care of my children, made me laugh, and shown up just to tell me they care on days when I believed no one cared.
These are the women who taught me about heaven reminders.
Something I wanted to convey more than anything through the Newport Ladies Book Club series was how much we need each other.
A woman I know and admire used to have a quote in her email signature line that said, "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." I think it's some version of a quote from Plato.
But the words are true.
We size each other up when we first meet. We make judgements, wrong or accurate--it doesn't matter--the judgements get made.
Yet all of us have our internal pain, our days when things aren't great, times when we feel like we're dying a little more every single day.
Sometimes it's something small that saves us.
This might sound dumb to some of you, but I am going to share a true story.
I was working in my little store about two years ago. So many things were so wrong in my life. The store struggled so much financially. Every penny I made as an author and that my husband made at his job went to keep the store going a little while longer. But my writing life had its fair share of blips too. And I had just become a cripple due to an injury I couldn't have fixed. I was in the midst of a whole lot of bad days. No one knew how bad things were for me emotionally. I didn't tell anyone. I was so severely depressed that I really, truly cannot describe the darkness of my thoughts.
I had a breakdown and took a moment where I had it out with God. I'm not saying this is good or bad--it's just what I did.
I told him he had abandoned me.
And then I cried and cried and cried.
But those desperate, bitter tears only lasted five minutes, because in a literal five minutes, one of the women in my town dropped into the store to tell me she'd been worried about me and my leg and had decided to come and do some physical therapy on me.
A literal minute after that, another woman came in with some homemade jam that she'd been making when all of a sudden, she felt the need to come give me a jar because she thought I might like it. She still had her apron on. She knew, though it sounded silly (even to her), that I needed that jam urgently.
A literal minute after that, another woman came in from her daily walk. She'd been out enjoying the beautiful wildflowers in the fields and had the thought that a fresh bouquet would look nice on my counter.
These women didn't, and still don't, know that on the day they felt the need to offer me a small kindness, a gentle extension of friendship, that they had saved me.
Sometimes God answers our prayers through other people.
When writing Olivia for the Newport Ladies, I thought a lot about those women--thought a lot about that day. I considered how strange it was that these women showed up at the critical moment when they had no clue that my life was literally crumbling in around me.
There is a glory in womanhood, a rightness that can't be found anywhere else. You hear about cat fights and mean girls, and we all know about judgement. We've all done it. We've all received it.
But our capacity for good is so intense if we're brave enough to act on it.
I was asked a couple weeks ago what I hoped people would find in the Newport series.
I hope they find compassion, for each other, for themselves. Life is not easy. Be kinder than necessary, for you have no idea but that your one smile may make all the difference to one who'd already decided to give up.
I am grateful for the women in my little town. I hate leaving them, but I am so glad they've left their mark in my heart. I'm grateful for all I've learned from them and hope to pass it on.