I missed September 11, 2001. I was at a school nature camp, and the teachers chose not to tell us what had happened, leaving it for our parents to do four days later.

As such, my memories of that time are different from most. By the time I got home and saw the video footage, the paralysis of shock and fear had already passed by. There was still so much grief and pain, but the country was moving again, people pulling together to do what needed to be done. Churches of all denominations united in prayer. People offered food, clothing, shelter, whatever they could give to complete strangers who were in need. Stories surfaced everywhere of people taking the part of angels, bringing relief to those who grieved, who toiled, who couldn’t go home.

For a while, our country–and others as well–remembered something: we are all human. We are all in this together. We need each other desperately.

I wish we could remember this more often. That instead of picking apart each others’ differences, we could see the things we all share. That we could put aside our opinions long enough to see a person’s soul instead of just political views. That we could build each other up as we did in the wake of destruction, instead of tearing each other down in our comfortable prosperity.

And so I’ll start with me. I’ll work a little harder to see that person on the street or in the store not as an Other, but as a fellow member of this human race. I’ll work on not letting a difference of opinion stand in the way of what could be a great friendship. I’ll seek to salve the hurts that I can. I’ll remember–not the the terror or the hate or the pain–but the greatness that rose in our souls to push that darkness away.

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Windshield Wipers

When my husband and I moved to the Seattle area two and a half years ago, we had both just graduated from BYU. He was on his was to a PhD at the UW. I didn’t have a job, his job didn’t start for six months, and we were living in his parents’ basement until we found a place.

Our windshield wipers had already been baked by an early Utah summer, but it was still pouring rain in Washington. Still, with no immediate promise of income, I was willing to put up with a few streaks on the windshield rather than buy new wiper blades.

But after my husband and I returned from a walk one day, my father-in-law, Jim, mentioned in passing, “I put a new pair of windshield wipers on your car for you.”

Alone, it’s a small, sweet example of the way he lived his life, noticing needs around him and quietly filling them. But you have to understand that Jim was suffering from severe back pain, so bad that he hadn’t been able to lie down for months. He had tumors the size of golf balls spreading through his body. He was in and out of chemotherapy, and suffering from neuropathy from previous bouts of chemo. And through all this, he was still working so hard to keep up with his job as a sports photographer for the Seattle Times.

And he had gone out, bought windshield wipers, and installed them for us while we were out walking.

We had six more months with him before the cancer treatments became too much. That was two years ago today.

Those windshield wipers are starting to leave streaks behind, and with holiday travels ahead of us, it’s probably time to replace them again. But I count it a blessing that this gloomy Washington weather gives me frequent opportunities to use those wipers and give quiet thanks in my heart for the selfless man who changed our wiper blades.