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anne mikolay 2012 120Our world is a chaotic mess. Terrorists slaughter the innocent. Police officers are ambushed and shot. Recording artists are compelled to make personal, gratuitous statements about their sexuality. Shallow, “beautiful” people are famous for nothing more than their looks. Politically inexperienced business moguls and physicians seek political nominations. Young people are shot on college campuses. Movie theaters and houses of worship are no longer safe. The mentally disturbed work to trigger race wars. The man-made line between “us” and “them” deepens. Nowadays, despair easily usurps goodness and kindness.

Such things were spinning in my mind last weekend when I went for dinner with a friend in Toms River. As we discussed Donald Trump's campaign, an elderly couple shuffled in, hand-in-hand, and sat at a nearby table. The gentleman, who had difficulty seeing, made sure his wife, who had difficulty walking, was seated before taking his place beside her. The couple had brought their own bottle of wine to dinner; the man poured his wife a glass before pouring his own. They shared a menu. As they dined, they ate off each other's plates and spoke softly to one another. Their enjoyment of the evening was apparent; their love and mutual respect even more so.

Admittedly, watching this sweet, old couple eating their dinner was impolite, but they were mesmerizing, though at first glance, ordinary and stereotypical. He wore a gray t-shirt and well-worn pants; she was clad in white capris better known as pedal pushers in her youth. His hair was silver, hers was a silky white. The elderly pair did nothing to call attention to themselves. As far as they knew, they were enjoying a meal and saving money with an early bird special. They had no idea a nosy writer was watching them, thinking...

Thinking...the world needs more people like them. Our society craves respect, reverence, love; we are starving for human warmth and goodness. That's why we gravitate toward Norman Rockwell scenarios during holidays; it's the reason some of us like Hallmark movies and Jacquie Lawson e-cards, why we hug puppies and kittens and love little babies, why we react joyously to wedding or birth announcements. But as they say, with age comes wisdom...and a knowing that Fate more often than not eclipses goodness and propels us down roads we did not plan. We become jaded, cynical, sucked into the man-made muck.

And then along comes a sweet elderly couple simply living their lives, enjoying their dinner, totally oblivious to the scrutiny of those around them, and we learn goodness and love still exist and should comprise the foundation of our lives. Live simply, with reverence for all, love much, and we can rise above the chaotic mess around us.

I'm very glad I encountered that elderly couple, living examples of Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”