“Do you know what that is, sweet pea? To be humble? The word comes from the Latin words humilis and humus. To be down low. To be of the earth. To be on the ground.”
– Dear Sugar
I’ve been humbled several times in my life – not nearly enough. I wrote a while ago about my Grandfather. What I never said is that my Dad humbled me by asking me to write and read his eulogy. What I never said was I was humbled when my Grandfather was confused and muddled and irritated with his feet. There were a few others in the room. I offered to cut his toenails for him – they were causing the trouble. And he said yes, he’d let me do that for him (something he would never have said in past years, ever. He was proud and prouder) but only once everyone else was gone, because it was something he didn’t want others to see. I never had the chance to do that intimate thing for him, but I often think about his tacit acceptance of my offer; of his trust and love. I was humbled by a man I admired and loved and revered, even at the end of his life when he knew and recognised little and was thin and smaller, confused and sad. But loved. So loved.
When I started working for the state’s daily paper, I was still scared and confused, even after many years as a journo. I was to write a story about a famous actor who had killed himself by jumping off a high building in Sydney. I tried finding his parents but could not. But through my contacts in the arts industry, I managed to cobble together a story with people who had known and loved him in his home state.
The day the article was published (not even 48 hours after he had died), the young man’s mother called me. She thanked me about the article I had written on her son and marvelled that I’d managed to find so many people who knew him so well. It had made her feel better, she said. She was comforted by an accurate, well-researched story on the boy she had lost.
In the absolute wilderness of grief and awfulness, she had wanted to talk to and thank a journalist who had written a story about her terrible loss.
She was composed and graceful. She did not need to call me. I still wonder at it. But that experience humbled me completely. It made me want to seek the floor, the lowest place I could get. The ground. The earth.
People surprise you. They bring you down to a fundamental understanding; thanking you for such a simple thing.
So getting down and getting low is a good thing. It shows us where we are, where we have been, where we aspire to be and the people we would like to be. Sometimes you need to do a Small Good Thing and that reminds you how charmed your life is and how much you need to give.
I don’t do that enough in my life and neither do you.
Small Good Things. Being Humble. Being of the Earth. Getting Down as Low as You Can. Humility. Lying on the Kitchen Floor with your cheek pressed to the tiles. Dust. Where we will return. Being Humble before you are anything else.
All of this.