The Grace Of Small Gestures
I was surprised and angry a few weeks ago when I read an interview conducted by Nina Utne with Stephen and Ondrea Levine on marriage and love*. A portion of her interview is quoted here.
S: People who get into relationship who don’t already have something that’s more important to them than themselves—generally spiritual practice and growth, or maybe service work—are less liable to stay with the process when the relationship doesn’t give them exactly what their desire system wishes for.
N: Someone wrote that 35 percent of his relationship comes from the fact that he brings his wife a cup of coffee in bed every morning.
S: What a weak relationship! Boy, that’s a miserable relationship. This guy better get himself another hobby!
I was nearly blown off my feet by Levine’s response. How could he so easily dismiss a morning ritual shared by this couple that enriches their relationship — a ritual that has lasted for as long as their marriage?
El is an independent contractor who doesn’t have to answer the 6:15 am call of the alarm clock as I must. After my shower and preparation for the day, I make a cup of tea for myself and bring her a cup of coffee in bed. She loves coffee and looks forward to her morning cup while reading email. Isn’t part of loving someone being in service to that person?
The two kittens, sisters from the same litter, are constantly licking and washing each other. Monkeys continually preen one another. Whose to say these aren’t acts of love? Maybe not on the same level as Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus but in my opinion these small ritualistic gestures rank high on the spiritual meter.
As a young boy, my mother taught me to stand when a woman enters the room, to walk on the outside of the sidewalk when in the company of the opposite sex and to open doors for women and allow them to proceed first. These manners, as she called them, have for me become gestures of love and appreciation for the people in my life as well as a stranger I meet on the street. I am well aware that the 12 o’clock stagecoach is not going to splash muddy water on my partners petticoats but I still walk on the outside because I want her to be safe, to know that I care about her well being. It is just another small gesture of my love.
Tomorrow morning around 7 o’clock, I will grind the beans, steam the soy milk, add just a touch of raspberry syrup and mix it with that black elixir from the expresso machine. It is for me a ritual, a solemn ceremony; a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. I will carry this cup of coffee into the bedroom and present it to my love. In return I will receive a gracious thank you and a kiss. A small gesture of her love for me.
*Utne, Nina. “Pillow Talk — A Conversation With Stephen and Ondrea Levine About Lust, The Meaning of Marriage and True Intimacy.” Utne — Understanding The Next Evolution. March-April 2006: 52 – 55.