Thursday, November 22, 2018


I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. She was to me just a random person taking a seat a foot or two away from me, both of us facing the window in a Starbucks, I looking out on a sun-flooded street on a cold morning the day before Thanksgiving.

I was looking out until she came up, and then I did what I always do. I checked to see who had alighted near me. There was nothing unusual about her. Maybe thirty, perhaps or a tad younger, she wore a gaily colored backpack. She opened up the small bag and partially pulled out a breakfast sandwich. She closed her eyes. Theoretically she could have been thinking of anything, but I knew somehow that she was silently offering a prayer. My eyes, after a second, resumed their gaze on the bustling corner of 20th and L Streets. Something in me said that to look further would be somehow to intrude on a holy moment.

Why seeing this stranger pause and shut her eyes before biting into a sandwich would affect me at all I have no idea. It occurred to me that she might have been practicing something that she’d learned as a child, much as I had, to pause before eating to frame a thought or word of gratitude. I thought it, but for no longer than a nanosecond. I glanced at my phone but somehow didn’t want to go away from the Presence nesting near me.

She rose after a bit, gathered her things, left. Still looking out the window, I saw a totally unremarkable woman wearing a bright backpack and green pants walk towards the corner, wait, cross the street, and disappear behind a truck blocking any further view of her. I continued looking out at the street, the morning, the passersby, the traffic.

For reasons I will never know, or maybe for no reason at all, I could only feel surging affection rising up inside me. It felt, well, like love, and seemed almost to have a sound as it crept higher past my throat. A tear spilt onto my cheek, and then another, and another. I sat stunned at my own body’s response to something so inconsequential I didn’t know what it was.

And yet I did know. I do know. I saw a stranger pause in something that seemed like gratitude. It was her pause that touched me.

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2018



Traveler Lynn said...

Thank you, Frank, for being present to that moment, for noticing the gift and for sharing it. From your heart to mine and back again. Our lives are filled wish such sweetness.

Michael Norman said...

Indeed - to be a witness to deep gratitude is deeply moving ... thanks! ... mn