A couple of months ago some vandal put orange stickers on the pavement in front of my building. I write “vandal” because it’s a form of defacing public property, after all.
The stickers say “Thank you.” They’re the kind of stickers from grocery stores that get plastered on your large items after being scanned at the register. This meant that the items had already been paid for, and that you weren’t stealing the six-pack, or 40-pound sack of kibble, or whatever unbaggable item you were taking out of the store. The stickers don’t really mean “thank you” at all, kind of like those seven red decorative “THANK YOUs” emblazoned on white plastic bags. If it’s a verbal “thank you,” then it’s merely perfunctory, just a means to signal the end of the commercial transaction.
These “Thank you” stickers on the ground mean nothing either. They just stare up from the sidewalk. No one’s attempted to remove them yet, as it’s probably too much trouble now. Shoes and boots and bikes have ground the adhesive into the pavement.
Maybe no one has really noticed them; I just happened to. When I walk, I probably look at the ground more often than other people. But that’s just because I’m keeping an eye out for illicit tidbits my dog may encounter.
But this morning I thought I’d take a photo of one of the stickers because it stopped me in my tracks. Struck by some weird cosmic oddness.
I don’t believe in anything as fanciful as a message from the universe, or from the earth, or as it happens, from a slab of scuffed concrete next to a pile of wood chips. But when I am hailed from the cold cement, how do I respond? Why am I being thanked? What did I do? Or, what will I do today that will make me worthy as the recipient of such gratitude?
This is what both knowing and not knowing looks like.
A lesson learned.
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