Every once and again a life touches another's, leaving a profound and indelible signature. Annie was one such woman. My story is much like countless others; her kindness speaking volumes, and her smile sparking palpable joy in any room she entered. She never took herself too seriously, all the while gladly bearing another's burden with heartfelt warmth. What was probably an act of kindness quickly forgotten by her has stuck with me for nearly twenty years.
As I blew into work on a frosty morning, I lamented to Annie (who went by “Annie” then, and so remains in my mind as “Annie” instead of “Anne”) that I had regretfully lost my favorite winter hat. Bustling between college classes and work, I had somehow lost it out of my truck. Alas! Despite retracing my steps, Operation Hat Recon had failed miserably. It was just a silly ol' hat, but Annie listened to my dramatic hat tribute with her trademark compassion and empathy (those who knew her, know exactly what I mean). With work to do, I set to my tasks, while Annie went to the back room. Now is a good time to mention that the hat I lost was white-just ordinary and white. She reappeared with what can only be described as a Suessical hat. Measuring in at an impressive thirty-six inches-yes, it was three feet long, this hat boasted bright stripes from stem to fringey stern. With her 1,000 watt smile, she held out her hat and declared that she absolutely insisted I have it. She modeled how stylish this hat was as she strutted her stuff across the faded carpet of the workroom.. With a gallant toss of her head, she demonstrated how one could use the tail of it as a scarf. How could I possibly say no?
Her head would have been just as cold as mine on the trek home after work, and yet I know that if it had been my jacket I'd lost, she would have given that to me as well. That's just who she was. I could recount dozens of stories of her kindness-driving me across town when my glasses broke, shoving money into my pocket to sneak us ice-cream at work, impromptu drawings for tough days, movie dates, a great many conversations on every topic under the sun, and a hilariously perplexing nickname which stuck for quite some time (but which also holds precious space in my memories). Each moment is stored in my heart, and I'll treasure them there for a lifetime.
As the air grows chilly, I'll pull out my Annie Hat. I've readily worn it every winter, and every winter I garner at least a couple raised eyebrows and amused side-eye glances. The fluff has long since been suppressed, and the hues have lost a certain vibrancy-much like the world has with Annie's passing. However, I will gladly keep right on wearing this comical hat, and anyone who comments will hear a tale of an incredible woman who, with a simple gesture, taught me that it's always the right time to be generous...and a tad goofy.
At a time in our nation when it's en vogue to disagree, I can't help but think that the world needs more Annies. Perhaps today you could choose kindness over yet another politically charged argument. Hug tightly. Listen intently. Snuggle a little longer.
With a Blessed-but-Heavy Heart,