A Shared Umbrella

The insistent ring of the alarm. Heavy eyes, still swollen partially shut with sleep. Awareness that the weekend has ended. The slow methodical movements of my body on autopilot knowing what has to be done to go from sleepy-eyed to one of the many productive people rushing through mass transit to make this machinery called the ‘economy’ work.

All of this for what? For a paycheck? For retirement? For a new dress? For a re-built transmission on our car? For an electric bill? For kids college? There are days when it feels so trite. So nothing.

To add to these bleak thoughts, it’s been raining. Hard. Not short showers where the sun blinks through as though crying a little and then bursts forth into smiles; rather it’s downpours where the bottom of your jeans get wet, your purse is soggy and your sandals squish. It smells like rain and all the trash of the city is mashed together under foot.

Umbrellas are everywhere and instead of people bumping into people, it is umbrella on umbrella, small spokes getting caught in other small spokes. Most have their own umbrellas, but occasionally you will see people sharing, heads bent together to ensure maximum coverage. While those of us who are alone are walking quickly, impatient with the raindrops and downpours that stymie our progress, those who are sharing are often laughing or intensely talking.

Along with the sharing of umbrellas comes the inevitable sharing of life.

Several years ago, while still in high school, my son Micah did a project for a video contest. His skill and technique have improved ten-fold, but I still loved this, one of the first projects he did for competition.

Called “A Shared Umbrella” it tells with few words and many actions the story of a teenage girl, defeated and done with life. At her window, high in an apartment building she looks out at a bleak city scene of rain and sorrow. Pills are poured out in her hand, she’s ready to end her struggle, her struggle with life and with pain.

She looks out the window and sees two strangers; one dressed in a suit and tie, a business man off to work; the other dressed in old clothes, clearly without money. They are both waiting for the same bus. The business man waits with an umbrella, the poorer has none. And then in an unexpected act of humility and kindness the business man walks over and holds out his umbrella, sharing it with a stranger, offering a shield against the rain pouring down. They stand together until finally the bus comes carrying both off to their respective lives.

Just this simple act is enough to give the girl hope. If an umbrella can be shared among unlikely people, then life may be worth living. It is a small act of redemption in her bleak world.

I love his piece. I love the images, I love the graphics and I love the story; a story told with so few words and so many actions.

Offering protection and hope through sharing an umbrella is seemingly so simple; why do I make it so hard? Especially today, when nothing feels redemptive, least of all sharing an umbrella.

Yet the Shared Umbrella is like the gospel message; a message that can make a difference, that can offer hope and another way to live. A message that can redeem the mundane, give meaning to the most common task.

On this Monday as I walk, I am acutely aware of my humanity and frailty; ashamed of my blah spirit and my feelings that none of this makes any difference; aware too of the humanity of all around me.  And with that awareness, tired as I am, I want to offer hope; I want to share my umbrella. But first – can I have some sun?

13 thoughts on “A Shared Umbrella

  1. I have only just discovered your blog through your guest post on Tamara` Out Loud, but I feel as though I can not get enough of your words. I keep getting interrupted by my children’s flitting here and there and a need there and here and I want to be over here reading more of what you’ve written.

    What a gift you’ve been given, this instrument of your “pen”. I am a fan! And, I relish the quiet moments when I’ll be able to absorb more of your thoughts. Having worked as an elementary teacher in Newton MA for a decade and lived in Arlington, MA for just as long during that time, I’d like to think that maybe -just maybe- we shared an umbrella at one time or another.

    Thank you!!!

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    1. I loved this comment so much! It brought tears to my eyes on a tough day – thank you! I love the idea that our eyes caught on the red line one day and maybe we gave that secret Boston smile that says “I know people here don’t smile at strangers easily but let’s break the rules” and then yes….we shared an umbrella. I so look forward to taking a look at your site and so glad that you are perusing Communicating Across Boundaries! Thank you from my soul.

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  2. As always, your words paint a vivid picture and make me think with a quiet heart. Makes me think that in our rushing about (I know this too well as I seem to live on the edge when it comes to time) we become so self focused that we do not even notice the need of another met by the seemingly small act of sharing an umbrella. You are right about the joy apparent in those sharing the umbrellas or opening a door for another, or sharing your meal, opening our homes… AND the message that indirectly you may help and encourage another because there are people watching…

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  3. Marilyn, I remember Micah’s video. It moved me to tears, and with no words. Lovely memory. We’re living with so manymemories these days as we try to downsize our too many possessions. And I would like a little sun, too, thank you!

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  4. I love the shared umbrella message — so lovely and so important to hang on to as we rush through our busy days. Yesterday we had car trouble and were by the side of the road, and of all the cars that went zipping by just one stopped, an older man interested in helping if we needed it. It was so nice to know someone cared.

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    1. Love that someone stopped. I was so used to people stopping to help when I lived in Egypt – actually Pakistan as well that to be in places where there is more fear about stopping can be a challenge. I hope both you and the car are ok!

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