Melanie Leach who is in the cast of Ragtime writes:
You would have gently closed the door
And gently turned the key
And gently told me not to look
For fear what I might see
What kind of woman would that have made me?
-Mother, “What Kind of Woman” from Ragtime
Stories of transformation are entrancing and powerful. We love to see people come into who they are meant to be. Characters as disparate as Jean Valjean and Jerry Maguire are pictures of internal movement.
The vehicles for that can be hard work, providential meetings, brokenness, love, pain – any number of things. Sometimes the catalyst is a moment that strips off our blinders to see what is really going on around us and forces us to make a choice.
In Ragtime, we get to see that kind of decision as Mother engages in an internal struggle in the garden that ends with her saying, “I will take the responsibility. For mother and child. Please take Miss Sarah inside.” She suddenly sees a whole group of people who been present but unacknowledged around her for her whole life. That new vision changes her and the nature of her family.
It is interesting to note that just before this extending of grace, Mother is saying how difficult it is to be on the right path. Immediately, she is given the opportunity to make an intentional step onto it. So many things are weighing her foot down that it is surprising even to her that she does it.
She knows that she is about to part the protective curtain so carefully drawn by her husband and her culture of safe isolation. Yet, this moment of courageous vulnerability unlocks something in her.
In Listening to Love, Jan Meyers writes, “It is our drinking from the glass of kindness that begins our healing and it is in pouring out that kindness that we discover our calling.” Kindness is a powerful key.
The ills of the world around us can be so overwhelming that it is easy to succumb to despair. We have an Enemy who wants us to believe that there is nothing we can do – or to believe that it is all about dedicating ourselves to some kind of cause.
Causes can be good, but they are far easier than real relationships. Younger Brother gets caught up in a constant seeking, joining cause after cause. Yet, he never seems satisfied. Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.”
Yes, righteousness and justice are important, but not without love and faithfulness. In all the swirl of history and famous people that is Ragtime, it is a small act of kindness by a seemingly insignificant woman that is the turning point for the whole story.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, “The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not have imagined himself liking at the beginning.”
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.