Once while passing through Kapiʻolani Park I stopped to observe the ways in which the homeless were making the park their home. Some were sleeping on tables, some against trees, some just stretched out in the open on the grass. While watching I saw someone with a pizza box head over to a homeless man leaning against a tree. The first thought that popped into my mind was, “What? Homeless can get home-delivery of pizza?” But as I watched the homeless man’s increasing distress at the advance of the pizza-person it became clear that neither knew the other and I wondered what was going to happen.
And then the most incredible thing happened! The pizza-person said a few words, handed the homeless man the box of pizza and walked off! When the homeless man opened the box and began eagerly eating it was clear that he had been given a whole pizza and not some leftovers. And I thought “So that’s what holiness looks like… giving away a whole pizza!”
I would guess that many of us think that holiness consists of one grand moment of martyrdom, if we even think of holiness at all. The dictionary defines holiness as “Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness… having a divine quality”. Spiritually, holiness is our attempt to incarnate in our own lives those qualities which are characteristic of the Divine: goodness, compassion, forgiveness. For most of us circumstances do not afford a “grand moment” of holiness. I would like to suggest that we have all around us an abundance of little moments which also afford us the possibility of holiness but in small doses.
So, what are those little moments? Letting someone else go first. Paying for the coffee of some of those who come after you in line. Not pursuing the advantage of having the last word. Refusing to harbor a grudge. Bestowing a lei upon someone you don’t even know. Going food shopping for someone who is housebound. The purpose of the pursuit of holiness is to move us away from our prison of self-centeredness, and towards a liberating other-centeredness… ultimately towards the Totally Other, the Divine… by emulating those qualities that are characteristic of the Divine. More than we might know, we have the opportunities if we look to the holiness of little things.