When I catch sight of the silver glint, I stop. It’s a moment of discovery and remembrance.
The way people respond when I find one tells me more about them than they know. There are those who dismiss me as quirky, or crazy. There are those who take part in my delight. These are my friends.
They look for them with me. They look for them on their own and when they find one, send it to me taped on greeting cards with a kind word, “Found this today and thought of you!”
They scatter paper clips for me in secret so I can find them on my way. Such love blesses me. Their desire to make me happy makes me happy.
It started on Sept. 20, 2011. After lunch with a friend, I found a wealth of paper clips outside the door of my building, Gentry Hall. I wrote this poem.
what it is to love you
walking back from lunch
i noticed silver glinting
in afternoon light–
nineteen large paperclips scattered
for the taking.
i picked up sixteen–
their metal warm from the sun
and i left three
in case someone else wants
to discover treasure
and feel rich
so many paperclips
in my hand
now i can attach papers together
without puncturing them as staples do
without making them stick forever with glue
and take the risk of being torn apart in separation.
paperclips bring them close
enough to touch
but keep them easily freed
at any moment
Some people understand me without explanation. I was walking with a colleague on campus to a meeting. At sight of a paper clip, I remarked on it and stopped to pick it up. “It’s good luck to me,” I told her.
“Oh, your thing is paper clips? Mine is pens,” she said.
It can be difficult to see God’s work in our world. Even if you’re in a moment of health and power, strength and youth, beauty and popularity, you know the moment will pass. We all have lived through—or will live though—brutal experiences. Terror, violence, isolation, suffering, irrelevance, bitterness. Sometimes we carry our losses so long that the weight of them bends over our spirits. We can live in a schism, disconnected from our deepest needs of joy, peace, hope and love.
When I find a paper clip, it reminds me of God’s abundance. I can trust that good surprises still await me. New friendships, new journeys and new ways of seeing.
We are free to choose what we see and what we look for. We decide what we value. We can take the lost and give them a home, as I have with my cats, dogs, pony and paper clips. We can help a friend find the thing she thinks is lucky.
I’m a searcher. I search for grace, a kind of paper clip that fastens my life to God.
I often find it. More often than I find paper clips and I’m quite the lucky paper clip finder.
Is it from luck? Or is it from looking?