A Cup of Tea

Vincent - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on September 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Our baby boy, Michael, was born before Christmas, arriving early, not staying late. His death in the depth of winter, swirling snow surrounding his small white coffin, dropped us into our deep discontent.

The rest of that winter was a shadow. God damn it. What did I do to deserve this?

Spring eventually came, days still short, crocuses come and gone. Saturday early April, my wife, Mary, and I are in the front room upstairs among the tables and chairs. We are reading, not speaking, not speaking much nowadays, while sadness spreads a pall around the room. We sit in the waning afternoon as darkness stretches and settles all the way in. Neither of us reaches for the light. This would ordinarily be time for dinner, but in this room in our home on this evening it is time for darkness.

Something occurs to me, something small, a glint. “Ask her if she would like a cup of tea.” Doesn’t sound like much, not my voice, this suggestion sprang from some other source. Ask her if she would like a cup of tea. I ask. She would. I go down to the kitchen and return with the tea to a room now lit. I give it to her and she thanks me. Nothing could have been simpler nor more mundane than that cup of tea.

Here is the truth. It is not my place to concern myself with your beliefs, I’ll leave that to you. Maybe the best we can muster is Pascal’s idea of believing in something which does not exist being better than not believing in something which does. That is enough for a start (and may lead to a lot less explaining later).

What can be known is there is nothing to know, nothing to not know, nothing to believe, nothing to disbelieve. There is something, something which simply is. I do not pretend to know the name, for as Sikhs say, “…by thinking He cannot be reduced to thought.” But this something is the source of the cup-of-tea suggestion. Understanding my laziness and inadequacy, the suggestion was simple and the cup of tea sufficient to the task. In delivering the tea I placed someone else’s needs ahead of my own, the first time ever in a life run on self-centeredness.

We were in the dark among the dead and the suggestion and the action brought us back among the living. The greater benefit was, after having been married more than three years, I suddenly began to see what love means. As Martin Luther King said, “Love is not the answer, Love is the assignment.” This is the gift my wife and my son gave me and I give them. For all these things I am humbly grateful. Thank you.