One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 150, describes the many ways we can express praise and gratitude for the Source of All that Is. Kol ha'neshama teHallel Yah, let every soul/breath praise the Unnameable One.
Today I had an amazing encounter of praise as it can be expressed between two total strangers. I went to church today with some friends, one of the churches I visit frequently because of their mission and practice of "extravagant welcome."
And this afternoon I learned about extravagant welcome in the most unexpected way.
At the end of the service, people were milling about, hugging and greeting one another before filing outside. A woman I'd never met approached me, her arms full of knitting needles and a brightly colored bag of yarn and thread. She said hello and then handed me a beautifully crochetted kipah (also called a yarmulke or skullcap). The soft blues and browns and plum colors of the yarn were knitted loosely together into a beautiful circle.
She said, "I was working on a different knitting project, until I saw you praying, and then I knew I had to make this for you."
I always wear my kipah when I enter any house of prayer from any religious tradition. I also wear it when I lead or participate in rituals or spiritual practice. It is an expression of respect and reverence, and a reminder to my whole being to center myself in a particular way. The feeling is hard to describe; when I feel the kipah on my head, I have what Thomas Kelly describes as an internal posture of contemplation.
"The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary." (p.4, A Testament of Devotion)
I was so moved by her kindness that my eyes filled with tears. I promptly pulled off my old kipah and clipped the new one on with two bobby-pins. I asked her name, and told her mine; I thanked her and hugged her.
I have no idea what she saw or felt that inspired her; what I do know is that I will have a little piece of this woman's soul-praise with me whenever I wear this kipah.
Kol ha'neshama teHallel Yah. May I return the praise and extravagant welcome to the world as generously as it has been extended to me.