Last night as we were crossing the river headed back home from Saint Joe, we had a quite pleasant and completely unexpected little surprise. “Little” is an important word here, folks; it wasn’t anything big or consequential, just a nice little bit of serendipity as it were.
Normally, when we drive through that section where Kansas bullnoses into Missouri and the river wraps around, there is some sort of foul odor. There are several potential culprits that lie toward the south end of the city: packing plant, leather processing plant, water treatment and a few other industrial operations that share their offensive odors with the world.
The city of Saint Joseph brought in the EPA several years ago, convinced that one of those operations was responsible not only for bad odors but for contaminating our pristine environment in more tangible ways as well. After an extensive investigation, complete with sophisticated analyses of various types, the EPA made its conclusions. Most interesting among those was that the city itself was guilty of violating EPA standards. That finding was accompanied by a fine of twenty thousand dollars or more, if memory serves me correctly.
On last night’s little deal, I am quite confident that my memory is completely accurate. I’m not quite as sure about my olfactory capabilities, though.
The scent that came into the car as we drove across the Pony Express Bridge last night was not the usual smell of chemical processing, biological by-product or some other such unpleasant encounter. Instead, it was the comforting and enticing smell of fresh bread baking. I’m not aware of a bakery in or even near that stretch of highway but that was the smell: a wonderful, pleasing, soothing aroma.
The experience reminded me of the delightful offerings of kindness, compassion and courtesy that rise up from the lives of those who have chosen the better nature, who walk by the Spirit and who take to heart that it is better to give than to receive. Even in our smallest behaviors, in our constant choices of interaction, it would be good for us to strive to be the aroma of fresh bread baking in this world of loss and hardship.