Tag Archives: kindness

Gratitute, bah, humbug!

Scan.BMPGratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies,those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

It’s American Thanksgiving today and for the entire month of November I have been surrounded by ‘Gratitude’. People have posted everyday about what they are thankful for on Facebook and Twitter. There was a gratitude challenge at my yoga studio. Just about everyday people offered the ‘intention of gratitude’ as a focus for their yoga practice.

So much damn Gratitude. I hated it all. I removed all of the ‘Gratitude challenge statements’ from my timeline, I stopped following people on Twitter, and I never, not even once, made a ‘I’m so grateful for…’ statement, on social media or in real life.

Why am I so Ebeneezer about this? Why am I not stating daily how grateful I am for the thousands of blessings in my life? Why am I not all dewy eyed about other people’s Gratitude?

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.

Henry Van Dyke

 

To live your life with constant gratitude is a profoundly spiritual way to live. To be continually humbled by the innumerable blessings in your life, and to share them and to live to help others is one of the best aspirations we can have. To remain grateful in times of sorrow, heartbreak and frustration is the way to live through these difficulties with grace and equanimity.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  John F. Kennedy

And there’s part of my problem with being ‘Grateful’ in November. It’s like children being well behaved in December for Santa. It’s a show. It’s fake. It’s not real. It’s pretending to be something for a short while. Making gratitude statements in November cheapens and trivializes gratitude. It’s not something that we list in November up to Thanksgiving and then drop on Black Friday and start shopping. Living in gratitude is how we should be living every moment of everyday. If you are reading this blog you are one of the most fortunate people on this planet. You can read, you have access to a computer, you very likely have more than enough food and somewhere safe to live. We take so much for granted. Our homes, our health, our safety. Everything is a gift. I love David Whytes poem about, well everything

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You 
©2003 Many Rivers Press

To be grateful for the soap dish, for the window latch, for the pots is to acknowledge you are part of something bigger, so much bigger and grander than yourself. That you are not alone, but part of the greater community, that the world is open to you and that everything is waiting for you.

So today. Today, I am grateful. Today, I know I am part of something greater and more fundamental than myself. Today I am grateful to feel that love as the greatest gift that is bestowed upon me and one that I send back out to the world.

morning coffee, logically and otherwise

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Last night was rough, but not as rough as I imagined it should be. I was surprised that I actually went to sleep shortly after my son tried to get in the house at 11. But I did and I’m not sure what that says about me.  Earlier yesterday, it looked like he was headed for the shelter but at the last minute he found another friend to take him in.  I think he may run out of friends who can put him up soon, and then his life will get more challenging, but I’ve been wrong before. 

I observed all this dry eyed, and somewhat logically.  I’m very surprised at my ability to sit in the dark on my bed listening while my son tried to get in.  He didn’t try for long,  something that seems very sad,  but still, I could just sit and wait.

What this says about me I really don’t want to examine to closely, but this morning when I was buying my coffee I also paid for the person’s behind me.  I wanted to do something kind,  something that would hopefully make someone smile, and as I drove away from the drive through I burst into tears. Not lodgical at all, but maybe somewhat reaffirming.

try a little tenderness

Twelve years ago today I was at work. My children were 8, 6 and 4 years old and were at school when a patient came into the office and told us someone had flown a plane into a World Trade Center building. The rest of the day unfolded in horrifying and heartbreaking images  It was a terrible day,

For many people it still is. A day full of pain, heartbreak and fear.  This article The Falling Man – Tom Junod – 9/11 Suicide Photograph – Esquire  is going around social media sites today. It is a very powerful photo and a very powerful article.

“They began jumping not long after the first plane hit the North Tower, not long after the fire started. They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building’s fatal wound.”

It bears witness to the horror and heartbreak of that day. I think this is important and necessary that we have these images, and the stories that go with them, but I believe it is more important to be respectful of people’s emotions surrounding the events of September 11th. For some this is too much to look at. For some this hurt is still too raw, and these images are still too painful to look at.

They are important, they should never go away, but maybe it is still too soon. Years from now when my children are adults, when their children are adults and the events of September 11th are not a memory, but a story told to them, then the videos, and the photos will be crucial, they will make what happened real for those who never experienced it. They will bear witness in perhaps a similar way as artifacts from the Holocaust keep that from becoming just a story. These images will not, and should not ever go away, but who sees them and when should be a matter of choice. It has been suggested on one facebook page that not showing the image of the Falling Man is  “Political Correctness and it’s sniffling sanitation to protect people (keep them ignorant) who will not deal with truth and what needs to be done.” I don’t agree. I think when someone finds an imagine too painful to look at it indicates that they are not ignorant of the events, on the contrary, that the events are very real to them and still very painful. It is not the same as someone denying an event occurred or sanitizing how it did. It is very real people dealing with very real and powerful emotions.

I think we could all do well to treat each other with a little more tenderness, and a little more compassion, today and always. We’re all fighting our own battles and our own demons and absolutes and judgements do nothing but isolate and cause more pain. I may be wrong, I may be missing the point of absolutely everything. I may be naive and do not understand the nuances and implications of the situation. All of these things may be true, but in the end I believe it is more important to be kind than it is to be right, that people are more important that news. I believe that whenever possible I should be kind, and as the Dalai Lama says it is always possible.

“Try a little tenderness (that’s all you gotta do)
It’s not just sentimental, no, no, no
She has her grief and care, yeah yeah yeah
But the soft words, they are spoke so gentle, yeah
It makes it easier, easier to bear, yeah…”

kindness, pets, and kids, and the lessons they taught me

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.

Dalai Lama

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When I was about 10 we had a small mutt my mother had found in the alley behind the library where she worked. We called him Book. He was a street smart, funny. lovable small black mutt. He was my little brother’s and my first dog, and we adored him. One night when my mom and step father were out I had a terrible feeling in my stomach about Book. That night I played with him, rubbed his belly, and must have given him half a box of dog cookies. Nothing bad happened, and I went to bed. When my they got back, my step father drove the babysitter home. We think Book must have got out and tried to follow the car. My mother woke me early the next day after she spent a sleepless night worrying and we all went looking for him. We lived about three blocks from a main street, and on the far side of that street, laying on the grass beneath a tree we saw Book. I rushed to him, and reached out my hand to wake him, and only then when my fingers touched stiff cold fur did I realize he was dead.

We buried Book in the backyard under a bed of flowers, it was the only time I ever saw my step father cry. My mother said that some kind person must have picked Book up off the road after he had been hit, and laid him gently on the grass for us to find him. Tied up with the sadness of losing our dog was the thought that someone had been kind to him, and also to us by taking the time to stop, pick up his body and gently place in on the grass.

Late last night I was coming home with my daughter and we saw the body of tortoise shell cat on the road. We circled round and stopped just behind it. She looked like she had been a well loved pet. She looked like she had died instantly. We stood and looked at her silently, my car’s headlights illuminating her. After a moment I walked back to my car and got a small white gym towel from my yoga bag. I knelt down and wrapped her still warm and pliable body in it and carried her to a grassy area under a small tree. Her back legs and fluffy tail stuck out from the end of the towel and her fur stirred slightly in the wind. I placed my hand on her side and said how sorry I was she had died. We stood a moment more and got in the car and drove the rest of the way home.

Four years ago when our young, beautiful, and foolish dog Willow got out of the yard and was run over, many people stopped, someone called me and we rushed to spend our last moments with her before she died. Someone brought a blanket that they never saw again, another person brought a board for us to lift her shattered and dying body into our car. My daughter sobbed, held her face, and said her name over and over again. The driver of the car stood crying. Before we got in our car to rush Willow to the vet in some mad hope that she could be saved, I went to the driver and told him it was not his fault. She was a skittish dog, and very fast, and he could not have avoided her. I didn’t want him to carry any more grief and guilt than he was already going to. I don’t remember anyone from that day. I have never been able to thank them for stopping, for helping our dog and us when it was most needed.

We never knew who carried Book from the road that night almost forty years ago, but that act of kindness stayed with me. It helped me tell the driver it was not his fault; it is what guided me when I carried the cat from the road last night. One act of kindness decades old still touches me and through me touches the world. Such is the way of kindness.