Beautiful and Fun Things

There are a lot of beautiful wonderful things in the world……stories of doing good, people making music, photographer capturing a once in a life time happening, ideas on ways to grow and evolve. Here’s a few of them. Enjoy.

If you didn’t have a chance to read my Thanksgiving post, here it is: The Open Heart of Gratitude

Capturing smiles! What happens when you tell people they are beautiful?  Smile!

Inspiring! Nat. Geo photos

Auroras

Earth. From space  It never gets old.

The Toy Smuggler

Mindfulness Empowering Ourselves

How Kindness Spreads Kindness

Where does compassion come from? Compassion

Mail Man Collects Stones Look what you could do with stones!

What is empathy? Empathy

Harvest festival from around the world Nine harvest festivals from around the world

 

 

“the untrimmable light of the world”

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
I don’t know about you, but everyday I have to work at remembering to look and listen for the things
“that more or less kills me with delight”.
There is so much that distracts me or draws my attention away from being able to see the
” ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.”
So much that is beautiful, wonderful, miraculous is in front of us every day.
If only we would look and listen. We would see and hear.
Gratefully I work with young children who challenge me every single day to look differently, in order to see differently, in order to think differently, in order to understand differently. And in doing so, I am able to witness the common magic of each day.
“It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.”
oregon-sunriseIf we could only remember…this is what we were born for……
What is good, beautiful and true demands we keep our hearts open, our eyes alert, our minds uncluttered. In doing so it becomes possible to turn away and refuse what is wrong and instead work for what is right. To embrace the potential and possibility of goodness, kindness, helpfulness, understanding, compassion….
Instructing ourselves in “joy and acclamation” for all that is part of the untrimmable light of the world.
Do not drown in fear, despair, hate or worry. Look up and around. Most certainly there is darkness and death and violence, war and intolerance. But there too is light, life, love, understanding and acceptance. Rise up allow yourself to grow wise with the delight of the world so that joy and love will win over all else and spread across our world. So that we will learn how to adapt to a world of peace, of having enough for all, kindness, hope, respect….and we will learn how to rise together and always welcome and honor one another.
A four-year old stood in the middle of our circle at group time and announced, unsolicited, that it was time to make a “declaration”. I asked what she meant and she said “We have to pray for peace. We have to hold hands and say ‘I declare peace.’ “
So  we did.
And then we declared kindness.
Then love.
Please vote.
This week’s reading:  This Week

Just Your Heart

“The Full Measure of a man
is not to be found in the man himself,

but in the colors and textures
that come alive in others because of him.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

mapleWhat is my purpose in life?” I asked the void. “What if I told you that you fulfilled it when you took an extra hour to talk to that kid about his life?” said the voice. “Or when you paid for that young couple in that restaurant? Or when you saved that dog in traffic? Or when you tied your father’s shoes for him?”

“Your problem is that you equate purpose with goal-based achievement. God or the Universe or morality isn’t interested in your achievements… just your heart. When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion and love, you are already aligned with your true purpose. No need to look any further.
~ From ~ Note to Self ~ Tao & Zen

This is a really good time to act out in Kindness, Compassion and Love.

Jack Kornfield in his article Dharma and Politics asks, “What can I do as … a member of this society to best contribute to the world in these times? It might be registering people to vote, or working politically, or making our vision heard in organizations of power or in the government, speaking up or writing. It might include working with children, or helping to create a business climate of responsibility and integrity, or working internationally, or tending to poverty, racism and injustice locally. Each person has to find specific steps to offer their vision and energy to society, and to empower those around them. If we don’t do this, change won’t happen. The vision will not be fulfilled.”

And, “the teachings of compassion and wisdom are empowering; they encourage us to act. Do not doubt that your good actions will bear fruit, and that change for the better can be born from your life.”

“I claim to be no more than an average person with less than average ability.
I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have
if he or she would simply make the same effort
and cultivate the same hope and faith.”
~
Gandhi

“What can I do as … a member of this society to best contribute to the world in these times?

Plant your seeds. Sow change. Nurture kindness, compassion and love. Keep the Garden of Hope and Promise healthy and strong.

Please vote.

**Check out a few of this weeks reads:  This Week

Love Lights

1128 1 editedWhen the Sun of compassion arises
darkness evaporates
and the singing birds come from nowhere.”
Amit Ray, Nonviolence, The Transforming Power

It’s difficult watching and listening to the news lately. Difficult to sort out fact from fiction. A challenge to balance our personal hopes and dreams with the hopes and dreams of others. A struggle sometimes to balance what we enjoy with the health of the planet.

 In my class of preschoolers we talk about the light that is in each one of us. We call this our “Love Light”. This is the light that illuminates us from within. This same light is in everyone. All of us. The people we love. The people who uplift us and bring us joy. The people we have shared experiences with. The people we do not feel love towards. The people whose experiences we cannot grasp. The people we don’t understand. The people we fear. The people who hurt us.

2015-03-16 one

This is an inner light of love and compassion. It is what illuminates all that is good in us, all that is nurturing in us. All that is humane in us. It is the light that shines in darkness and fear. Our Love Light ignites our love for fellow beings. It lights up tenderness, generosity, empathy and hope. It allows us to wish for the dreams of others come true just as we wish for our own dreams to come true. Like a sun lighting up the dark morning sky, our Love Light is the light of our heart and soul that radiates out with an open hand of love, goodwill, compassion, acceptance, hope and trust.

“See the light in others, 
and treat them as if that is all you see.”
~Wayne Dyer

Somewhere along the way I wonder if we have forgotten how to see that light in each other. If maybe we have come to believe not everyone has a light worth seeing.

The other day in yoga during shavasana, it was very quiet and still. For  a moment I rested in that wonderfully nested place of safety, quiet, stillness, calm, awareness and was what I can only define as being present in the moment. Fears, worries, anxieties, thoughts, hopes, dreams…all those things were shuttered away somewhere and not raising their chattering heads and voicing their distracting opinions.

As my body slowly but surely softened, something in me just stopped. This is important because this is when all the thinking stops. The mind chatter stops. The anxiety ceases. The fears melt. The unknown and the what is not knowable doesn’t matter.

At the end of the class, with my heart, mind and body in this space of stillness, my teacher read:

“There is only one light shining through every person’s eyes.
When you look into that light in others, your mind falls silent.
The two of you share that one light and melt into a profound experience.”

~Swami Nirmalananda

There it was. Light. One, common and shared light. We have to remember to look towards, and at each other, not away from each other. Right in the eyes. To see that Love Light. We have to allow ourselves the trust and space to melt into each other. We have to stop  and look into the eyes of each other. Every “other”. We have to honor the one light that is shining through every person’s eyes. And then maybe we will all hear the same thing; Amit Ray’s singing birds.

 

Jumping and Leaping

“Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences,
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
~ Maya Angelou
sparklemh3

I was reading a poem by Elizabeth Alexander in which she pondered

“…are we not of interest to each other?”

Ars Poetica#100: I Believe

In all the whole wide world, who is of interest to you? Your family? Neighbor? Best friend? Friend with cancer? Refugees from Syria? Those with ALS? Hungry children? The homeless?

Who do you wonder about with curiosity and interest? Who, on the other hand, is not of interest to you?

I love Humans of New York and StoryCorps because they allow me to get to know the stories of people all around the world. People I would otherwise never know about. In learning about others, I learn about myself. In learning about the lives of others my view of the world and all of her beautiful humans is enriched.

In learning about others, people become less of “the other” and more of a real person…just like me. They become of interest to me. If I have a way of hearing the stories of others, few are not of interest to me.

Through the stories people tell of their life, I begin to feel a connection to them, a concern for and a love for them begins to grow. I don’t have to know them, or to touch their hand or hug them to love them. I can love them through shared hopes and dreams, fears, and failings.

“Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences,
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

My destination? For “others” to be of interest to me. For me to reach this destination and jump and leap over barriers to bring forth hope. Hope for respect. Hope for justice. Hope for an end to oppression. Hope for the end of poverty. Hope for acceptance. Hope for there to be no more “others”. Hope for love.

Hope for peace.

“Are we not of interest to each other?”

Who do wonder about? Who is of interest to you? Who is not of interest to you, and why not?

It Rained This Morning

We are in the middle of a serious drought here in central NYS. This morning I awoke to the soft pattering of rain.

There are the folks who say “Uh oh climate change.” The “others” say “Good thing it’s just weather.”

Lenses. We all look through lenses. Rosey colored ones. Dark colored ones. Clear ones. Lenses that help us make up our mind and decide if it is weather or climate change.

I lay in bed, eyes closed, no lenses in use. Just listening.

rainThen the lenses popped on. “Oh, we need this rain! This great! Rain Rain Rain!” and in the other breath, “Crap. There go the plans for the day.” Both understandable. Both true. After actually opening my eyes the lens that was now focusing was the clear one. “I am glad to have my daughter home. Her friends are so fun! Maybe it will just be a relaxing day playing games and eating good food.” All lenses focused on different, real points of view. I just had to choose which one to look through.

Every morning I make a point of taking a few very deep breaths. Slow and long. Pulling in the fresh, clean air and exhaling the stale, depleted air. I try to take a few minutes to get grounded for the day. My thoughts are not so different from the ones at night. Focusing on gratitude and compassion. I always give time to remember how many people are suffering in this world and as in the Buddhist doctrine, pray for all living beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

And I never, ever forget a wish for peace in the world:rain bells

Prayer For Everyday For All Creation

Let us see one another through eyes
enlightened by understanding and compassion.

Release us from judgment so we can receive the stories
of our sisters and brothers with respect and attention.

Open our hearts to the cries of a suffering world
and the healing melodies of peace and justice for all creation. 

Empower us to be instruments of justice
and equality everywhere.

~Collectively authored by Millionth Circle Initiative,
5th World Conference on Women & Circle Connections.

 

I choose to look through the lens of understanding and compassion. It could easily be anger and fear. Or, longing and desire. Or, day dreams and wishes. Or, judgment and blame.

I want to understand. I want to be compassionate. I strive to be released from judgment and grow understanding instead. I try to hear the real life stories of people who live life similar to mine as well those whose lives are unimaginably and fundamentally different from mine. I strive to grow respect over ridicule. And to hear. Always to listen and hear and never become deaf. I try to use the clear lens, but sometimes I forget and the judgment and comparison begin. Anxiety may arise. I may even begin to turn or look away.

Anyway. I am grateful for the rain. I obviously can’t make it rain or choose where it will fall. I know it is needed, that it is helping to refresh, feed and cleanse the world…..even if it is just this little part of the world right now. And I know I don’t have any kind of power like that, but I do have power and choice. I choose ever day to help the next generation learn what conversation and communication is. I help them understand the power of their words. Words that can hurt, deflate, cause fear or pain. Words that mock and humiliate. And words that can ask to be forgiven, heal, comfort, uplift. And you know what? These very young children learn this and they grow and they become compassionate, forgiving, and uplifting to their peers. One mother told me her 3-year-old talked her through a panic attack by helping her do mindful breathing.

It is a small but effective thing I do. But it matters. Just like this small amount of rain. I can pray my prayers and send my wishes of goodwill out into the world all day long. If I do not take some form of action I feel I am in part responsible if those prayers do not seem to be heard and answered, if the good wishes and kind intent seems to never go very far or anywhere at all.

In this world today with all the contentious and combative words, with all the posturing and flexing, with the all hatred that seems so much more fashionable than forgiveness, with fear that seems to be filling some of our lives rather than hope, all our lenses become covered with dust. When the rain falls near you, and cleans and refreshes your little bit of earth and washes the dust of uncertainty and fear off your heart, and fills you up again, which lens will you choose to dust off and put on, to walk out into the fresh and new day?

 

Stories Told

Storytelling is an ancient art. Long before there were books, there were bards who sang songs and told stories. A living, mobile entertainment and news source. These bards would travel great distances, sharing stories of what was happening in other places. On special dates people would travel many miles to come together for festivals and gatherings where the bard was often a key participant. This was a means of keeping people informed. Much of it was about entertaining, but it also provided warning when necessary. Some stories were based on myths and legends and helped people understand the mystical, mysteries and the “unknown”. It was about sharing and educating. It was about bringing people together. Sometimes music and dance were included in the storytelling. Sometimes puppets. It was an important resource for individuals and the community.

As books were printed and reading became more widespread the traveling bard faded away. News could be posted in the center of town, read as one had time. Some of the storytelling moved away from the center square in town, the dining halls and courtyards of castles and became bedtime stories for children. Books became illustrated and children had visual props to bring home the imagery of the story. The Brothers Grimm were famous storytellers who created vivid, imaginative stories to help children learn of hidden dangers in the world at that time in history. Current interpretations of many of these famous stories have been modified to keep them current as perceived dangers changed over the years, or make them more appealing—less frightening, resulting in the original intent often being lost or even changed completely. In reading an original today you might not even recognize the story.

Mother Goose favorites hinted of political commentary of the time. Mother Goose

There are two teaching stories that remain very much untouched. Their story lines transcend time, cultures and religions. Names, settings, words change to help people identify with the stories, but the lessons do not change.

Estátua_de_frade_em_Almeirim

Statue of a monk and a pot of soup in Portugal

One is Stone Soup. You remember: a single person or a small group of wandering people come to an unwelcoming village. There are no people walking in the streets, no bustling businesses providing services and goods. Doors are closed tight. Lights in windows turned off. Knocks on doors go unanswered. Not only are the the doors and windows closed to the strangers, but also to each other. The villagers kept everything “closed” to protect what was theirs. Usually it is a child who inquisitively, fearlessly ventures forth to find out what is going on. “We are hungry and would like to make some Stone Soup” comes the traveler’s response, “We would love to share with you, but we need a pot.” Curious at how soup could be made from a stone, the delighted child scampers to get a pot and in so doing the word spreads among the fearful adults. Slowly they emerge from behind their locked doors. Through gentle encouragement and support, the travelers are able to coax small quantities of tightly guarded food from the villagers…a potato here, a few carrots, some onions, a dash of salt… all thrown into a pot of boiling water simmering with a roadside stone. Before long, the savory scent of soup trickles through the village. More doors open. More people emerge. Tables and chairs appear, perhaps even a table cloth and flowers. It isn’t long before the entire village of fearful, isolated people gather together to share a communal meal. The travelers depart and the people in the village are forever changed. Working together as a functional community. A new understanding develops: that every individual has something to contribute that results in the health of themselves and of the whole village.

Long Spoons is another famous story. Much like Stone Soup it is found across the world in diverse cultures and is inherent in most religious teaching stories. Often it is a student, man, woman or spiritual/religious person wishing to understand the difference between heaven and hell. The props and language change to reflect the culture and religion in which it is to be received. (In that alone there is a lesson….the lesson is the same for all people all over the world.) In many versions it begins with a request to God.

Usually the story begins with the person being shown two doors. They open the first door and see a group of thin, sickly people. Each person has a long spoon tied to their arms. They are all sitting together around a pot of soup/rice/noodles. With such long spoons tied to their arms they are unable to get the spoon full of food to their mouth to feed themselves. It is a heartbreaking vision.

spoons in hand

The person closes that door and opens the second door. Here are the same people sitting around the same pot of food! Long spoons are still tied to their arms. These people, however, are healthy and robust! Thriving and joyful! With their spoons they reach into the pot of life sustaining food and then reach across the pot and feed a person on the other side. Everyone is fed. No one goes hungry. There is no “mine” or “yours”. The Other is needed.

The lesson is clear, is it not?

Do not doubt the power of kind and compassionate actions.

“Through practice, we can learn to make our own hearts
a place of peace and integrity.
With a quiet mind and an open heart
we can sense the reality of interdependence.”
Jack Kornfield

 

 

Along Comes A Teacher

There are few master teachers in life. … But there are many who can listen to life so well that they can hear the vastness in everything and in you. A teacher is someone who has learned to listen to life. Someone who has found a way to listen well. Any real teacher is only a finger pointing. In the end, we may find out more by not following our teachers but by following what our teachers follow for themselves. From a good teacher you may learn the secret of listening. You will never learn the secrets of life. You will have to listen for yourself.” Rachel Naomi Remen

We have all kinds of teachers in our lives. Not just the ones in school or college. Life teachers. Spiritual teachers. Unexpected teachers. You never know when you’ll find a teacher. Seems like one shows up when you least expect it, aren’t even looking for one. On occasion you may not even aware one is in front of you.

I’ve known this particular person for several years now. She’s much like you and I. Her alarm goes off in the morning but she might not have time to eat breakfast. She doesn’t want to be late for morning meeting. Her lunches tend to be pretty balanced and she likes to have conversations while she’s eating. She likes to talk about movies and actually she often points out little nuances in them that I never noticed.

During the day she methodically gets her work done. She has to figure out how to work with a variety of people. She has to speak up to be heard sometimes, to express her ideas. Sometimes she is insistent, sometimes she acquiesces. Like you and me she has to problem solve and every now and then she needs to ask someone for help. She doesn’t ever seem to be hung up on needing and asking for help.

She enjoys her leisure time. Hangs out with friends, runs, relaxes, tries new things. She loves to be outside. She loves books and movies. She has an eye for art. She is very kind. Effortlessly, she is thoughtful, generous, caring, concerned, curious, loving, helpful. She is the first one to reach out to someone.

Two things stand out about my friend when I think about her. Once or twice I’ve watched her just watching birds. She was outside one beautiful day and she whispered for her friends to come over….”Come here.” she softly called, “Look. It’s a bluebird.” Even though she whispers you can always hear her enthusiasm. The kind that makes you get excited too. She loves to share what she knows about birds. It’s just her thing, so to speak. One of her friends started walking closer to the bird. “Stop” she admonished softly…”Just look. Listen. You don’t need to get closer. Just be still.” Of course the bird flew away. “All you had to do was just watch.” she adds a little sadly.

On other occasions I have observed her during the busy hum of the day just sit and close her eyes. She just sits like that for a bit. Kind of like collecting herself. Sometimes it is noticeable the way her body begins to relax. Often I notice she is different afterwards…a little calmer, perhaps a little more focused. One time I asked her what she thought about when she sat quietly like that. She kinda smiles and laughs. “Nothing.” she says. “I don’t think about anything! It’s just quiet.”

When you might not expect it, along comes a teacher. She’s one of those people who I realize is teaching me. Her bird watching caught my attention becasue I love birds too. When I see her sitting quietly I can’t help but smile as I watch her body so still and serene, eyes closed, no thoughts twirling in her mind. She can seemingly find a moment, just a moment, any time during the day to be still and quiet.

She teaches me to just be still. To look, watch. And to listen. To find moments to close my eyes and let thoughts go.

In the end, we may find out more by not following our teachers but by following what our teachers follow for themselves.”

Best part is, my friend is five!!!

The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website Gratefulness.org)

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.

Evelyn

I remember her name. I remember she was kind and that I loved her. I remember where she lived.

I do not remember what she looked like, or that she had a son. I do not remember her actually doing anything for me. I do not know what made me love her.

Her name was Evelyn. Fifty years later, whenever I drive by “her” house I say to myself, “That’s Evelyn’s house” as if it was holy.

A few years ago I discovered a folder on FB where all the messages from people you are not “friends” with go. In it I found a message from Evelyn’s son.

“Are you the Kathryn, whose mother was Marjorie?”

Michael shared his memories with me. My mother was the kindest person he knew. My siblings were wonderful and he thanked me for playing with him when we were little. I don’t remember Evelyn’s son at all.

My mother had given Evelyn a job that changed the lives of both Evelyn and her son. My mother paid for his summer camp for several years. My siblings taught him to swim in the lake. And we played together.

Fifty years later he looked me up on FB and found me. To say “Thank you.”

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” Mahatma Gandhi

I don’t know if my mother ever truly knew how her decision to help Evelyn and her son changed their lives. I don’t know if Evelyn ever knew I thought she was the kindest person I ever knew. For my mother and for Evelyn I don’t think they thought about seeing the fruit of their kindness, they just acted and did the right thing. They cared, showed compassion and reached out. They each offered and received. As a result two six year old children grew up to remember only the kindness and love.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall

jane goodall

Every single day we interact with people in ways that may have a profound impact on their lives. Few of us may even be aware of this. I doubt Evelyn could have guessed that 50 years later I would have strong memories of her. I don’t remember her son but my playing with him is a strong, happy memory of his.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” Jane Goodall

We all matter and we all can make a difference. Once we acknowledge that we do matter, all we have to do is put a little thought into what kind of difference we want to make. Evelyn ( I think!) “chose” being kind and loving….whether is was a conscious action, a sense of gratitude or inherent in her being, I don’t know. My mother made a decision for “right action” by reaching out to Evelyn and her son and lifting them up. Evelyn’s son held on for a long time the desire to express gratitude and say “thank-you”. This led him to go out on a limb and see if I could be found on FB (computers and FB could not have ever even been imagined by us ‘back then’!) and then reach out to contact me. Small things that are important things to people.

It’s no different in terms of what we stand for humanistically, politically, religiously, spiritually, globally, environmentally…..we matter. Our voices matter, our actions matter, our choices matter. These things matter for us, and for others. It is not important whether we will ever see, witness, know of our impact. It is about doing the right thing at the right time without ever considering not doing what is needed.

I can believe I have every right to some things, to feel entitled to some things, but in my heart and mind any decision I make to do or not do something does not rest alone on my needs or how it will impact me. I am required by my conscience to consider other people, the environment, other perspectives.

It goes the other way too, maybe I feel the environment doesn’t matter, or that is doesn’t matter if the other person has health care, or food, or water. I still feel I have a responsibility to care. I believe there are no “others”. I want my grand children and great grand children to have a healthy planet with breathable air and clean water. I want them to see an elephant in the wild or be able to eat a fish from the ocean. I want them to value the life and richness of other cultures and religions. I want them to care for the sake of others they do not know and for others who will come after them.

There are many, many wonderful and beautiful things happening all around the world and in our own cities and neighborhoods. And there are many, many unconscionable, horrendous things happening in the world, our own cities and neighborhoods. The first choice we have to make is to see or not see. Be aware and informed or unaware and uninformed. Then we make the choice to do or not do. To care or not care. To hope or not hope. To work for change or remain the same. It’s up to each one of us to decide like my mom did, to make a difference for one woman and her child, and like Evelyn did, to be kind and loving or, to turn the other way.

Either way, you will have an impact on someone. Having an impact is not the choice. As Dr. Goodall reminds us, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

What kind of difference do you want to make?