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Small Things, Great Love: Moments of Kindness

November 3, 2015

I haven’t written anything in weeks.  There are so many things to say.

I want to talk about gun control.  And gendered marketing and labeling.  I want to talk about how sweet and funny all my kids are–my own children and my students.  I want to talk about aging.  And grief.

Instead, I’m coming back to kindness as a starting point for all these other things.

I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, Carla Naumburg’s Parenting in the Present Moment (which is fantastic and brilliant and, total disclaimer, written by my college friend), and Anthony DeMello’s Sadhana: A Way to God, and all of the mindfulness, meditative exercises return to the concept of lovingkindness.

On the other hand, here’s a quote that came across my Facebook page recently:

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.  I am changing the things I cannot accept.

And I believe that.  We can’t all wait around for everyone to finally agree on what justice for everyone looks like.  Some people will never agree.  Sometimes we need action.  We need anger.  We need energy to change a flawed system.

How do lovingkindness and action for justice work together?

I don’t know.  So right now, I focus on these moments of kindness.

*     *     *

Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to hold our tongues.  I want to be right.  I have something to prove.  But instead, I’m going to keep those unnecessary comments in–which for me, takes a LOT of energy.  But I’ve noticed that it’s worth it to withhold that kind of fuel for emotional fires.

*     *     *

In June, AAA called me because a man at the park I had been to with the kids called them, saying he had found my “AAA card and some other things.”  When I realized my wallet had fallen out of my pocket there, I wondered how much of it I would get back, two and a half hours after leaving the playground.

All of it.

Huge props to Seamus and his dad for figuring out how to contact me, and waiting by the bench where I left it until I got there to claim it.  They wouldn’t take anything more than a profuse “thank you.”

*     *     *

One Sunday this summer, Audrey and Jamie and I walked to church, leaving Alan with a very croupy Theresa.  On the way, a neighbor we don’t know was having a garage sale.

With a nutcracker on the table blocking the sidewalk.

Audrey’s eyes went saucer.  I asked the man how much.

“Ehhhh…two dollars,” he said.

I had 78 cents in my wallet.

“You going to church?”  I nodded.  “Just get me two bucks sometime.”

We rode bikes to a neighborhood playground today and dropped off a thank-you note with $2 enclosed in their mailbox.

*     *     *

Then I lost my parking ticket somewhere on the floor of our very messy car.  I tried to show the attendant my receipt showing that I had returned an item at the store 30 minutes prior, hoping that would do something.

“Honey.”  The attendant was firm but kind.  “That don’t matter.  Let me tell you something.  If you lose your ticket, you’re supposed to pay the maximum fee.  I’ll let you go this once, but hang on to that ticket next time, okay?”

In the midst of thanking her, she waved me through:  “Just pay it forward.”

*     *     *

This note was scribbled in the margin of one of my student’s papers today:  “I know you’re super busy but I was thinking we could make cookies for Jane’s [not her real name] family.”  Jane’s mom is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.  Cookies don’t cure cancer.  But they will show Jane and her family how much her friends are holding them in their hearts.

*     *     *

Dozens of people showed up to my cousin Kathy’s “comeback party” after she finished chemo and got the news she had fought for:  cancer-free.  We laughed and ate too many s’mores and listened to an amazing high school Celtic trio The Onlies and celebrated being part of Team Kathy.

*     *     *

I used to wonder why nuns or monks spent their lives in monasteries, some in silence, all in constant prayer.  What good is that?  Isn’t it better to be of use?

Now I think I understand.  Prayer, compassion, witness–putting love into the world however and whenever we can–matters.  It might not do great things.  But these “small things with great love” (Mother Teresa) bring hope, light, gratitude–in other words, meaning–to our lives.

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