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Friday, September 24, 2010

On Kindness

I have been thinking a lot about kindness lately. Because it really seems that everyone is dividing into factions of dislike, distrust, and just plain dissin’.

As you move through life: how are you treating the people you don’t know?

It makes me think of earlier in the year, when I went to shop at an upscale department store; I had a gift card from Christmas. I picked out some really pretty pajamas, a gift for my mother-in-law, and a couple things for my daughters. It ended up being a pretty good pile of things. As I was being checked out, a line formed behind me. So I began taking the clothes off the hangers, folding them, and making sure the tags were facing up so the clerk could easily scan them. Another person came to help check people out, and everyone was taken care of. As we finished the transaction, the clerk leaned across the counter. “Thank you so much,” she whispered under her breath, “This is the first time since I began working here that anyone has ever helped me, and it means so much to me.” Wow. I was shocked.

This reminded me of my Guru telling us that to serve means to treat everyone like you would treat your guru, or your lover, or your own child.

So I am wondering if sometimes we are only kind to people we know, or when we feel that our kindness will return to us some benefit. Kind of like only donating to charity for the tax write off.

Intention is everything, and it is between you and the Mother-Father God to determine whether you do things out of a genuine kindness, or just to get your name in the paper. Gifts of money or time can accomplish great things, indeed, but I wonder if an accumulation of spiritual merit comes mostly from what you do when no one is looking.

Do you walk the way of kindness?

I have spent many years bumbling through life; worried only about myself and what was happening in MY life, to MY family, MY friends. Maybe it was the blinders of youth, or if I was comfortably oblivious; I know other times I willfully ignored those around me who struggled or were suffering.

Getting older has made me more aware of how important it is to walk through life as softly as you can; how important it is to choose to smile, instead of getting stuck in the dark places that my mind can create.

There is great joy in little kindnesses. Opening doors for strangers. Telling the hotel maid that she did a great job on your room. Letting someone pull out in front of your car. Taking a moment to admire someone’s adorable dog.

While you are practicing this art of kindness, there’s another aspect to it -- (here’s the kicker); you cannot judge those people who are not moving through the world mindfully. Particularly because, you’ve been one of them, at one point or another.

It simply takes a moment of thought -- When someone cuts you off on the highway, think that maybe they are hurrying to the hospital to see a loved one. When a forgetful someone makes a mistake, ponder that they may be mourning a loss, nursing a headache or heartache, or have recently buried a child.

We all rationalize our own behavior, cutting ourselves serious slack that we would never offer up to our fellow beings – particularly to people who make different choices, live different lifestyles, or have a different color skin or language

The old adage of “walk a mile in another’s moccasins” still rings true.

Go back through your day today, starting from the minute your eyes opened to now. Imagine for a moment that you will only receive back to you the kindness you gave away. How did you do?

Remember to act as if the quality of the rest of your life depends upon it. Because, it does.



Friday, September 17, 2010


This Summer I received a Facebook post from an acquaintance – “What would you change about your wedding day?” Her question was aimed toward the ceremony; the DAY; the party (she is an event planner).

It made me smile, because, really –

Um, who cares?

I have no intention to diminish the linking of souls that the ceremony and ritual of marriage creates; but seriously, the party? Does anyone past the third year of marriage spend even five minutes contemplating how they would do the party differently?

Well – okay, yes; I’ll admit. Sometimes I wonder why we spent so much money on the wedding; why I worried about the food and the drink and the band and the dresses and, and, and . . . .

Things like arriving in a limousine, instead of just showing up in our car. It is fascinating to observe yourself become engulfed by the whirlwind of expectation.

Martha Stewart exerted an inordinate amount of control over my life during that period.

I must admit, I didn’t have the awareness to realize this until much later.
So, what would I do different?

Well, I would have spent less on the wedding and more on our house and wedding trip; I would not have registered for china or silver or whatever wacky things that seemed so critical at that moment. (Sad, but true, we almost never use the china because it cannot go through the dishwasher, and I’m much too lazy to polish silver. Ahhh, reality.)

I would have spent more time meeting with our priest, even though our pre-wedding sessions with her were only “required” because I had been divorced. Those were beautiful, critical, enlightening moments. As I look back, I realize how important it was to have someone there to independently observe and bridge the communication gaps.

I would not have hurried so much to schedule a date, though I realize why I did; I was terrified he would change his mind; and I loved (and love) him so much; it was an empty place in my soul, and I needed his commitment in front of God and everyone to feel whole.

It is good now to realize that I feel whole within myself; but truly, that growth could not have occurred without his constant, consistent support and love.

He has taught me that washing dishes, and bringing someone a cup of morning coffee, and being patient; these things demonstrate love.

That it is not the dramatic gesture; not jewelry or fancy gifts; though they are appreciated; it is the everyday kindness, caring and support that build a life together.

You have your children, and you love and adore your children; but their job is to leave you; and so they shall. But when you create a love relationship, a partnership; a marriage; as your creations prepare to depart, you still (hopefully) have one another.

I read once that any good marriage is actually a series of re-marriages. That every couple years, you grow, you change; you separate in certain ways. And that to keep your relationship together, to keep the love; you have to renegotiate the terms.

You grow, you shift; and you come back together and say “well, here is who I am, and where I am; where are you?” You work out new ground rules, new ways of being and loving. You re-marry. Or else; you don’t.

We all know what happens when you don’t.

Sometimes the disintegration is slow, methodical; sometimes, you go along in blissful ignorance, and something blows you apart. Either way; you’re done. There’s nothing there; no ties that bind, that connect; that wish to receive each other.

Would you choose to wander back through time and change anything about your wedding day? Maybe change photographers, update your hairstyle, or serve different food?

What about your relationship, right now; is there anything you would change? Any outdated patterns or ways of thinking – not just in your partner, but yourself? Do you even know the new person who your spouse or partner has become through the years? Do you know yourself?

Might be time to “re-marry.”


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