Posts Tagged With: kindness

 
 

Finding Somewhere Safe

“Just take me somewhere safe.”

If someone answered that way when you asked them if they needed a ride, what would you do? Where would you go?

MSH saw a man looking a bit lost and bewildered, carrying a backpack and a sleeping bag. He bought lunch for the guy at McDonalds and chatted some. Said he was a veteran but hadn’t seen combat. He said he had a family out of state, five kids and a wife. He seemed nervous and a bit uncertain. Parts of his story didn’t make sense with other things he said.

He didn’t want to go to a shelter, or to a VA hospital, or a food kitchen. He finally just asked MSH to drop him off at a shopping center, near a spot where a group of guys had gathered with their restored cars. MSH asked them if any of them were Veterans. A few were, so he explained about this man he’d tried to help who, in the meantime, wandered away and couldn’t be found again.

When MSH told me about this encounter my worry meters buzzed. Such things make me wish I could fix the world. But of course, that isn’t possible.

I’ve read recently about Mother Teresa who, when asked about the huge task before her, replied….

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa

I’m surely no Mother Teresa, but I do try to make a tiny difference where and when I can. I help at a local Food Bank from time to time. I donate to charity. I offer my services regularly in a variety of volunteer opportunities. On occasion my home has served as a sanctuary of sorts.

notre dameWe have a family friend or two who drops in from time to time. They see our home as a safe place to land, or a spot to score a slice of bread, which really means a slice of caring and a listening ear. Once, on sitting down at the kitchen bar to some fresh homemade bread and strawberry jam, one of these friends said something about finding sanctuary in our home.

That caught me off guard.

Sanctuary sounds like somewhere sacred and set apart and rare. My home? A sanctuary?

Another friend I know has told the story of a man at church who asked her why she sat in the hall during part of our worship service. She replied that she felt awkward and out of place because she’s single and so often seemed left surrounded by empty chairs rather than by mostly-married worshippers of our congregation. This kind, younger, married man, sweetly put his arms around her and hugged her tight. She proceeded to sob. She said she hadn’t been hugged by a man in decades and felt his kindness in that platonic squeeze. From that day forward if he is at church he has saved her a seat next to him and kept a lookout so he could pat the chair and let her know it’s saved just for her. My friend found sanctuary in a house of God in the most unexpected of ways.

I know this man, and he’s no Mother Teresa either. But he saw a need and has done his best to fill it. He’s a saint in one person’s eyes.

The word sanctuary finds its roots weaving through Middle English from French. Before that it started with the Latin word “sanctus” which means “holy.”

Anything we do to alleviate another’s sadness, to lift a person’s burdens or to cheer a weary soul is a holy act.

We can all provide sanctuary, if not in actual brick and mortar, at least in deed and action and maybe even in word.

Perhaps the sanctuary we provide is simply the small space around us as we provide a reassuring hug, a human touch to a person aching to feel loved in some small way. Maybe we rub a set of tired shoulders for a few seconds to push courage and fellowship into weary shoulders.

Perhaps the sanctuary we’re in is a porch swing where a heartfelt conversation takes place, temporarily lifting the weight of worry or sadness.

Perhaps the sanctuary we create is in the holding of our bitter tongue, the forgiving of long held grievances, or a word of thanks. Perhaps our smile creates a sanctuary that carries someone through to the next way station for disillusioned travelers.

Mother_Teresa_1985_croppedAnother quote by tiny but powerful Mother Teresa says, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

Are we tossing coins when a slice of bread is needed? I hope not. Are we giving out bitter sponges soaked in vinegar when a glass of cool water is all that’s required? I pray not.

To be completely honest, I have turned away when a need was evident, mostly because I doubted my ability to lift or cheer or make a difference. Sometimes my own needs kept my eyes looking inward and I simply couldn’t or refused to see another’s need. Sometimes I’ve just been world weary myself and needed my own sanctuary.

We aren’t always on one side of the equation. As humans we often find ourselves on the other side of needing. That helps us feel compassion when the roles switch places again.

Hopefully I learn and apply the knowledge when facing a person in need of sanctuary.

“Take me someplace safe,” the weary one says, “wherever that is.”

I hope I know where that place is and how to get there. I hope others are also willing and able to help as well.

~~~~~

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen

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Categories: Being Human, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Twenty-four Seven Three Six Five Christmas

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful that generosity and feels extra abundant this time of year.

We received this Christmas card many, many years ago. The idea struck me so powerfully I chose to frame the card and kept it hung up in my room year-round for a long time.

Christmas all year round.

I wish I knew who sent the card. Even more, I wish I could give credit to whoever said this.

December seems filled with real-life stories of strangers helping strangers, random acts of generosity and secret gifts of stunning proportion. I love reading about or watching such stories. Hope takes a deep breath with each tale told.

I can tell you, though, that such things don’t just happen in December. I’ve been the recipient this past year of Christmas every single month in one surprising act of love or kindness after another. For some of it I have no idea who to thank. I can only pray that such generosity finds the giver blessed beyond anything they’ve given. For other blessings showered down on me, I’m woefully inadequate at expressing thanks.

Christmas is alive and well around here, I can tell you that. I see it 24/7/365. (All day, every day, all year.)

Thank you if you’ve given anything to anyone for any reason this year.  You may have very easily touched my life and lifted my spirits unknowingly.

For me it’s been a beautiful Christmas year!

Happy Holidays! I hope they live on for you long after the decorations get put away and the carols stop playing.

photofy copy 2

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A World of #cultureofcharacter

Before the housing bubble implosion, I worked with a real estate appraiser as an apprentice. My boss and I drove in her new hybrid car to Las Vegas for an appraisers convention.

I wouldn’t describe the drive as scenic. Far from it. The one highlight I remember appeared in a yard just on the outskirts of a tiny town that boasted life-sized rusty metal sculptures of animals, a giraffe being the most memorable.

Vegas was meh. I’m not a big fan.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pretty much this was the view. By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC-BY-SA-2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

On the way home from Vegas, about forty-five miles either way to a town, in the middle of desert and sagebrush, my boss looked at her gas gauge, gasped and said, “We forgot to get gas before leaving Vegas!” She all but slammed on the brakes mid road.

I leaned over to look at the gauge, thinking she was overreacting and saw the needle pointed solidly at the “Empty” side.

“Oh, crap,” I replied. Or something along those lines.

Nowadays, you’d just whip out your smart phone, find the nearest gas station and turn around or head forward. Or your car tells you how many miles you have left before you run out of gas.

All we had eight years ago was a map book, a cell phone and no cell coverage. We weren’t really sure where on the map we were. We’d also, apparently brought along some overconfidence it had just flown out the window.

My boss wanted to turn around and go back. I voted we keep moving forward. Either way we were surely going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, in the heat. And when we ran out of gas we’d be on a two lane road with almost no shoulder.

Windblown

A few miles ahead we pulled into a sad excuse for a rest area. “Better to stop here, than be stuck on the side of the road,” my boss explained. There was one other car parked there. “I’m going to go have a chat with the person in that car,” she said as she climbed out.

My boss never shied away from a situation, but I thought she might be pushing her luck. She talked for about five minutes. When she got back in the car here’s the story she told me.

The person in the car was a younger woman. She was at the rest area because it was a half-way point between where her ex-husband dropped off her son at her Dad’s place and her home near Vegas. Her Dad drove her son to the rest area and that’s where mom and child reunited.

The young woman said her Dad owned a tow-truck but he’d probably be just in his regular car and that he could go get gas and bring it back to us after he dropped her son off.

That’s doable. We’d survive. Yay!

Still it’d be a long time waiting in the car in the desert. I got out, wandered around. Sitting in the partial shade on a rickety over-painted picnic table, the wind sucking the moisture out of my skin, I wished for Star Trek transporter technology and wondered what my kids were doing.

We sat waiting another half-hour or so when in pulls a tow-truck.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Not the actual tow truck, just a photo from Wikimedia Commons.

JACKPOT!!

The truck pulled up next to the other car and the young woman hops out, gets a huge hug from a cute little blond boy and then hefts him on her hip as she chats with the guy behind the steering wheel. She points over at us, talks a bit more and then puts her son in her car. As the tow-truck pulls past us she walks over and says, “That’s my Dad. He decided to drive the tow-truck today. Lucky, huh? He’s just going to turn around and back in, then you can just drive up to the ramp, he’ll winch the car on, lock ‘er down and he’ll give you a ride to the gas station.”

Wow!

Lucky, huh?

Felt like more than luck. Felt like hitting the jackpot.

Apparently, we’d stopped about sixty miles from the nearest gas station. Glad my boss had pulled over. Turned out she wasn’t nuts, just inspired.

And the tow-truck driver? Nice guy, pleasant to chat with. He hadn’t had a lot of business lately and thought maybe if he drove the truck, even though it cost more in gas to drive it without a call to respond to, he might get lucky and run into someone who needed a tow or get a call while on the road. “Every little bit helps,” he said.

And yet, as he dropped us off right in front of a gas pump, he refused to accept the money my boss offered him. “I was in the area and I’m just glad I could help you ladies out today.” And off he drove, into the sunset, every bit a knight in shining armor. It wasn’t really sunset, but that’s how I chose to remember it anyway.

A person of character and class? Absolutely.

People like that restore my faith in the human race. It happens more often than we hear about.

I’d like to hear about it more.

What do they call that? Random Acts of Kindness? Tender Mercies? Karma? Grace? Charity? Selflessness?

Whatever name you give it the effect remains the same. Troubles alleviated, hearts lifted, humanity redeemed a little more.

#cultureofcharacter

I have a friend who tweets #cultureofcharacter followed by a description of kind acts and observations. I’d love for that to go viral. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t it be something to log on and see a massive list at the end of every day of things people saw or did or heard about that showed class and character in the actions and words of the people around them?

Small moves, tiny acts, they make all the difference in a world run amok.

It’s certainly works that way in my world.

How about yours?

I’ll be watching for your tweets.

This book will surprise you. It's where the phrase "culture of character" originated.

This is where the phrase “culture of character” originated.

#cultureofcharacter: an idea from the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Categories: good ideas, Hope, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Particular Sweetness of This Corn on the Cob

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for the kindness in people.

I’ve been aware of this story for a few years. My parents, who live in farming country, have a neighbor they’ve told me about. Often when I visit I’ve seen the evidence and heard the tale. This year I got the chance to meet the man. Smiling and glowing with good will, he seemed like someone you’d be honored to have as a neighbor. A solid, kindhearted soul.

Yes, Virginia there are still good, generous folks in the world.20130903-012409.jpg

Exhibit A: a corn field with a sign which identifies said corn.

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Exhibit B: a different sign next to the corn field, hand written.

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Exhibit C: close up view of the handwritten sign reads

“Sweet Corn – you pick – $3.00 dozen  – put $ in box – Thank you”

Look closer at the bottom of the sign, attached to the fence. That’s a green metal box with a slit cut it in, attached to the fence rail, for people to put their money in when they pay for the corn they pick.

You’re thinking this guy gets ripped off a bunch. Maybe. Maybe not. He lives close by the field and has a clear view of it all. Sometimes people pay. Sometimes they don’t. For the ones who don’t he says he figures they must really need it. He doesn’t begrudge them the corn or the money.

He’s watched people he knows, it’s a small town, fill a van front to back with the corn they picked and drive off without putting dime nor dollar in the cash box. He shrugs it off. He might know their story, well off or not, but it doesn’t matter. He’ll greet them the same next time he sees them, with a smile and a handshake.

Is this guy rich? Only in goodwill and generosity and kindness. The way most people in the world judge things he’s losing big time. In the ways that really count, he’s rich beyond counting.

Every year it’s the same way. His corn is for sale on the honor system.

Looks to me like he’s the one who is honorable.

20130903-004952.jpg

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindergarten, Naptime, Cookies and Milk

Twenty-five years ago the world rotated in a different direction.

Now you think I’m crazy. You’re thinking I’m like one of those “flat earth society” people.

(Have you ever seen that show called Honey Boo Boo? I rest my case.)

Naptime

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I think some basic common sense stuff isn’t getting taught anymore, by parents or by teachers, or by society. It worries me a bit. Okay, more than a bit.

If you don’t believe me just read this short list written twenty-five years ago by Robert Fulghum.

“These are the things I learned [in Kindergarten]:

1. Share everything.

2. Play fair.

3. Don’t hit people.

4. Put things back where you found them.

5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.

6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.

8. Wash your hands before you eat.

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

12. Take a nap every afternoon.

13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

— From the book by Robert FulghumAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Isn’t this guy brilliant? If you like this list, you’ll love his book.  If the list seems like a bunch of foreign concepts for you, then you should read this book. If you wish for a kinder world, a more logical planet, read this book.

Milk and chocolate chip cookies, with puzzle i...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess what I’m trying to say is you should read this book.

In the meantime, I’m trying to “hold hands and stick together” more often. (Mom is giving me the opportunity to do that.) Numbers four, eight and eleven seem like areas I need to work on, as well.

I really like eleven. In fact, I think that’s my new affirmation for the next month. “Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.” (for those of you who don’t want to have to scroll up to reread what number eleven is 🙂

And today I’m going to put extra effort into the warm cookies and cold milk thing. I’m pretty sure I could use that one. Right after number twelve.

Categories: The World | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo

In recent news: “Pope Francis cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.”-By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Saint Bonaventure Window

With such generosity and goodwill wafting about I’ve come up with my own candidate for Sainthood. Whether or not he receives approval by the Pope or anyone else for that matter, is of little consequence. In fact, he isn’t Catholic, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be off the list on the first round. To me, this man is a true Saint by any measure.

He has performed miracles, uses his great gifts to bless the lives of many, brought the dead back to life, and brought hope to countless numbers whose hope wavered, flickered and nearly flamed out.

Who is this man and why haven’t we read about him in the news? Ah, for two good reasons.

1) he is humble and unassuming

2) he is my mechanic

Yes, you’re reading this correctly. I’m praising the man who repairs my vehicles. He deserves high praise, in fact.

How often does a mechanic receive such accolades? Rarely, I can tell you that. We’ve had some doozies when it comes to car repairs. A few mechanics in the past obviously thought we owned a money-tree orchard. If that were true we wouldn’t be driving fifteen-year old cars around, would we? I suppose desperation drives (cough) people to do ridiculous things and spend food and rent money to keep a car running. Unlike some shysters we have encountered in the past, our mechanic is honest, direct and helpful with reason and sanity.

This guy is amazing.

  • He makes house calls.
  • If the problem with the truck or car is something that MSH or my son can reasonably repair, saving us the cost of labor, he’s happy to explain the process, suggest places to find the parts needed at a decent price and answer questions if they come up.
  • More times than I care to count, he has resurrected a car past the “stinketh” stage.
  • He has taken mercy on us on occasion and moved our sole working car to the head of the line of cars outside his backyard shop.
  • Widows often have repairs done at little or no cost, because he can. What a good guy!
  • If it isn’t repairable, he’ll say so, flat-out. “Dude, you need to get a different car. Sorry to have to break it to you.”
  • Car repair isn’t his first job. It’s a kind of hobby/second job/good Samaritan thing he does.
mechanic with car

(Photo credit: anyjazz65)

Alas, I looked up the requirements for canonization (i.e. becoming a saint) here and it doesn’t look good so far. Candidates must be deceased and my mechanic remains very much alive and rolling. Thank goodness, ’cause we’d be lost without him.

On the other hand, he has led an exemplary life, blesses others daily and has no skeletons in his closet or his tool chest, which are other requirements he clearly meets astoundingly well. He is a man of integrity and generosity and knowledge, a perfect combination in a businessman and a gentleman.

Countless car miracles have occurred to which we and others will gladly bear witness. Lame, maimed, nearly dead, completely dead, gasping, choking, smoking, he has dealt with and cured or at least temporarily revived many a sad car in its day. Surely a few minor rules could slide to allow a non-Catholic some well-deserved Sainthood.

Personally I’d love to reside where I could get by without a car. But for where we live and what we do, it isn’t terribly realistic. Maybe someday we’ll live in a tiny town where I can ride a bike everywhere I need to go. Or a big town where public transportation is convenient, on-time and reliable.

In the meantime, our mechanic will remain, anonymously, The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo.

Categories: Humor, Transportation, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

That’s the Power of Love (#1)

I was helping a friend out recently.  For her it was a major event, something that required a ton of elbow grease or buckets of money. The money wasn’t so much there, so the man hours kicked in big time. Word went out that she needed some help and there it was. The Power of Love!

I might add she was grateful to tears for all the help, in its various manifestations.

“You don’t need money, don’t take fame

Don’t need no credit card to ride this train.” 

–Huey Lewis and the News

The collective power of a few or many doing some work is an awe-inspiring thing to see in action.

Red Barn

Red Barn (Photo credit: Kathleen Cavalaro)

Reminds me of a barn raising. One small farmer and his family trying to get a barn built would take a season or more. But bring in the entire community, men and sons wielding saws and hammers, lifting framework, hefting beams, literally raising the roof and the thing gets built in a day. Add in the support network of children carrying water and supplies, women bringing and preparing food and there’s even time for a dance at the end of the day.

The resulting barn is the goal, but the real outcome t is a community strengthened and empowered by a common goal, by working together, by sharing. That, my friend, is the real power of love.

I know we don’t do barn raising any more, at least not around here, but there are myriad chances for sharing, working together and accomplishing a common goal.

“The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep, make another man sing

Change a hawk to a little white dove

More than a feeling that’s the power of love”

The person being helped is not the only one who benefits in this equation. Not hardly!

Change happens

Volunteering to help someone out can change you. The process of giving up some of your time, offering some of your skill, or using your hands in the service of someone else creates something new in you. I know it does in me.

Of course, you have to pay attention to what season in life you’re at. Maybe your offering of love is smaller and requires less time than someone else’s offering. The important part isn’t what’s given, but why it’s given.

Your sharing may not be seen by anyone, including the one you’re sharing with. That’s okay. You’re really the only one who needs to know what gift you’ve given or how you’ve helped.

Need ideas for how you can be a mini-volunteer on your crazy, busy schedule? Here’s a tiny list.

Pray for someone.

Write a note of encouragement.

Leave an apple or a candy bar on a co-worker’s desk.

Do an unexpected chore or errand.

Send a happy quote by text.

Share a hug or pat someone on the shoulder.

Give a compliment.

Got a little more time to spare? Here’s a few more ideas:

Bake some cookies for someone who’s could use a lift.

Donate blood.

Sign up to help with a small project.

Help serve dinner at a homeless shelter.

Donate a bag or box of canned goods to a food pantry.

Do you have a full day a week  or once a month to help out?

Google “Volunteer followed by  your town or city “and stand back.

I googled “Volunteer Phoenix” and found docents, tutors, camp counselors, parks and rec needs, animal rescue, AmeriCorp, music therapy, pet therapy, educational outreach, literacy outreach, and that was just the first couple of hits.

There are always opportunities to help out. Sign up!

Say yes! Just one time, let the power of love take hold and see what happens.

“But you know what to do

When it gets hold of you

And with a little help from above

You feel the power of love

You feel the power of love

Can you feel it ?”

Categories: Joy, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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