The three Cs

A friend recently reminded me of the power in kindness when she asked, what makes an urban area kind? My first thought was, how can an object or mass of solid be kind? What makes anything kind?

It’s a huge question, with a valley amassed in a field of flowers for answers.

Being kind is about expressing goodwill, whether emotionally, spiritually, physically or materially. It’s the act of being generous and considerate, looking out for the needs of others.

There’s such grace in being kind, just as there is in receiving kindness.

For some, it can be difficult to accept a kind gesture, especially those that give so frequently and don’t make time to receive. And then there are those who feel kindness is associated with the naive or weak. And yet kindness in any and all form is the epitome of courage and strength as it requires an openness that exposes vulnerability, especially when the kindness is being extended to oneself.

To give directions to a lost traveller in a city of skyscrapers

Or buy a second spare bike for yourself so you can give your other spare to a friend

For a son to text his mother late at night to tell her to look up at the moon if she’s still awake …

Kindness can melt a heart, crack a shell to ooze a luscious goo. It’s giving without expecting in return, giving with genuine concern.

Being kind is a gesture that is sincere and doesn’t occur because we should be kind or expect ‘good karma’ out of it. It’s not pity either; there is a clear line between the two. To pity is to be sympathetic to suffering, distress or misfortune, to show mercy and feel sorry.

A warm hug from someone who seems to feel your pain is kindness woven in care. Receiving help when you’re down and not when you’re strong, that’s pity. Pity is fleeting and insincere, can be demoralising; kindness stays with you well after the kindness has occurred.

Offering work to someone who isn’t working, mailing a care package of home-baked biscuits sealed with a smiley face to someone far away … they’re little gestures that can make someone’s day, turn an ugly mood into a gleaming uplift in both the giver and receiver.

Kindness can soothe the beastly harsh and thaw the biggest of ice bergs submerged in arctic waters. It can uplift to breathless heights and become buoyant in puffs of weightless jubilation; a gladness of glee.

Compliment someone on their new red shoes and watch their face light up

Hold the hand of a friend who bleeds out their heart

Be taken to lunch, or have the lunch bill unexpectedly paid … there’s such humility in kindness, a respectful, thoughtful and generous consideration for a person, animal or something.

Kindness comes with affection and warmth, gentleness too, to want to do something good. It’s the giving of time and patience, of wanting person, animal and environment to feel better than they are. Being kind is to love, whether in friendship, romantic, parental, environmental or spiritual love.

To sit with a family pet for two hours after her surgery

Be the angelic guardian of a brother’s galaxy

Talk to a friend who is reluctant to talk and after an hour, hear the glee in their tone.

That’s the bonus of course, the delight we can feel in imparting kindness, to know we’ve done something good, helped someone feel better or special, helped something, Mother Nature. But not pity them.

To see kindness in action is enchanting, captivating. It’s a desirous quality layered in modesty that can never be measured.

Kindness is a simple smile, a thank you, or a helpful hand to a stranger. As Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, says:

The true essence of humankind is kindness. There are other qualities which come from education or knowledge, but it is essential, if one wishes to be a genuine human being and impart satisfying meaning to one’s existence, to have a good heart.

Be concerned, caring and considerate. Be kind. Accept kindness. Expose it in all its glory. And honour it, for it’s in us all.

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The Countless Other Infinitesimals

 

“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions,—the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of a playful raillery, and the countless other infinitesimals of pleasant thought and feeling.”  

― Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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The Jesus of Silver Spring

In my novel The Island of Always, Lena (my protagonist) compares her ex-husband to Jesus—in that he loves everyone, just no one in particular (meaning her).

I was thinking about that today as a friend and I were exchanging emails on the subject of being alone later in life (I'm 63, and have been alone or on my own or however you want to put it for some years). My friend and I both agreed that writing (which is what we do, or at least how we think of ourselves) plays a part in that, both as a prerequisite, solitude being implicit in the writing life, and as a proxy, providing the joy and meaning that might otherwise come from companionship. 

Then I thought about Lena's line, and it occurred to me that there might be another alternative: compassion. Or perhaps the more personal counterpart: kindness. Maybe being kind to others, not just to other people, but to all the life around you, generates in you some of the same well-being that partnership might. It’s more spread out, certainly, easier to miss, no doubt. But maybe in aggregation enough to keep the heart alive. 

Perhaps in the end it all comes down to endorphins and complex neurochemical reactions. Or maybe there is a higher accounting, a karma to be built. But I wonder if the choice to engage with your little patch of the world in this way, each day, to smile at a neighbor, give a treat to a dog, or leave bread out for the birds and squirrels, can sustain the heart through the solitary years ahead. 

I hope so.

Hearts are important. 

 

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Because of You

I live an inspired life.

I sleep soundly.

I wake with a smile on my face.

 

Because of you

I have learned to walk in stride.

To accept what comes my way.

 

Because of you

I am deeply humbled.

I am eternally grateful.

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