It’s a Wonderful, Dented Life
I bought my husband a bell for our 25th wedding anniversary last month. Thinking we could keep it up all year long and ring it whenever we needed to be reminded that we live a wonderful life, despite how it might seem sometimes.
The first bell I bought didn’t ring. It was a Polar Express bell that only rings if you believe in Santa Claus. Hallmark just doesn’t get grown up children.
The second bell I bought on Amazon seemed perfect. Until it arrived. It’s a bell that announces It’s a Wonderful Life, has an angel wing and rings! I couldn’t believe such an awesome thing existed. But, it wasn’t perfect. It’s super cheap and was dented during its travels.
I was about to return it when a thought bulldozed its way out; maybe a dented bell is better than a perfect bell. Dented is closer to the truth anyway. And generally it’s when I’m in the process of dealing with my dents or imperfections or f-ups that I need to be reminded that, in spite of myself, it’s still a wonderful life.
This is Chewiethedog helping me while I write this. Chewie was nearly dead when we brought her in to our family. So skinny, matted, peeing everywhere, she had mange and she’d just had puppies. Not being little dog people, the-very-patient-man/husband and I weren’t instantly thrilled at the thought of this expensive mess of what might be a dog living with us.
It took about 2 days for Chewie to win us over and she quite literally brought our family closer. Chewie is the best dog EVER! But, still expensive, still not perfect by definition. Our family is completely bonkers over Chewie and we’ll do anything to make her happy. We are embarrassing and ridiculous and obsessed with this little mangled creature.
Chewie is scared of most things, but even when she’s on edge she notices when I’m in physical or emotional pain and takes it on herself. This is how she ended up here ⇑on my chest for the last two hours. I feel too guilty to move because she’s working! Chewie is absolutely perfect. When she gets up I’ll go ring that bell.
Would you return the bell? Or do you need to be reminded to look around and see what’s good in your ‘hood? Or in your life, your head, your marriage, family, career, life goals, even when you’re frustrated with them all? Maybe, only maybe, if we can look for what works in spite of our own dents, we can find what still works in someone else, in spite of their’s.
“This heartbreaking tragedy rocked our community to its core. In the days and weeks that followed, stories emerged about how Zachary was always looking out for and reaching out to the kid in the corner, those kids who felt alone and isolated. He touched more people in his short life than most people ever do. Zach was a giver with a keen eye for those in need. Yet sadly, he didn’t feel the reciprocation when he himself became the kid in the corner. We believe that through education, awareness, kindness, and community connectedness, we can help change the story for the next Kid in the Corner. Our vow to Zach is to honor his legacy by continuing the incredibly important work he started.” Francine Sumner, Zach’s motherOn Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, the first fundraiser event was held. Performers from every corner of Phoenix and one from L.A. came together in the hopes of raising money to keep their message going anywhere it needs to be heard. Following is an excerpt from Zach’s Mom, Francine, speech to all of us, audience and performers that night.
Welcome back! Thank you all so much for coming tonight! I can’t begin to tell you how amazing and overwhelming it is to have you all here tonight with me. With us. …My son Zachary…is the reason we’re here. He’s the inspiration for Kid in the Corner. I would give anything—my money, my home, my possessions, even my own life—to have Zachary with us here tonight. But that’s not gonna happen. Let me tell you why Zachary’s the inspiration for KITC…. We started KITC to shatter the stigma and start difficult conversations about mental illness. But it is also about kindness. Contagious kindness. Because that’s Zachary. All the time. Every day. It wasn’t pre-planned, and it wasn’t for attention. It’s just who he was. Just a couple of quick examplesKindness is ultimately the mission for every single human being. Now, more than ever. As a parent, as someone’s child, as a teacher, and as a citizen, I’m inspired to help change pain. I wasn’t able to help my own father’s, who died by suicide, but maybe I can aid in easing someone else’s. Please feel free to reach out to me directly – to help you bring Kid in The Corner to your school or community or if you’d just like me to listen. Karensuzanneburns@gmail.com. KITC email: firstname.lastname@example.org There is a resource section on their website if you. or someone you know, is in crisis.
- All through school ……His best friend all the way through school was Jake. Jake has Autism. Zachary was always looking out for him: he would accompany him anywhere—to class, to the bathroom, to lunch every single day. Every Friday, we would go to the Dollar Store so Zach could buy things each week to motivate Jake to behave well and do his work. When he was 13, he created a team for the Walk for Autism and raised the most money of any individual that year. Trust me, Jake never felt alone.
- I just used the phrase, “contagious kindness.” Let me tell you what I mean by that; One night, my daughter Gabrielle …. pulled into a Circle K to get gas, and she saw Zach in the far corner of the parking lot, so she went to see what he was doing. He had just gotten meals for a family that was homeless. And my daughter thought, “I’m not gonna let my little brother upstage me. I’m going to go buy a meal for a homeless family too.” And she did. Contagious kindness at its finest.
I could go one. There are so many stories just like these. These are only some stories that I knew about. After he died, I learned of a lot more. And I’m sure there are so many stories like these that I will never know about. So After his very first breakdown, when I heard him say through tears , “I care so much about other people, why doesn’t anyone care about me?” You can imagine how excruciating that was for me. This of course was not true. But he felt so alone. He felt like the Kid in the Corner. He was the Kid in the Corner. So, what can we do? How do we make sure kids don’t ask that same question? Through education, through promoting contagious kindness, and through making sure kids have the right resources. They need to know it’s okay not to be okay, and that it’s a strength to be able to ask for help. That’s KITC’s mission. We believe that we can make a difference in every school, to every student, every teacher, every parent, and every community leader. Invite us to come to your school, community center, church, or synagogue so we can tell our story. So we can begin to change the culture I make this pledge to you tonight—I will make a difference. I will fight like hell—with every ounce of strength that I possess—to make sure that what happened to my family never happens to yours or your loved ones. But you people aren’t off the hook. I want you to make a pledge tonight too. Zach was a coin collector. When he died, we found thousands of pennies he had collected. We decided to drill holes in them and wear them as a reminder to live our lives the way that he did. This simple act of wearing a penny has turned into one of the cornerstones of our organization. When we go to schools, we have the kids take the penny pledge: We pledge to reach out to people—people who are new, who are down, who have been absent. We pledge to take care of our own mental health, to reach out for help when we need it. And we pledge to wear our pennies as a physical sign to others that we will always be a safe and caring person that they can come to. Now it’s your turn. Take out the pennies from the bags inside your envelopes. Put them around your neck, Everyone ready? Hold onto your penny, and repeat after me: The Penny Pledge is here! My hope for the new year is that you all wear your pennies proudly. Go out and make a difference for the next kid in the corner! Help continue Zach’s legacy. Thank you all so much, Enjoy the rest of the show.
- Another time, Zach, my daughter, and I were shopping. Zach was bored, so he went over to the pet store next door. When we were done, Zach was nowhere to be found. After waiting a while, we were getting impatient, so we went into the pet store to look for him. He was at the cash register checking out. We walked outside, and he walked right over to a Humane Society drive and handed them a bag that included every item on their wish list. And he walked away and said, “Have a nice day.” The woman there said, “Is this your son?” I said yes, and she said, “You should be really proud of him.”
Mothers, Gratitude, Regret, and Wishful ThinkingTomorrow on our cul-de-sac we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. A 24-pound turkey, Al, will not be thawed by tomorrow. Dinner may be late for our small gathering this year of 15. I am thankful to have a warm, welcoming home for 15 people to sit down together and laugh more than we cry -or drink. My mother passed away this past Nov. 6th at 7:30 AM. My alarm went off at 7:30 and as I rolled over to hit snooze I noticed I wasn’t coughing up small hamsters from my lungs for the very first time in 3 months. When I stood up from my all too comfy bed I was hit by a weight of depression I hadn’t been experiencing for the last couple of months, so I noticed. I got a call at 12:10 PM. letting me know my mother had passed away a bit unexpectedly. It was nice of her to take my cough with her. I’m sure it’s just a weird coincidence. But, still, it’s weird. When my husband, the-very-patient-man, and I decided to have children I vowed to do everything I could to give my children a different childhood than mine. I succeeded and failed. Now that one is in college and one a recent college graduate living her dream life in California, I have too much time to miss: their magical imaginations, shopping for their food and entertainment and education and positive reinforcements. I miss the few and far-between moments of my own mother’s attempts to do the same for me. My ‘nows’ are often made up of ‘thens’ and the wishful thinking that I could have done better, at everything. I miss the way our life was, even in the midst of loving the way our life is. I have regret. Mom and I shared a love of Erma Bombeck’s humorous truths. Deeply. We bonded over, The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and every other thing Erma wrote or said out loud. This past Thursday night my very-patient-man generously agreed to see a performance piece of Erma’s life, “At Wit’s End” at The Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. A week and 2 days after she died. I was profoundly moved by this following bit of Erma wisdom. Regrets for the times I didn’t cherish being a mother, the times I abhorred my own, the times I was too self-involved to be present around the sweet people who cross my path. This Thanksgiving I will be using my mother’s recipes and dishes that I’ve been using since we got married 25 years ago. I’m expecting a new wave of moments lost and grief. This post is to encourage you to be like Erma and live your life as if it’s a gift, instead of a burden to be survived. I’m hoping to be grateful more than usual during this weird Thanksgiving. Try to take a moment to pull your now out of where you left it and be present where you live.
“If I had my life to live over…
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.
I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.
I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.
When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”
There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”I hope you spend your time and your memories well. This is encouragement to live ‘now’ so you don’t end up ‘nowhere.’ I’d love to hear how you live with or without regret!
In My Opinion, now, more than ever (or so it seems) in this hateful political, intolerant climate, we desperately need to consider the experience of those around us. We all tend to be in our own bubble, just trying to get from A to B as fast as possible and with the least amount of difficulty. For some of us, A and B are fantastic destinations filled with people we love and work that’s important. For some, A and B is barely tolerable and always hellish in the journey and destination. Putting our feet into someone else’s life is empathy. Some empathetic reflexes don’t require thinking…we wince when we see someone get hurt, for exp. (Unless someone trips in a movie or TV series or my living room, then it’s just an automatic laugh-out-load reflex to me. I cannot control this reaction, it’s guaranteed and loud and probably says more about my base sense of humor than I would like to acknowledge) — But true empathy, requires thinking. I’m fascinated by the people who walk my part of the planet whose work it is to serve me in someway. Fast food servers always break my heart because I know this must be one of the hardest jobs ever. When I encounter a person of a certain age working at McDonalds my heart breaks on the spot and so I genuinely ask how they’re doing and do my best to make them laugh. Recently I’ve developed an addiction to McDonalds Mocha Frappe’s, in my defense I’ve been ridiculously sick for the last 3 months which is what brought me to order one in the first place. Starbucks was all the way across the street. I was down, exhausted, coughing uncontrollably, and on my way to teach dance. Like a gift from God this phenomenal, delishishness sang to me from that lighted order board in the drive-thru and upon the first sip gave me the will to live I’d been lacking. There is no excuse as to why I keep going back. That is just weak-willed-sloth-like behavior in search of frozen mocha happiness drizzled in chocolate. DO NOT EVER TRY ONE OF THESE. You will live to regret the extra pounds included in each serving. But, I digress. A couple of weaks (spelled this way intentionally) ago, at the McDonald’s window where they take the low, low amount of $2.16 for a small mocha frappe, I slightly recognized the profile and voice of the cashier. Hesitantly I spoke her name very quietly, in case I was wrong, and yes, it was this old pseudo-friend. She’s now in her 50’s, divorced and I happen to know she lost custody of her kids…and she’s a cashier at McDonalds. This is an irregular person for me, someone I needed to cut out of our lives, but at this moment I wanted to comfort/encourage/respect/forgive her, because this has to be a such tough part of her life. She didn’t let on to me if she was embarrassed to be seen, in fact, she smiled and laughed when she said “Yep! Cashier at McDonalds!” I’m hoping she’s just happy to be getting back on her feet and doesn’t feel the need for empathy. Our lives collide with peeps living a different life every time we pull out of the garage: the homeless person with a dog on the corner, the botox-ed woman in designer clothes cutting in front everyone else to valet park her Beamer at the Vig, the father of 5 who is screaming and running after each kid simultaneously in Albertsons wishing he’d given birth to goats instead of these small slippery humans, the neighbor who can afford to completely make-over their entire house and yard on a whim, the neighbor who hasn’t even looked at the weeds in their yard in 2 years…and then, there’s our children. Our children have a different world to survive than we, their parents, have experienced. Looking in their eyes, if at all possible (!) and purposefully listening will bring our lives to a level playing field in almost any scenario. However, today there was another mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. One of our families favorite places that is home to people whom we love and cherish. The 307th mass killing this year. Three Hundred and Seven. And this is where I find my empathy completely lacking. There are too just too many horrific examples of lifestyles colliding; school shooter, mugger, rapist, angry politicians from any party, slanderous omnipresent political ad’s, large white SUV’s on the freeway in a bigger hurry than I am, and sometimes just coming into contact with our cat’s innate predatory nature is just more than anyone should be able to withstand. I’m thinking that maybe if we knew someone before they became a menace to humanity and animal life, paid attention to their walk on this planet they wouldn’t arrive at the choices they’ve made or perhaps would’ve been moved toward seeking help before hateful words or murder…It’s just a theory and a theory I don’t know if I can achieve. We all have mountains to move, some are Everest, some are really more of a bunny hill. The size of the mountain doesn’t matter, it’s how we speak to it that does. Here in America we have way too many Everests. My heart breaks on a daily basis lately. Hence this post. Are you capable of empathizing with ‘irregular people’? Please let me know how. TIA
Empathy Moves MountainsThis is just a reminder that your empathy will always be more important, more impactful, and more life changing to this world than your opinion ever will be. Empathy removes confining walls and allows space for healing and understanding. Empathy moves mountains. – Kate Held
10 Ways to Be Kind You Didn’t Think Would CountYou don’t have to do big things in every moment of every day, even simple, small things will change the world. 10 things you can do this week to feel better about yourself and maybe set a good example to someone…your child, your mate, total strangers, squirrels. 1. Put your grocery cart in the corral, even when no one else is around. I do this because I’m trying not to be an asshole. Putting your things away is the nice thing to do. AND! 10 minutes ago, when I started to return my cart on this rainy day (sprinkling lightly, it’s Arizona so we think even humidity counts for rain), a perfect gentleman came over to me and said, “I’ll take that” and he took it! He returned it to it’s little corral where it snuggled up next to its fellow carts. I am not a feeble looking woman. I assume he was walking by and thought, “I’m going that way anyway.” It surprised me, in a good way. Note, to self, I will do this someday too. 2. Do something nice for yourself. You count too. Stop for one minute and meditate: my favorite free app is Insight Timer. This one minute meditation by Don Reed Simmons reminds me that “I am safe, I am accepted, I am forgiven, and I am loved” among other important tactics to get through a day somewhat peacefully. You can always meditate longer, I have a short attention span. Get a pedicure, a massage, a facial! Call on a phone and speak out loud to a friend. Pet an animal that you like, it increases Oxytocin which can increase empathy and reduces anxiety! Breathe. In and out. Not just in. Dance-anywhere, everywhere, at any time. I recommend the kitchen. 3. Forgive someone who pissed you off or trampled your herd of kangaroo’s. Forgiving and letting go requires some patience and resillience. But, I genuinely believe your life will improve if you manage to fully let go. Once you have accomplished this garganguatan task, see #2 for how to reward yourself. 4. Forgive yourself. Harder than those two words imply. 5. Be kind to the planet. Turn off your lights when you’re not in the room, drive less, walk or carpool more, recycle even when it isn’t convenient. 6. Shop locally owned businesses and be respectful and a delight while your there. Support your local ‘hood and when you park, stay within the painted lines. Leave room. 7. Look food servers in the eye, smile, use their name if offered, speak gently and reward good service with more than a 20% tip. Even if you’re not in the mood. 8. Be the first to apologize. It’s gracious. And grace is always a good thing. 9. Compliment a stranger. Sincerely. 10. Be inspired by Helen. Saint Helen, a neighbor and friend, has a table set up in front of her door with cold water and snacks for Amazon, UPS and postal workers with a sign that says “We ♥ our delivery drivers! Please help yourself to a drink and a snack.” Here in the Arizona inferno, this seems an inspired way to keep delivery peeps alive while they frantically run from house to house with no air conditioning. Do you have a number 11 to share? Please do! We all need prompts as we go out into our own personal inferno’s.
Kindness tip of the week:
look for the funny in everything and life is easier to handle.
For example!The-Very-Patient-Husband accompanied me to a doctor’s appointment on Friday. It was a serious appointment, we were both a little nervous and became even more so when the nurse greeted us. She seemed a bit peeved about…perhaps, the idiocy of our world, the people in it, and most likely her job specifically (I’m just guessing). Maybe she hadn’t had any coffee yet, that would do it for me. Now, to add to this prickly mood that she wasn’t informed earlier I’m allergic to the ultrasound cord, plus the room is tiny and I was in her way, then I didn’t lay down fast enough on the table and didn’t point my face in the desired direction quickly enough so she felt she had to shove it there. I was this hell to have biopsy’s taken from my thyroid because I have tumors that appear cancerous. It was, I was…tense. At this point, I had only spoken three small sentences, “Hi.” and “I’m severely allergic to the ultrasound cord. It needs to wrapped.” The-Very-Patient-Husband was fervently patting my foot in his attempt to let me know this was all okay. But, it didn’t seem like that to me. This woman was about to assist putting several needles into my neck…I decided I didn’t have cancer and it was time to bolt. I started to slide off the table when the nurse was facing away from us trying to unsuccessfully wrap the ultrasound cord and sighing. Loudly. But, The-Very-Patient-Husband started laughing a little and mouthed “I think she’s having a bad day.” His understatement was hilarious. We had a two second glance that changed us. We were not laughing at her, in fact, we didn’t actually laugh. We just noticed that this wasn’t a life or death situation and therefore, we could lighten up. This is why I married him. He makes me laugh. He changed both of us in this one observation. So I stayed on the table. The doctor came in, the nurse relaxed and I did not fear for my life when the needles came in to explore. By the time we left, ‘our nurse’ even smiled at us and told The-Very-Patient-Husband to take me out to lunch. He didn’t. It was only 9:30 at this point. I feel certain she truly was just having a bad day. A day that started way before we arrived. Everyone in this office is wonderful, but no one can be wonderful for days and years on end. The next time you run into a similar kerfuffle, step aside and look for the amusing. I hope you always find it. Your life will get easier if you manage to try this long enough to become a habit. I know for a fact that my sense of humor has gotten me through more than a million difficult encounters and, ultimately, kept me alive. More on this later. This is just one example of humor diffusion. Do you have any? The Butterfly Effect concept has grown from the scientific finding that one flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a tornado, to also include: one kindness, one shared laugh, one empathetic action can spread out past our imaginations. But, the counter argument is also true; one slur, one lie, one gunshot, can spread the same distance as compassion. I love most stories, but sharing a story that might make life easier for someone else, is a story with a higher purpose. Tell the world a good/funny story through the comment section here ⇓. It can be your one kind thing you do today. Thank you in advance! I look forward to the laugh. Karen
We all seem to have an element of fear lurking just under the surface now in our country, and well, the world, which makes us careful and suspicious and is exhausting.♥ It is vitally important to stop to play every day. I learned this from father and it has sincerely saved my life more than once. ♥ Ideas for playing: A quick game on your phone. Candy Crush and Tetris work for me. It turns out there is scientific proof games that include dropping columns help release anxiety and PTSD. Tetris and Trauma A funny cat video: in fact, start your day with a funny cat video and everything else immediately becomes a lighter burden, maybe even burden-less. Sail Cat (no cats were harmed during this filming. WATCH THE EARS!) I laugh every single time I watch this. Call and speak out loud to a friend you love. Thank God for giving us a sense of what’s funny and the ability to laugh at our predicaments.
“I believe laughter is a sacred sound to God. It let’s Him know we are enjoying being His creation.” Tim HansellDANCE BREAK! Ask Alexa to play your favorite song and bust a move. This is my favorite personal coping mechanism and it works like magic. That’s it for now. Hope this helps diffuse even one icky interaction.
THE WAY WE LIVE
As relationship grows, so does accountability. We hold each other to higher standards for the good of all. Whether it be care for nature, care for those in need, or just a sincere desire to see others do well, we learn to expect a lot from each other and a lot for our customers.
Our priority at Black Rock is not for others to know who we are and what we do… but for others to allow us to know them, to add fuel to their story, and to share in the journey.
Kindness tip for the week:
It’s okay to ask for help.
Allowing help gives a chance to shorten the distance between loneliness and a life shared.Many Christmases ago I asked for a new kitchen table, the current table was about to disband into dust. The husband, Keith, found a very cute table at Wal-Mart online. It was delivered with “some assembly required” about a week before Christmas to our neighbor Jeff’s house. We have the family Christmas Eve dinner at our house. I save the four fancy plates we got for our wedding for this night, or really, there is never an occasion to use them. Since we only have the four, it takes awhile to make the table appear like it was arranged with a festive plan in mind. I spend about an hour, choosing the tablecloth and napkins, setting the table, arranging the seating and centerpiece until we can all fit IF we keep our elbows in, and I’m reasonably happy it looks magical. After baking and cooking all morning/month I thankfully disappear to finish wrapping presents behind closed doors while something cooks slowly in the oven. Egg Nog may, or may not, be involved. Every year this is my schedule. Every. Single. Year. This particular Christmas Eve, as soon as I closed our bedroom door to tackle speed wrapping, a silent mayhem began in the kitchen. The youngest,Talia, having memorized exactly how the table was set, took everything off as quickly and quietly as she could, the husband and the oldest, Hannah, sent four texts to neighbors who were on stand by to help assemble the table and chairs, run them to our house, silently set it up in our kitchen, dispose of the old table and chairs while Talia, at the speed of light, perfectly reset the new table to look exactly like the old one. I heard nothing. The crew all excitedly waited in the kitchen for me to come out. I didn’t come out for two hours. By that time, the neighbors had left and everyone else was annoyed with me. I didn’t notice the new table when I did emerge from my wrapping cocoon, even with all the beaming faces glaring at me. Since everything looked exactly like how I left it…no need to comment. Finally, The Youngest sarcastically bellowed, “NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE KITCHEN??” “Ohhhhh! New chairs!” I said, which was met with a group sigh. If I just hadn’t gone with a tablecloth that year, I would have seen the new table and we would hardly remember this even happened. We have a quality village here on the cul-de-sac. We take care of each other through giving space, but always being on hand if needed to pull a prank. The whole Christmas Eve shenanigan thing is priceless to me; the table, the group effort with their commitment to sneakery (It should be a word), the fact my husband had the thought and generosity to pull this off. We couldn’t really afford a new table then. Or truthfully, now. And almost more than anything, the poem that was propped in the middle of the table. I still can’t read it without tearing up. The words gave our lives purpose and comfort that a table is a worthy investment. This gift was way more than a new table from Wal-Mart. It was a step back to barn-raising’s and a step forward to neighbors taking care of their own in times of flooding and fires and shootings and innocent Christmas magic. We can never get rid of this table. It stands for who we are. Try to love your time with your family this week and with all of those who have landed near you. In my experience, time together as a family went faster than I could fathom. Well, on most days, some days actually went slower than originally fathomed as possible. Do you have a story? Please share it! Anywhere! A positive story can change the course of any day.
The poem that was placed on my sparkly magical Christmas table:
Perhaps the World Ends Here
BY JOY HARJOThe world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it. It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women. At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table. This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun. Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory. We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here. At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks. Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
“There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
Stephen Stills 1967Kindness is at war with evil. The battle lines are being drawn by celebrities, politicians, comedians, some cats, my next door neighbor. It’s a battle to fight violence, judgement, hatred, intolerance, apathy, by way of being consciously kind. It’s a victimless war. It’s a hard time to believe in people in the public eye — between child detention, the constant revelations of the #MeToo movement, and the racial, economic, and gender-based injustices we witness every day.
Jane, a friend of mine from my distant adolescence in California, posted this on Facebook after one of our way too many mass shootings, or maybe it was in response to the divisiveness of our political climate…
“This is how I have been trying to live my life in my community. I think it makes a difference somewhere. As America figures this all out, I’m going to be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, being patient with a waiter, and smiling at strangers, as often as I am provided the opportunity. Because I will not stand idly by and let children live in a world where unconditional love is invisible. Join me in showing love to someone who may not necessarily deserve it. Find your own way to swing the pendulum in the direction of love. Because today, sadly, hate is winning. Just be nice to a stranger today and everyday.”I have been the recipient of love and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it, sadly, a lot…From Jane, from my parents, and husband and children and way too often, in traffic. On a daily basis I need to be reminded to see every person as they were originally created to be. This is actually how I start each day: A very quick prayer asking to see each person as they were meant to be, usually said as I’m literally running everywhere and traveling too quickly through my life. It helps my patience and level of joy, especially on days when I could swear I have neither. Maybe give this little thought/prayer a try tomorrow morning and see if you react differently as you wildly go about your daily life too. Then, if we crash into each other on the road or at the grocery store or waiting in line at Pei Wei, we’ll be quicker to forgive ourselves and each other in this moment where we don’t necessarily deserve it. I’d love it if you’d let me know if this helps at least you, if not everyone you encounter for the rest of your life, or at least for the next 15 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes will be enough to change your attitude for the day, or week, or forever. This attitude might ripple across the street and eventually move on to Romania and Rio de Janeiro and possibly even Rough and Ready, California. We only need to be a little light to make a difference. How do you start your day?
November 26, 2017
How To Change The World
The Santa Fe High School shooting happened right after the other 100 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-mass-shootings-in-america-this-year-2018-2
On October 1, 2017, Steven Paddock had a psychotic break in Las Vegas and unleashed a string of bullets onto unsuspecting country music fans across the street from his hotel. No one saw it coming and no one knows why. Our world seems lost and out of control.
Ten years ago, I had an idea during a fabulous weekend retreat. The Walk To Emmaus. http://azemmaus.org/
On fire with a thousand grand ambitions when I got home, I started showering my children with affection, “Hannah, I made you some toast, my precious child of God.”
Hannah liked being showered with toast, so I branched out and experimented with various cashiers in our neighborhood stores. I just said, “Hi” to them though. No toast. The feedback was instantaneous, for the most part people smile in return! When I kept up this friendliness for longer than a day my kids were surprised, “What happened to you?” And more than once at Wal-Mart, cashiers remarked, “Your kindness does not go unnoticed. It makes a difference. Thank you.”
Yesterday, I watched Charlene, a cashier at my corner Albertsons calmly help a frustrated, elderly woman who had never been in an Albertsons. This woman, wearing a confusing outfit in which not one plaid article of clothing matched, was fixated on how to use the key pad to complete her transaction, while complaining on the illogical placement of everything in, not only this store, but in this state.
“Where are you from?” Charlene quietly asked with a smile, but the mismatched woman couldn’t answer, the keypad was just too baffling. In what seemed like a generation went by, Charlene, smiling the entire time, got the elderly woman successfully on her way and was still nice to the next customer in her checkout line. I think this transaction would’ve aged me.
A study, that I had nothing to do with, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed when we act kindly toward one person, that person is much more likely to be kinder toward others in the future. In this study the researchers played a game that rewarded greed, (cool??) and found that a single act of kindness could produce dozens more. If you’re nice to John in Round 1, he’d be more likely to be nice to Kristen in Round 2, and they both would be more likely to be nice in Round 3. It was a ripple effect of kindness. It starts as a single act, but it keeps spreading outward affecting so many more.
This other guy, Edward Lorenz, in a MIT study over 50 years ago, uncovered a kind of miracle about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences. He discovered the “butterfly effect” when he suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado.
Charlene is nice to the lost, mismatched, elderly woman who then is a little nicer in the next new store where she probably will be lost again. Charlene flapped her wings.
We can change the world in our own neighborhoods one smile at a time. Maybe, one kindness has the power to stop a random act of violence for at least a second. I’ll bet Steven Paddock’s world did not shower him with toast, or smiles.
Be the butterfly.
Just start next door. When was the last time you said hi to your neighbor?