Kindness matters

My goodness!  Such a long time since I’ve posted my thoughts.  It’s been a rough several months.  Actually lately, I’ve been surrounded  by models of kindness.  I’ll only mention two that have played a part in inspiring these words.

The recent film based on the life of Fred Rogers, A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood, brought tears to my eyes, reminding me that in the neighborhood there are always people trying to help.  Notice them. Appreciate them.  They, and we, are all special. And, it’s a gift to them to allow them be kind to us.

I consider this reflection more important now with the world wide corona virus pandemic. We are supposed to maintain “social distance”.  I’ve even heard the doctors asking that we be “kind” to each other during times that are likely to get more scary.   Little gestures matter. And many of these little gestures will be heroic. 

As a very independent person, I have been one who has lived many of my 80 years rarely asking or allowing others to help me. I have also generally discounted the appreciations I receive for how I show up in the world.  After all, I am just enjoying being and doing “me.” I’ve never focused my attention on how I’ve mattered to others, nor to the gifts of pleasure that I have received from having been useful.  

However, over the last several years, another point of view is emerging exemplified by Mr. Rogers.  He demonstrates by his very different approach to life that he himself is special, and now legendary.  He saw every one he met as “special.” 

You are special. I am special.  He is so right about that. Actually on the giving-receiving continuum, being kind to another person is a feel-good moment that so often translates into a special kindness to yourself.

In addition to the reminder from Mr. Rogers, last week a stranger gifted me with a gut level epiphany.  To get around my community, I have a hand driven car, and use a walker. I’m very comfortable extracting that walker out of my trunk and getting it back in, having been performing that routine for 8 years.  Walking back to my car, ready to pack myself up, a woman sitting in a nearby car noticed me.  She immediately exited her vehicle, ran over, and offered to help.  Although I’m used to saying “I’ve got it,” there was something in this stranger’s insistence that I decided to respect.

I allowed her to lift my walker and slide it gracefully into the car and thanked her. 

She replied:  “Thank you for letting me help you.  I try to help someone at least once a day and it makes me feel so good.”  

Duhhh..Since I’m becoming very aware how good I feel when I help someone in ways that are unique to me, why do I continue to deprive others of that feel-good moment?  How can I encourage more of those moments for others by being willing to ask for help not only for me, but for tasks that are needed in our community?

Neither the stranger, nor the now deceased Mr. Rogers, will ever know the impact of their being/teaching moments of kindness on me.

Offering people an opportunity to “help” as a way to promote health and wellbeing is perhaps something we have overlooked.  

The tears are flowing…KINDNESS MATTERS…both the giving and the receiving of it.

A thought for the New Year

A good life is an intentional life.

I will not define myself as a reaction to who others want me to be. Nor be ruled by meaningless distraction or maniacal busyness without purpose. I am here to live, not surrender. To embrace meaning. To love unconditionally. To give without expectation. To settle into solitude. To make meaning. To participate not watch. To create not copy. To be unapologetically me. To rise up and help others rise .

I believe that this moment seeds every moment. Vulnerability is a virtue. Life is growth, stagnation is death. Presence beats presents. Compassion is a gateway to connection. Life is a co-creative process . With rare exception, everything is better when it is shared.

These things I know. These things on my best days, I aspire to live. And yes, I am now and always will be a work in progress. It’s called being human. A good life is not a place at which I arrive, it is a lens through which I see and create my world. It is lived this moment. And the next. And the next.

This “intention” was unearthed by author, thought leader, and serial entrepreneur Jonathon Fields when he was “cleaning out” the several year old files of his own notes to himself . He shared it with his readers and I share it with mine.

the Mystery of Legacy

Yes, I want my life to have mattered to the world.  And yes, I want my life to matter to me.  The first others will decide.  For the second I can review, reflect, reevaluate my skills and interests and passions.  I can listen to what’s deeply calling to me, and recreate at any moment, a life that more fully matters to me. 

At whatever time you are called to STOP to make some changes,   whether it be in your fifties, your sixties, your seventies, or even your eighties (in my case it was my seventies), we have the remaining days in which to create a joyful, meaningful life, a life we won’t be regretting on our deathbeds.  Daring to give that gift to ourselves, likely gives us the best chance to have others also notice that how we lived may have left its mark. 

It’s never too late to think about how we want to be remembered, and to do something about it.  That being so, the Peer Spirits of Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea  suggest the paradoxical nature of the matter:

“Legacy is not up to us:  legacy is a decision made by those who go on after us.   Our job is to keep depositing the best of ourselves in as many ways as we can, for as long as we can, and to lay down at the end of our lives, trusting the mystery”.

So be it!

What is the best of yourself that’s calling for your attention?