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Archive for the ‘kindness’ Category

People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. (Epictetus)

I am driving home from a doctor’s appointment, a yearly event. The office is in a part of town that confuses me—one way streets, lots of traffic. Moreover, it is raining and thunderstorms are on the way; my concentration is on sleep mode.

I’d like to say the current state of my country is strictly a political matter that can be settled with the right word, the perfect argument. It is far larger than that. Yes, I will cast my vote, but that is only the beginning. I need to live understanding for all people, the human respect I believe to be primordial.

However, I also need to pay attention to the moment, to where I am going. How the heck did I get on Vine Street? I was supposed to turn left on Calhoun. Somehow. I drove this route last year.

Last year I wasn’t preoccupied by the fact that my husband is recovering from surgery. My back wasn’t acting up, and dark clouds didn’t hover and threaten, in more than meteorological ways.

Aha! I know where this road bends past the zoo. I’m not lost. Really. I’ve simply taken a side trip. One that tells me not to assume I know where any path will lead.

My husband’s birthday is this week. I celebrate him. I celebrate the red and gold in the trees, colors innate to leaves that don’t rely on a bright day to be beautiful.

I’m home. Not perfect, but a blessed place. The rain begins. In our front yard, drying mums catch a drink. I step inside the house. Complete safety exists nowhere, but I’ll more than settle for a place where I’m greeted with love.

driving

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The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be. (Louis de Bernieres)

The wooden railing that leads to our basement is old and splintering. It left two of those shards in my left hand. I tried the smear-the-area-with-baking-soda-paste cure. One of the splinters disappeared with the treatment. The other said, No way, I’m not giving up that easily. And I am left with an aching hand.

I feel like a fool as I ask a neighbor if she can help me. She recently earned a nursing degree. The temperature outside has dropped into the Frigid Zone and the sun set at least an hour ago. Why couldn’t I have thought to ask her before dark?

But Madison is quick to assist me.

“I’ll come to your house. After all you are doing me the favor,” I say.

“No, no,” she replies. “It’s dark. I don’t want you to fall on the ice. I’ll be there as soon as I get my shoes on.”

She arrives. And so does her husband, Nathan. He brings an electric sander—to get to the source of the problem, the offending basement railing.

I wish I had dressed more appropriately, at least something better than an out-of-season green Christmas sweatshirt and gray long johns. But, Madison and Nathan don’t act as if they notice.

Unexpected gifts are often the best. Nathan smooths the railing and Madison removes the splinter with a steady hand. I barely feel a pinch.

Thanks, to both of you. I feel blessed for hours after you leave. Kindness has a way of lingering.

kindness is earth angel

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Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. (Franklin P. Jones.)

 On the first day of January I am in the locker room at the Y—that sacred realm where children run naked and women hide their extra flesh behind wrapped beach towels. I see Kathy. Actually, I’m not sure she spells her name with a K. I only know her from the Y. She wears a beautiful soul that emanates enthusiasm for life.

Kathy generally arrives at the pool at about the time I am preparing to leave. Several months ago she bought place mats with the characters from Frozen for my granddaughters. She greets me as if I were family.

I finish dressing and wait to make eye contact with her. She is talking to someone else on the other side of the aisle.

“Oh, Terry, Happy New Year!” she exclaims. “I love your smile. It is so contagious.” She hugs me. Not one of those quick, in-a-hurry embraces. A healing squeeze. A you-are-important-and-I’m-letting-you-know-it hug.

And I choose to remember it.

“First hug of the new year,” I say.

I decide to pass the gift on, leak it out to others as the cold outside deepens and the warmth inside my old ’97 Toyota blows rich comforting air toward me.

In “The Curse Under the Freckles” I tell my readers that Chase doesn’t think much of himself, but he is important. He needs to break the curse; the cousin he relies on for almost every move can’t. Chase faces the impossible. He  sees himself as the kid at the bottom, both in class and in life.

Sure, I will need to go outside into the chill soon. Utopia exists only in the dictionary. However, beginnings are important. And every New Year’s resolution I’ve considered reeks with negativity. Perhaps fictional Chase and I have more in common than I realize.

Thanks, Kathy! You’ve made my day. No, correct that statement. You’ve started my year off right.

beginning makes the conditions perfect

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One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. (William Feather)

One more headache. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve had in the past few weeks. A mix of unstable weather and stress are the probable causes.

Walking with a heated bean bag on the back of my neck comforts my upper spine but doesn’t do much for my posture. I look like a reluctant version of the Greek god Atlas. Oh sure, lying down would be a far better choice, but I have too much to do and not much time to do it.

The stove top is clogged and not covered by warranty because a cooler leaked over the top. Customer error. My own father once told me I should take a mechanical aptitude test. He wanted to see how low a score I would get. Even so, I investigate solutions through Google. And hope the results don’t lead to even more expensive repair.

I need this research time for another task: preparation for a writers’ workshop. Charm only gets a writer so far. I want to have some work completed—in something better than back-of-an-envelope form.

The battle is on. No weapons, only wits, and mine belong somewhere at the lowest ebb of my throbbing pain. I miraculously manage to get the gas burners to light. The nub on a Samsung doesn’t look like the one on a GE stove, but I clean it with a stripped bread tie. The rest of the stove also gets a scrubbing with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.

For me seeing the flames rise in a perfect blue circle is equivalent to a toddler discovering a new chemical compound. Nothing short of miraculous.

Long before I am ready to leave for my conference I need to babysit for my youngest grandchild. I will leave about noon and she will bond with Grandpa.

Ella and I play. She creates an imaginary world and I follow her lead. Adventure at its best. The bean bag stays out of sight for a while. Not long enough, but for a while.

Uh, Ella, can you give me your secret? A touch of your adventure?

So we take turns leading Dora the Explorer and Diego down a plastic slide. This moment. Not the future, not the past.

The conference will present itself as an adventure. And it does. No time for pain…

Finally, several days after the dust settles so do the headaches. I find a new definition for gratitude.

dear stress

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In this world, you must be a bit too kind to be kind enough.
(Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux)

Ella runs toward another child with white-blond hair as if their fair heads were halos meant to merge.

“Hi! Hi!” Ella is finally talking. Her vocabulary is limited. She still uses sign language for most communication. Down syndrome has affected her development. But she has always expressed enthusiasm with complete clarity.

The boy seems puzzled, but accepts our little one’s hug. His sister, perhaps a year younger, continues toward the parking area at the Museum Center. Then she hesitates. I suspect she isn’t going to miss out on the love her sibling is getting. Ella doesn’t disappoint her.

Ella, Grandpa, and I are on our way to the Museum Center. However, our three-year-old girl is in no hurry. Each step on the journey brings its own adventure. She sees a little girl in a stroller and blocks Mama’s path to ooh and ah over someone younger than she is.

While my husband and I apologize for the interruption I hear my name called. I see Marcia, a very special friend who has enlightened my life’s path in deep and beautiful ways. I’m both surprised and happy to see her. Her smile fits the halo image. An embrace feels in order.

She introduces me to Mama and the little one in the stroller. The child is on her way to nap time and barely tolerates Ella’s gushing. Fortunately, the little girl isn’t screaming yet. And I am grateful.

I don’t count the number of stops it takes to get to the door. After all, we aren’t late for a plane. A fountain, a cloud, or a block of cement can fascinate if approached with curiosity. Adult responsibility has damaged a lot of my spontaneity. If I don’t catch my granddaughter’s life lessons, she will show me again, without any sign of irritation.

In one play area inside the museum she insists upon putting on a sheriff’s vest by herself. Unfortunately it includes a scarf with an opening along the back that could be an extra arm hole. Although Ella never figures out how to maneuver the vest, she doesn’t give up, and she doesn’t throw a tantrum and blame costume construction for getting in her way. Life is what it is. Difficult. She has known that since she was born seven weeks early with multiple medical needs. She has overcome most of them.

One girl seems insistent upon going up a slide the wrong way. Ella waits patiently at the top. Within minutes the two children are playing together. The other girl runs back to Ella to give her a hug before she leaves with her grandparents.

One embrace has led to another. So simple and honest. And it took a child with a tripled twenty-first chromosome to begin the cycle. May one kind gesture direct another… and another…and another.

hug

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