Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)

No point putting my socks back on—my feet are covered with sand—from my son’s backyard sandbox. Yes, this senior citizen has been playing with dump trucks and plastic buckets. I follow the lead of my favorite kindergartner, Dakota.

He asks about what kind of work both my husband and I have done, and what I do now.

I state as simply as possible the jobs we had in young-person language. “I write books now.”

“Sounds boring.” He rams a motorcycle over a sand ramp. A wheel falls off. He grins as he clicks it back on.

I suppose when an individual’s written vocabulary is limited to one and two-syllable words, it could be. My granddaughter Ella has been reading since she was four. Different interests.

But, I don’t say anything. I let his opinion stand and heap a plastic shovel of packed sand into the next project, a castle. The building lasts almost three seconds before Dakota smashes it and turns it into something else. Another truck obstacle.

At age six, the pretend world is always in progress.

Next, he introduces me to a new Wii game. I have no aptitude for sports in the tangible world. On the flat screen, my lack reaches a new low.

“Well, I guess you win again,” I say.

We are ready to go outside for more activity, and he takes my hand. A gentle gesture. Dakota is considerate. I mentioned once today as I swung an invisible baseball bat, that I was thirsty and he ran to get me water, with ice. He also wanted to wash dishes, but left the big knife for me. A smart decision.

By tomorrow, my at-home to-do list will be too long to fit on the side of a mile-long wall. Those tasks will wait. Today I spend time with a young gentleman who doesn’t care about what I can or what I can’t do. He knows I care a lot about him, and he cares a lot about me. We are family, and that is all that matters.

You are right, Mr. Vonnegut. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

(photo-shopped public domain photo)






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A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.  (Alan Kay)

I awaken from a short evening nap on the couch at my brother-in-law’s house. I can’t breathe. One inhalation of albuterol, two. Desperate, wheezy attempts to get air out of my lungs.

“Should I take you to the ER?” my husband asks.

We are six hours from home. The ER could be one mile away or as far away as Mercury. I don’t know. Finally, a pause between coughs. Water. More water.

I decide I will make it through the night. My brother-in-law escorts me to the most efficient air-conditioned room. My sister-in-law sleeps on the floor. I remain in a recliner I can’t adjust with a fractured right hand in a brace. My sister-in-law maneuvers the chair up and down as I need it, even for my nighttime bathroom trips. She needs to leave for work at eight in the morning, yet is willing to help me.

My wheezing doesn’t stop, but it doesn’t reach a critical level. I have no idea how much time lapses between albuterol rescue inhalations.

A frightening scene? Maybe. However, my in-laws are close-by. Jay is in a room next door. Love lives here. It fills me. Night will not give up a single hour of darkness. Yet, light survives. In hearts and minds.

A trip to Urgent Care. Antibiotics. Prednisone. More waiting to be the full me I recognize.

To breathe freely.

To turn the key in my car’s ignition with my right hand.

To sign Stinky, Rotten Threats, Book Two in the Star League Chronicles, now available, with a signature that doesn’t look as if I were pretending to wield an electric saw struck by lightning.  

To cut my own sandwiches.

To celebrate the ordinary.

The magic available in fantasy doesn’t exist on the everyday plane. The magic available inside the human spirit has power. It changes perspective. I’d like to say my IQ is 80 points higher because I learned to accept and appreciate care.

More likely, I’m simply a lot happier.

The same flower, in darkness and in light

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Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way. (Alice Childress)

The media broadcasts a different spin on the same violence and shock-value stories, day and night, and calls them news. Naivety is not a virtue; responding with further ugliness isn’t helpful either.

Someone with a lot more wisdom than I have will need to find balance among the warring forces. In the meantime, can it hurt to spread kindness? The results may not be immediate, but the possibilities reach in a more hopeful direction.

I have two examples.

Recently, my husband and I made friends with A. She has a rich sense of humor and she loves 50’s and 60’s music as much as my husband does. She knows the names of bands and their songs.

When we met, I thought we were helping her because she needed rides to senior functions; she is blind. However, I soon learned that she not only discerns voices well, she listens, with sincere compassion. “I’ll be your friend for life,” she tells me. And I believe it.

As she gets into the car she talks about all her activities, and I wonder how she manages. “Okay if I drive home?” she asks. It is okay to laugh. She sings “Jingle Bells” in an elf character voice. She pulls it off.

The pain in my neck and shoulders relaxes. By evening the blessings grow when I learn about the second example of kindness.

My son’s girlfriend was with her son, Dakota, at a store. Next to the checkout were some too-expensive-to-buy-on-a-whim toy cars. The boy is five, and into action. His big brown eyes grew big when he saw the treasures.

This little guy has had some rough moments in his young life, but he is one-hundred percent charmer. That does not mean Mommy had the money.

I was not present, but I suspect Dakota’s interest was more in-awe than demanding because an older couple in the line behind Mommy bought the gift for Dakota.

The car is more than a toy; it is a symbol for the fact that kindness exists in the world, and it can continue to grow.

Do two examples of kindness, one friend with an open heart plus one generous stranger, obliterate hate? Of course not. Should we all stand in a circle and chant platitudes as if huge world problems didn’t exist? Would be nice if that worked. I suspect each person plays a different role. Some people may need to be in-your-face active, others subtle yet constant in integrity.

In the meantime, I thank a woman who taught me to feel the subtleties of warmth and chill in the air. She also taught me to appreciate seeing skies as blue or gray palettes, always changing, sometimes swirled with white, or edged in pink.

I thank an older couple who may never read these words.

Perhaps a greater handicap than blindness is not being able to care.

I open the door into whatever happens.


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I am a tiny seashell
that has secretly drifted ashore
and carries the sound of the ocean
surging through its body. (
Edward Hirsch)

I may not live anywhere close to the ocean, but the ocean-sounds of my experiences remain in the short seashell-body of who I am. They hide in anyone old enough to have a past.

Yes, free will exists, but often knee-jerk reaction comes from expected hurt or rejection that has nothing to do with the moment; it involves long-ago scars formed in the evaporated sea of the past.

The love and acceptance of others creates fresh memories and the ability to see beauty—inside and outside of our shells. There are people who walk the earth who don’t know they are angels. They bring enough light for others to see beyond the expected.

Ella’s soft pink animal-print blanket lies over a chair for show—so that it can be photographed. The blanket was made to comfort her, to keep her warm during a time that promises to be difficult. Her open-heart surgery is scheduled for January 30. The large flannel square is a gift, offered by a woman who doesn’t know our little girl. Barb may or may not have seen a picture of our granddaughter. She gives because that is what she does. I told her I included photos of her creativity in my blogs. I don’t think she has ever looked at them. Praise is not her goal. A simple thank-you suffices.

I now want to be resilient like Ella and humble like Barb. I know Barb’s last name because I have finally been introduced to this gentle angel, but if anonymity serves her intentions, then publishing her first name is stretching it as far as I dare.

Once upon a time I recall being in a retreat group that was asked a rhetorical question. “What would the world be like if you hadn’t been in it?” The second question develops from the first: “What persons have touched your lives in a special way, yet never knew they blessed it?” That question was given more time.

Those people continue to arrive. And I suspect that if I am busy enough with gratitude there won’t be as much room for resentment and worry.

The sound of the ocean surges inside my metaphorical seashell. And sometimes it remembers storms; other times it recalls gentle waves and warm water. It explores each grain of sand underneath it, and knows it is not alone.

blanket made by Barb

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A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad. (Robert Wagner)

I’ve often said that I won’t be allergic to dogs and cats in my next life—as if I had a genuine grasp of what a next life looks like, embraces, or involves. I don’t always know where my cell phone is, much less the substance of the infinite. However, I really would love to squat down and call, “Come here, Spike,” and then let my grand-dog lick my arms, neck, and  face—slobber all over me if he wanted.

Spike is an example of acceptance and unconditional love.

My youngest granddaughter is sick. I’m bringing dinner to her daddy’s house. My visiting time must be limited. I can manage short encounters, but as soon as I feel the slightest chest tightness I need to leave the premises, as in immediately. Itchy eyes would be difficult enough; I need to give up breathing to enjoy the presence of a fur-bearing creature. Fortunately, the weather allows us to eat on the patio. Outside, Spike can shed all he wants and the air absorbs the allergens. And I can appreciate him.

He looks for morsels of dropped food, but doesn’t growl when no one gives him a handout.  He already had dinner.  He stops by my chair and looks up, dark eyes begging to be petted. I smile and congratulate him on his many virtues, but don’t make contact with his soft fur. He moves away, patiently lying close to the table and waits for attention.

I think about how unlike Spike I would be in similar circumstances. So you’re the snooty type. Okay, suit yourself. I don’t need you either. Perhaps my grand-dog sees deeper than I do. He settles next to Ella and her daddy as he cradles the suffering little girl in his lap. Maybe Spike is sending positive vibes.

It’s hard to tell what he understands. I don’t speak dog. The folk who have a loyal pet are both fortunate and blessed.


Spike is a tad larger, black with white markings, but his expression is similar to this dog’s.

sleeping dog

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If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. (W. Beran Wolfe)

My birthday approaches—and the vision that faces me in the mirror changed over the years. Fortunately, my happiness no longer relies on a young, smooth complexion or a waistline that would have made Scarlet O’Hara jealous with her pinched, ridiculously tiny middle. I need to look beyond the surface, or inside it, depending upon my perspective at the time.

My middle granddaughter, kindergarten age, once told me she could tell I was older than her daddy; I have wrinkles. Fortunately, I was able to laugh. She meant no insult. She was merely pointing out facts. And my reflection agrees, even when the light has been dimmed.

In some ways I am busier now than I was thirty years ago. Sure, I worked an over-full day in a hospital pharmacy and I had two young boys, but I had little notion of who I was. A task was simply a task. One day led to another and I fell into it with little purpose except to survive. Someday, I wanted to write, but those dream moments felt as vague as fog seen through a window, untouched, distant.

My life now is no more perfect than anyone else’s. However, I no longer live in the past or wait for the future.

When I was born there was a hole in the placenta that fed me. I was starved for the first and last time in my life. My head was the size of a small wilted orange. I weighed four pounds, seven and one-half ounces, full term. My mother was told her newborn would be fine with a little more weight on her skinny limbs. Mom didn’t believe the hospital personnel, especially since I was rushed to the nursery, no time for a quick see-you-later. She did not get the chance to count my fingers and toes until ten days after my birth, the day I was discharged. Therefore, we never bonded as parent and child. However, as the years passed birthdays became enormous celebrations.

As my family grew we celebrated with our cousins. All the children received gifts. The birthday child was honored with cake, candles, the traditional works, but all of us opened un-birthday gifts, such as tiny toy cars or coloring books, balloons or crayons.

The disconnection between my mother and me was not malicious or intentional. It happened because it did. And strange as it may seem, the experience gave me a richer understanding of the less-than-perfect parts inside others. And I am grateful for that lack of love.

Today I type words on a page that celebrate the positive, hug grandchildren, try to let friends see the goodness I see in them, make up my own recipes and add extra servings of affection in each dish. I try to refrain from the negative and after a slip-up, remember to say, I’m sorry. My name remains internationally unknown; I’m not a millionaire, and my publications haven’t made it to any famous listings.

But, the metaphorical button that rolled under the radiator can stay there. I have more important goals to pursue.

happy thankful Optimism Revolution

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Life is mostly froth and bubble; two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another’s trouble
Courage in your own. (Adam Lindsay Gordon)

My ten-year-old granddaughter Kate makes froth and bubble from mixed fruit and juice. She’s creating smoothies. She tries different fruit combinations, milk, and the last of the whipped cream in varying amounts, mixed with ice. Our three-ounce paper cup supply dwindles.

She knows how to use a paring knife and cutting board. I watch her as she turns a banana into neat slices with finesse before I let her work alone in my kitchen—within hearing distance.

She is proud of her achievement, as well as the tastes she imagines as the blender whirs. I can’t hear every word she says; my hearing isn’t that good. But her excitement rings clear over the mechanical noise spurts as she considers names for each blend. She wants to make small samples of her variations, ready for neighbors to taste and rate. I smile. At the moment this may not be realistic, but I won’t put parameters on her enthusiasm. Our fruit supply is limited. I’m not worried about over-supply and under-demand.

My favorite is the Sparkle, the only name she has chosen with any sense of finality. It fits both the creator and the drink. She added a lot of pineapple to this concoction. Let the clean-up happen after the job is completed; it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as I expected. Nothing has landed on the floor and the counter remains relatively clean.

My girl continues to be both wise and kind. As we fill-up on pulverized fruit, she talks about one of her friends at school. The girl has a physical handicap, but mental courage. Kate often defends her friend when she is taunted. Kate doesn’t care what the other kids think. She wants to do what is right.

My Sparkle drink won’t come up through the straw anymore. It is too thick. I discard the straw and gulp. Sometimes life situations can’t be taken a little at a time either; they must be faced. Now. Completely. My oldest granddaughter seems to have grasped that reality. She shines.

We share a smile. She doesn’t know what I am thinking, but it doesn’t matter. She knows she is loved, and for now that is all that matters.

We ate all the pineapple, so I had to draw a picture of one. (For a better display of artistry visit http://sharoncummings.wordpress.com/. You will find a real treat for the eyes and spirit there!)





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It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. (Henry David Thoreau)

I wonder if my vision blurs sometimes and prevents me from seeing what I think I’m observing. When I searched the inside of my husband’s car for our youngest granddaughter’s glasses, I really did want to find them—immediately! Those prescription lenses were expensive. I found a red ball I would have sworn was in a bin with other toys, some old useless receipts, and a dusty cough drop. But I saw no sign of an orange case with purple swirls. My son ordered a new pair while the original copper wire-rims waited in a school bus, classroom, or limbo. Or so we thought.

Then, weeks later as I went to the car to retrieve my husband’s cell phone, the case appeared on the floor behind the driver’s seat. I stared at what-looked-like-an-orange-mirage a minute before I picked it up. I had been in that spot many times since the day I looked for the missing glasses. The case gave me no clue about where it had hidden since there were no scratches or dirt tracks. It did not tell me why it had taken such a long hiatus. (Comments open to a peculiar lost-and-found story.)

I like to delve into deeper meanings whenever I can. What am I ignoring in my own life just because I don’t want to see it? Are there opportunities I miss because I take an easier path instead?

In the past week I have become aware of people who have gone into hospice; one died yesterday. She left a husband and two young sons. Even though I didn’t know the woman well I knew her husband. I criedfor them and for me. I know she dedicated her life to family. She saw through spiritual lenses that had transcended circumstance. It isn’t likely that she will be found on a listing of famous people; she will be found on a list of people who made the world better because she lived. And that is what matters.

And so I ask for the vision to see better—while searching for lost glasses or for recognizing that moment when a kind word or action can make the difference between despair and hope.

glasses with angel


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The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

I am enjoying time with friends and listening to what they have to say, to who they are. But I am distracted by a tickling in the back of my throat and ask Marie to reread an inspirational passage she has just read. I’d been coughing and all I heard was the cadence of her voice.

As I open a cough drop and lay the wrapper in my lap I notice something I’ve never seen before. Sure I’ve soothed my throat with Hall’s Drops for years, but I never paid a second’s notice to the paper. All I cared about was easing the irritation. Messages appear on the wrapper: Push on. Don’t give up on yourself. You can do it. I laugh and then read them aloud.

All four of us have never noticed the words tucked around that promise of relief. Pat gets up to ask her husband if he has ever seen the tiny printed words. He has. I gather the rest of us have been too busy, focused only on a task—or worse on the end product, not the blessings inherent in the moment. Since the purpose of our gathering is spiritual, I get the clue: life is in the now, every minute aspect of it.

Two days later, after I’ve taken a picture of the wrappers that didn’t get blown away by an unexpected wind that reached into my pocket, something else unexpected happens. I haven’t had breakfast but feel as if my stomach is full, or as if something very heavy is weighing it down. Nevertheless, I manage to sample two free cookies and my usual coffee with another group of friends. Within an hour I’m desperately sorry. Everything comes up much faster than it went down.

Since my husband continues to recover from fractured ribs this is not a good time to be relegated to the couch—inches from a plastic bucket. However, like the unexpected blessings printed into the wrapper, surprises appear.

“What can I get for you?” my husband asks. True, my gut hasn’t yet recovered from my last upchuck, but it doesn’t matter. Jay doesn’t want me to get dehydrated. “I need to try to do a little more anyway.” The graciousness in his voice is transparent. This is good. It’s what real-life love is all about.

cough drop wrapper

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Wherever you are, be there. Lifestyle is not something we do; it is something we experience. And until we learn to be there, we will never master the art of living well. (Jim Rohn )

My husband’s ribs are healing slowly. Of course we can’t see the bones as they knit together. The slightest extended movement predicts a return to our normal life. Sometimes that improvement appears to move in geological time. I’m encouraged when Jay smiles at something as silly as an old F-Troup or Hogan’s Heroes rerun. That means he isn’t hurting at the moment.

Then, somehow, my added tasks feel less like work. Since my father once told me he wanted me to take a mechanical aptitude test to see how low a score I would get, it’s amazing that I am now leveling the wash machine and plunging the toilet. (Please note I prefer the former task to the latter.) Perhaps these accomplishments have come as side effects of my husband’s accident. Chances are I wouldn’t have attempted either job if I had someone with a strong arm and intact ribs close by.

However, I can’t give the impression that I’m bouncing from moment to moment with the serenity of a saint. And I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs so I’m not drifting in avoidance land either. Sometimes fatigue and the impossibility of bi-location attack me, and they can lead to a bad attitude the way black ice leads to the fall that initiated this situation.

Friends make a difference between finding balance and slipping into why-me or super-stress land. One friend, Marcia, helped me to soothe my soul back into my body through massage. Since I was concerned about leaving my husband for any extended period of time, she brought her magic table to my living room. I am blessed.

One of the gifts Marcia gave me was  the ability to focus enough to appreciate the now. I allowed myself to float into her care. I trusted her implicitly. After that relaxation I could consider trusting me, my own body and soul, my ability to fill my spiritual larder so that I had enough stored to give to someone else. While this notion should seem obvious, it isn’t the first thought of a girl brought up in the 1950s, where the female’s giving role was often skewed. In the popular “Christmas Story,” overplayed in December, Ralph’s mother is expected to be subservient to her husband. That position is not questioned. Sure she thinks the leg lamp is beyond tacky, but it needs to crash into smithereens before she can admit it.

I want to be present to my mate—as a choice, expressed in a continuous now. Who knows whether or not he will need to care for me some day, in a far more difficult situation. There is no sense to speculating about the future. This afternoon the sun has decided to make an appearance again, for a while. Every cell in my body has been enriched by Marcia’s loving skill, and the next post will probably be a gift from someone else—my first guest blog. Watch for it! This woman emanates positive thinking. In the meantime, peace to all!

enjoy little things words of wisdom

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