Posts Tagged ‘understanding’

arthritisDifficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. (William Ellery Channing)

Be nice. Nice. Nice. The teachings of my childhood. Begin with following all rules with a smile and… I don’t remember what came after the and.

Since I happened to be a girl who grew up in the middle of the twentieth century, options were limited. Rarely mentioned. Mom, teacher, nurse. The arts? Forget it. Not practical. Difficulties during those days needed to be faced with stoic silence.

The result—any pain, sorrow, even joys I felt that weren’t shared by my family seemed bizarre, disconnected with anyone else. I see life differently since I learned the world’s inhabitants have as many similarities as differences.

Empathy is a gift. A celebration of shared humanity.

When people, or groups of people, mock mass deaths for political motives I cringe. Conflict? Inevitable. I’ve shared meals, laughs, celebrations with some of the mockers.

Growth in compassion seems as likely as studying the brain through decapitation. And yet, using a less graphic image, grapes and roses grow after deep pruning.

Do I back down? No. That’s the advice of early childhood, the place where I got lost. Instead I follow the advice of my arthritic hands. They throb.

Mother nature has been sending enough rain to flood rivers and streams to overload the land. Pestering my aching joints with action is the way to be nice, nice, nice to them.

I pray for more people to listen to the survivors of injustices. May the listeners place themselves in similar unjust circumstances, without rushing to judgments.

May the survivors recognize they are not alone. May I somehow not sever all connections with the people I see as creating harm.

An impossible request? Maybe. A-step-up-to-unlikely would be worth the effort. In the meantime, I sharpen empathy by choosing awareness in close-by places.

The man behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store has three items. I have at least thirty. He can go ahead of me. My tired mate who needs a nap doesn’t need to be awakened by the vacuum cleaner. And, I have a friend or two who could use a phone call this evening.

Maybe the larger world is no closer to repair, but my smaller realm has been blessed.


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screened vision

(screened vision, black and white, not easily read and slightly off-center)

The most important thing is to be whatever you are without shame. (Rod Steiger)

Even if I had the X-ray vision of the Superman I watched long before flat-screened TV and Netflix, I doubt I could understand human motivation. Friendships with the folk who share a similar sense of empathy, are easy. Those who can’t see a relationship between weapons and death, are difficult for me to figure out.

Someone I know tells a story about direct experience with an individual wielding a gun—at her. No pause for recognition of her experience, the person she tells continues with a statistics-game. No awareness of the damage done by violence.

Yet, this man is worthwhile, genuine in what he does. I have no intention of turning away from him. Argument proves nothing.

A photo taken through a screen isn’t the same as a picture taken in the cold and ice—as it develops. The picture isn’t the same as the photographed space.

Life continues without a set pattern. I need to be who I am, speak my own truth and respect the truth of another. Sometimes this respect is as difficult as seeing through two separate screens, made of vastly different experiences.

Peace. Five letters, each one separated by centuries of misunderstanding. Nevertheless, an essential goal. For all.



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winter through the screen (2)_LI

All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart. (Tahereh Mafi)

Snow. A four-letter word. Not in a vulgar, but in a testy sense. Nevertheless, I know I’m blessed as I feel and hear warm air rise from the furnace. My husband kept a thick, warm coat in the back seat of the car until we saw a homeless man who could use it. Socks next maybe. Some packaged food…

Inside the house I wheeze. Yet, I have the medications necessary to recover. Outside, who knows how long I would last?

A cardinal stops to snack at the birdfeeder. A squirrel gorges on the feed. I look at my belly and suspect I have more in common with the squirrel.

The snow melts and then promises to appear again. Need never melts completely. However, compassion isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. 

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November tree 2017It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise. (Nancy Thayer)

A windstorm hit the Midwest last week. I would have sworn every red, yellow, and gold leaf would be blown from its branch—possibly with part of the tree still attached. Most of the deciduous trees are winter-bare, not all of them.

Determination remains in all areas of existence.

I’m working on some edits. For someone else. I have a short deadline. Working on it away from home seems like the best approach because my house looks like the storm snuck inside, then, continued to create further havoc.

Moreover, Thanksgiving celebrations continue before and after the official Thursday. I enjoy cooking with fresh vegetables as well as baking without mixes. However, instant-prepare has an appeal for good reason. Packages take less time. Less clean-up.

So, why don’t I use them? I can’t fit as much love into ready-made. So, why can’t I take this time and put a little bit of me into the pages in front of me? If I didn’t care about this project, I wouldn’t help.

I take off my shoes and climb into a comfy chair. My husband is taking a class in another room. I make use of the time and work as I wait.

A tree sways in the wind outside the front window. Golden leaves sparkle against the blue sky.

One more revision begins. In expectation, copy-editing, and perspective.


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I suspect the most we can hope for, and it’s no small hope, is that we never give up, that we never stop giving ourselves permission to try to love and receive love. (Elizabeth Strout)

I am tossing two-for-one-sale whole-grain tortillas into my cart when a woman behind me speaks.

“Those are really good.” Her musical twang signals more than enthusiasm. She wants to talk. At first she tells me about baking sun-dried tomato tortillas and serving them as snacks. Then she says she is a southern girl with down-home ways and opens the stories of her past.

For a change my agenda doesn’t have the feel of a block of frozen spinach, leaves frozen together so that the pieces can’t be separated from one another. As long as this pause doesn’t turn into a filibuster I can handle it.

She tells me about her health and how she has overcome emphysema sufficiently to function without oxygen. “I’m 76 and a survivor.”

Her mini-memoir includes the story of her ex-husband’s mental abuse. “He told me that as long as he gave me food and a roof over my head he didn’t owe me anything else.” She has family and has given them love, even though their father could not. I nod when she mentions Women Helping Women. They made it possible for her to make her own way. She was in her sixties when she left her husband. I suspect there is more to her tale. Much more.

I want to reach out and touch her arm—but don’t. My nod says that she made the right choice, whatever that involved. A touch could signal the pain that brought her to seek survival. Moreover, I don’t know her. Instead I step back, just a little, not out of avoidance, but respect.

Besides, I am only a stranger in a large grocery store. Did this woman stop other shoppers also? Did they listen, or did they look at her as if she had two heads with three mouths? I have never seen this woman before this moment, and may never see her again. Probably all she wants is the reassurance that she has strength, that it shows in her being. Somehow. She never asks for my name, nor does she offer hers.

“Peace,” I say. “Have a blessed day.”

I pray for her now—days later. May she no longer need to rely on strangers for support. May she have people with her that she can count on. Perhaps I could have done or said more, offered to pray with her—right there. I’m not sure I would have had that much courage. It would have been less embarrassing if she ran away, than if she decided to shout alleluia in the middle of the bakery department. Perhaps I haven’t arrived at perfection in any form just yet.

Thanks to all my friends, the ones with the huge shoulders and the fine-tuned ears. I am grateful for our shared laughter and tears.

feel what I feel

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