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Dwell on Human Kindness

I had a picture in my head about how this reading should be. That it would take five women: one to set up the chairs, one to make the coffee, one to light the candles in the middle of the room, one to lead, and Buffy our small poodle sniffing everything to make sure it was right. Then we’d all sit down in the seats with our warm coffee, our feet practically touching as we stare at the candles.

Then I’d tell the story about my mom and Heidi Klum, the blonde supermodel. We were in Heidi’s trailer on the Warner Bros lot in Burbank watching her prep for a commercial shoot. Heidi and her makeup entourage gathered around my mother who was wearing her “Kiss Me I’m 100” T-shirt. They wanted to know her secret to aging well. My mom told them about the gin-soaked raisins she eats every morning to ward off arthritis. Then she talked about the raw apple cider vinegar and walnuts, the classes and crossword puzzles and playing bridge. And how she set a world record in swimming when she turned 90 years old. What she didn’t mention was all the volunteering she did, for the Campfire Girls, National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the Democratic Party, Brandeis University. She tutored Russian immigrants in English as a second language and she smuggled letters and money to Russian Jews in Moscow. To her, the only life worth living is one steeped in community and family. Her mantra was, "Dwell on human kindness."

Dwell on human kindness. What does it even mean? Dwell like live in and savor and bathe in. Human as in humane and compassionate and caring. And kindness, to be friendly and generous and considerate. Someone once told me there is nothing more important than being good. Even if we are frail humans who mess up, we can commit to being good by doing good acts. By savoring and bathing ourselves in caring compassionate generosity and consideration for others.

Then the chairs would be put away, the coffee urn cleaned, and the candles would be blown out. And we’d look down at Buffy, her ears spread out fluffy and wild like hornets wings or elephant leaves as she lay contemplating the memories of the day, how the neighborhood cat yowled at a white heron, how sweet the rosemary smelled as she brushed past it, and how salty the cucumber was that she found by the trash.

Participants’ Reflections

  • The reading reminded me of a quote by the Dalai Lama – “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

  • I just finished a class on the Science of Happiness and one day we had to do five random acts of kindness in one day. This was nothing new to me. I had done five before the class had started that day. It was fun to listen to people’s joy that they got from doing that. The paying it forward was new to me, like paying for the person behind you in the line at McDonalds. And then watching in the rearview mirror the sign language of gratitude and then that person doing it for the next person behind them. It was fun to share the stories, and fun to hear them, and now it is fun to share this with you.

  • My mom lived to 94 and she said her life didn’t speak to anything. But she was the best cook and she was so soft and so balanced. She offset my dad’s harshness. Without her, I can’t imagine. Every time I feel the urge to be kind, I get so much out of it, as much as or more than the person.

  • About two years ago, I started waving to cars as I was hiking along the road. A big enthusiastic wave. So that they started their day in a positive way. I hoped it helped them have a positive day and that they paid it forward.

  • I heard the word candle. The image of being the light for the world. Doing small acts of kindness for another person can be very profound. When I worked at a college with the inner-city population, I would open the door for the kids behind me. They didn’t expect it. It made me happy to give them something unexpected. There is a quote “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (by Ian MacClaren)

  • I used to work as a court reporter, very stressful. I was in line at a café in the building, and I wanted a drink and all I had was a credit card. The feeling of not being able to get some relief was hard. The guy behind me said he’d pay for it. And the difference between feeling so stressed, it was like a cascade, such an incredible feeling. It changed my day, it smoothed me out. It is the ripple effect.

  • At Christmas, I like going to Walmart and I go with a purpose of giving out some $20 bills to kids. One girl, I gave her the twenty and as I walked away, the girl was still in shock for a long time. It was a joy to me to do that.

Photo credit: A word cloud of the text from today's blog (reading and reflections)

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