Tag Archiv: kindness

Together we can

I liked everything about this video except the title. (I doubt this video will change our lives.) However, like the seemingly small kindnesses it documents, the video reminded me something. There is a mysterious beauty to the sum total of our tiny offerings of friendship and care for our fellow humans. We don’t always see it, but it’s there. Little acts of love matter.



image found at emaze.com


The Surgeon E. Pavlov in the Operating Theater. Oil painting on cardboard by Ilya Repin, 1888.

The Surgeon E. Pavlov in the Operating Theater. Oil painting on cardboard by Ilya Repin, 1888.

We had been in the medical system for 24 hours when Boy two was finally taken from me to surgery. He was brave but to me he looked so small. Exhausted, hungry, and alone at that point, I hardly knew what I was saying. Something like, “anyone who knows how is required to pray before the surgery,” or words to that effect came shooting out of my mouth as I saw him leaving. “We’ll take good care of him,” they said. That had not been the point, but I was past argument or coherence.

The next morning, the surgeon came by early. Boy two looked good, everything went well, the appendix had been perforated but everything was ship shape now. Instructions. Have a nice day. And he turned to go.

A younger woman with a clipboard at the end of the bed spoke up. “Excuse me, Boy two’s mom, but we just wanted you to know how impressed all of us in the operating room were with your son. He was very brave. And he said the most beautiful prayer.”

Really? My heart felt very happy and I thanked her. A few days later my brain engaged.

How, I asked, was it that you ended up praying out loud in the operating room?

Well, said Boy two matter of fact, they asked if I wanted to say the prayer, so I said sure.

I have been thinking of this with gratitude ever since. I don’t think anyone who heard my spontaneous request felt personally comfortable jumping on the public prayer wagon, but that didn’t stop them from taking care of my son. As far as he is concerned, professionals at hospitals say prayers before surgeries and he would know because before his surgery he didn’t say “a,” prayer, he said, “the,” prayer.

A pretty good example of generosity of spirit, respect for children, and plain old human decency. If God was as impressed as I was, I’m guessing an extra dose of love and mercy are coming their way. I sure hope so.

Things that make us human


Most of our chickens don’t have a name because we can’t tell them apart anyway. The ones that Boy two likes are the exception.  There was Tail-less, now there is Queenie and Obsidian. Spontaneously, I started calling our dying chicken on the porch, Frieda.

Frieda took so long to die that I began to think she would live. Why she died is still a question. Best available wisdom suggests a raccoon injury, cancer, or that she became egg bound.  Last year, when paranoia about microbial invasions on the farm overwhelmed me, we had a post mortem done on a chicken. For $60, I learned that the alive but ailing chicken I delivered had a bad case of arthritis in her knees and would have suited the dinner table just fine. I calmed myself by pretending we were intentionally seeking education rather than paying money to contaminate our chicken so that we could no longer eat it. Whatever Frieda died of, I don’t think it was contagious, so no post mortem for her, and no pricey education for me.

Waiting for Frieda to die stressed me. She didn’t seem miserable. When I expected her dead in the morning, she woke up hungry. By that night though she wanted neither food or water. The smell of death and bowel dysfunction made the air a bit thicker than I like it. I put her out in the grass the next day to get rid of the smell, and because if I was going to die soon, a patch of lawn in the sunshine would be just about right.

There is a whole field of psychology devoted to the  notion that the further we distance ourselves from nature, the more unhealthy we become. I know everybody can’t have a farm, or even a pet, but I do believe we innately crave connection with living things. That we need to be reminded of real things. I didn’t kill Frieda myself because I didn’t know if she was suffering and because head removal is our method of chicken dispensing. Although I’ve done it many times, every time it surprises me a bit what a physical act it is.

I like that my kids have seem things die. Not because I want them sad, but because I want them to know that nothing dies for free. I obviously take no issue with eating meat, but I care a lot about quality of life, basic consideration and avoiding needless loss.

As living things ourselves, the strand of spider’s web we hang by is fragile. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I guess I hope that a little kindness for a dying chicken teaches my kids a few things that don’t have to be spelled out. Like, be compassionate, even if someone really, really stinks. Do what you can to make them comfortable and say a few kind words. It might not change the world, but it might make us just a little bit more human.

Lessons from history

Never quite saw it this way before

Me looking at me shaking my head

The child of today’s inspiration shall remain nameless, number and genderless. :)  I have been in a tizzy these past few days trying to figure out how exactly to get through to said child. Rather dramatic have been the horrified wringings of my heart and hands. My child has been mean and spiteful to another child on a number of different occasions. I have accepted that my children are not angelic enough at school to warrant the unceasing praise of their teachers. We deal with creative crimes as they are discovered. What I can’t and won’t tolerate is being cruel to others. Such have been the agonies of my, “how do I parent this child,” mentality.

One of the things I hold on to is the belief that when you look for answers, you find them. It’s not an original idea. It feels personal because the truth of it has been so dependable for me.

I was guessing the answer fell somewhere in the way of the right firm consequence, words tender and wise enough to stir remorse, or an idea for restitution. I did my best at all of these. My troubled heart remained. Surely there was something more to do… The fever pitch of my worries gnawed at me.

I remembered my sadness when a girl in my grade three class was teased for her clothes. Now my own child was hurting other. While I waited for the answer, the following memories came to say hello.

Age 8:  I tell my brother I have a surprise for him. I refuse to give it to him unless he closes his eyes and opens his mouth. He questions me. I am offended that he doesn’t want my gift. He closes his eyes and opens his mouth. I put a worm in his mouth.

Age 11: We watch a movie at church called, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It’s about a man who goes to NYC to help kids caught up in drugs and gangs. At the end, the kids find Jesus. My friends and I love the movie so much that we decide to start a gang.

Gang activity one: Chase children visiting in the neighborhood out of the field we don’t own. Throw rocks and them and tell them not to come back.

Gang activity two: Capture young neighbour boy named Toby. Tie him to a tree and dance around him informing him of the power of our gang.

More memories did not seem needed. In the ensuing silence in my head, it was hard to avoid the following realizations: My child was not a write off in the compassion department. I was hardly a paragon of sweetness and light as a child. My offspring had been unpleasantly human not irreparably demonic.

Is it disturbing to know that remembering my life as a gang member left me ultimately hopeful and happy?



Impending unholiday

My annual dread is fast approaching. Before the kids went to school, I solved it by turning off the lights and playing games in the basement to end October. Since then we have 1) ignored the non-holiday in other ways 2) dressed up and gone out to get ridiculous amounts of candy from people who are obviously very insecure about seeming cheap.

Halloween seems so overblown to me that I feel the need to wave the flag of moderation . . . but really is it candy and costumes that drive me crazy.

On candy, my children eat freely the first night and can only get through a tenth of it at most. They don’t want it for days after that . . . then what?  How am I supposed to sleep at night thinking about their little immune systems processing all that sugar, cavities forming in triple time. What happened to getting ONE piece of candy at a door? Or an apple?

On costumes, I love kids dressing up, but nobody does that. Everywhere, people are wearing freshly purchased costumes that will rip quickly and end up in the trash. Occasionally, someone is wearing something hand sewn by Grandma or Aunt Betty, but no one, I mean, no one, is wearing a costume imagined, designed, and assembled by the actual child wearing it.- – – Ok, there are four of them . . . but they are all mine. If Halloween was about creativity and pretending, I would be there. Handing out whole wheat, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in moderation, but I would be there.

Instead, it is all so plastic. Buy, get, need, want, gotta have . . . more candy, slicker costumes

Sometimes I wish someone would tell my kids how much they don’t get it. How much their costumes look so extremely homemade by 8 and 10 year olds, with touch ups from a 5 & 13 year old . . . Then I could say forget it and stay home. But no one has said a word. Old ladies and farmers have complimented the get-ups and asked for explanations. All parties seem pleased with the interchanges I can’t quite hear from the car.

I live with children who have yet to notice much beyond the beautiful of the world around them and I’m not sure it’s time to change that. The possibility of expanding their audience once a year to showcase their creations to complete and total strangers delights them. The fact that I throw away their candy slowly over weeks irritates them but not enough to diminish the joy of one of three days in the year when I declare, “CANDY FREE-ZONE,” for a few hours. I assure you that those words are danced to as wildly as any tribal dance anywhere.

Getting home

Last fall I got lost in the woods and swamps near where we live. With light fading, and the realization that my children would soon arrive home to an empty house, I left the bike I had been stubbornly carrying through the swamps beside a tree. I knew I would never see it again. I needed to get home and not much else mattered.

I do not have an innate sense of direction and rarely know which way is north. I could see the sun setting in the west, but as I had no idea where I was, it didn’t tell me which way to go. All I could be sure about was that by going in one direction (as opposed to circles) I would eventually hit a road. Once on a road, I would know finally know the way home.

Recently, I found myself rather irritated by another human being and in a position where my opinion about this human was being sought. (Due to my lack of patience and an unfortunate deficit of inborn humility, I am ashamed to say that this feeling of personal disdain for other people is something that have a good deal of experience with.) Human mentioned above had not been terribly thoughtful or pleasant in their interactions with me. Better words to describe their approach to me would be along the lines of dismissive, condescending, and largely oblivious to me as a fellow traveller on the highway of life.

I was justified, and therefore longed to spell out in clipped. King’s. Best. English. my. insights. about. the. nasty. human. Unfortunately, I had to admit to myself that the human seemed hurting, and that the hurt might be driving the harshness of the public persona. This has been me also, in other places. I grudgingly wondered if a small amount of mercy were in order. Secondly, and a far from noble reality, I worried that if the person asking my opinion didn’t share my views, that my negative reactions might be reflected back at me, rather than the human who really DESERVED them. I went with soft truthful but gentle. No accusations attached.

I got a note back thanking me and saying that my response had been charitable. It caught me off guard. Even if I got there for not all the right reasons, was it true? I felt like I was sitting with that word charitable floating in the air in front of me. I couldn’t stop looking. I still can’t.

I have begun to wonder what it would be like if I were to become someone who was charitable. If being well defended from the enemies of people who misunderstand me, is actually a missed opportunity to be the kind of person I would very much like to be.

Charitable isn’t the road I thought I was looking for. But there’s a clear path through the trees. No bells. No whistles. No gold stars on a chart. Just a way home, if  I’ll take it.