Need – Day 7

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 7

Need

 

It is an old African folk tale set to music. The father is out in the field and the mother is at the well. The grandmother is at the market hoping not only to purchase but also to sell. A neighbor is watching the children who are playing out in the yard. An old man comes by and stops to tell them a story because he likes to make them laugh. His story has a moral, though, and that is when they are down by the river, they need to look out for the crocodiles. The moral of the song is the unity with which everyone comes together for the children. In Africa, there is an old saying: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

 

This past summer the town of Ocean City, Maryland celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its Play-It-Safe Ocean City program. Designed for graduating high school seniors, the three week-long program involves area merchants, local volunteers, state and county agencies and volunteers to assist with the free events for the young people. Seniors can come for one week and are given a booklet with free coupons for food and a schedule of events, all designed to help seniors celebrate their high school graduation in a drug-free environment. Free bus passes are included to help those participating navigate the city. Free events available to the seniors include free roller coaster rides, tye-dye t-shirt events, pizza eating contest, dance party, tennis tourney, laser tag mini golf, regular mini golf, dodge ball, Splash Mountain, 3-on-3 basketball tourney, beach volleyball, wind surfing, kayak relays, moonlight bowling, and karaoke.

 

In a world where many feel afraid of their neighbors, Ocean City, Maryland had adopted the African slogan and made it a celebration. This past summer of 2014, as they celeb rated their twenty-fifth year, they had seniors from sixteen states and the District of Columbia attend. Sixty thousand brochures advertising the program were sent out and twenty thousand Passport to Fun Booklets distributed. There were over forty-eight planned drug-free and alcohol-free events for the eighty-three hundred-plus attendees at no charge. This was made possible by the over three hundred businesses, organizations, and individuals who contributed services, money, and prizes. Over three hundred and fifty volunteers, private citizens, assisted as well as the employees of state, county, and municipal agencies. Over two thousand hours, half by volunteers, make this village-sponsored event a reality.

 

During Kwanza, seven candles are lit, the first being the black candle. The remaining candles, three red and three green flank the black candle. The red candles represent the principles of self-determination, cooperative economics and creativity and are placed to the left of the center black candle. To the right are the green candles which represent collective work and responsibility, purpose, and faith. This is to show that people come first, and then the struggle and finally, the hope that comes from the struggle.

 

The program in Ocean City, Maryland, is not simple. I can assure you that there are struggles. Weather delays are just one of the many surprises that life sometimes offers. However, year after year, the people and the agencies of the area continue to do this for students from outside their neighborhood. All this from a town of less than eight thousand year-round residents serving more than that to provide high school seniors a safe yet fun way to celebrate their high school graduation.

 

The world with all the modern technology has gotten smaller and now it is as easy to travel half way around the world as it was for our parents to travel one hundred miles to a cousin’s house. The celebration of Kwanza is not just for those of African descent but for us all. We all need to remember that we had help getting to where we are and that we need to help others. Television has many so-called reality shows about people who want to live “off the grid” and yet, they are so popular because these people end up needing someone.

 

On this the last day of the year 2015 ACE, people will gather all around the world in crowds to usher in the New Year.  On a remote island in the south Pacific, the first festivities will commence.  They will continue much like a long row of dominoes, one leaning into the other, each needing the other to complete the path dictated by gravity which is shared by all.

 

It is a fact that we need each other.  None of us are born alone.  Life is a team sport and perhaps, as we take part in the festivities of the season we will remember that we also take part in a greater celebration about the family of man called life. It really does take a village, not only to raise a child but to help an adult in their living as well.  We each play a vital role and not only need but are needed.  You have value.

 

 

 

 

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Accept – Day 6

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 6

Accept

 

“What goes around comes around”. Like most people, I receive posts on Facebook that are often pictures of animals. Being an animal lover, I revel in each one. One of my favorites, though, is an oldie but goodie. It is a picture of two dogs, German Shepherds, sitting side by side. Both dogs have a sign around their necks, respectively. The first sign states “Don’t let karma bite you in the rear.” The dog sitting beside that dog has a sign that reads “I am Karma”.

 

The old idiom I quoted at the beginning of this has a great deal of truth in it, both in nature as well as our treatment of each other. I first heard it as a definition of karma when doing a religious presentation to a group of first graders. An overly-active young lad who was not prone to sitting still and kept jumping up and playing with non-playful objects in the room like the light switch or window blinds cord suddenly stopped his actions and looked directly at me when I asked if any knew the meaning of the word “karma”.  His response was quick and to the point: “What goes around comes around.”

 

Celtic culture described the areas of grass affected by a common fungus as fairy rings. This circular spots of grass contained grasses that grew a deeper green and often thicker. It was believed that the fairies made them and that they were a sign of good luck. Depending on the mythology and the culture, fairy rings were thought to be made by fairies dancing, used when illustrated by mushrooms growing as dinner tables with the fairies eating off the mushrooms, or places for spirits to gather and sometimes be free to release their powers within the circle.

 

Mushrooms are associated with fairy rings and not just because eating certain ones can produce hallucinations that might make one believe he/she really had seen fairies dancing. A common sign of a fairy ring is a necrotic zone, an area in which the grass and other plant life has died. Fungi associated with mushrooms, mushrooms themselves being a fungus, deplete the soil of nutrients and the plants growing within the circle often die. Similarly the area adjacent to such fungus can grow thicker and deeper in color.

 

There is also evidence that rabbits are an important part in the life cycle of some fairy rings. Rabbits eat grass, cropping it very short while their waste products contain nitrogen-rich droppings. Mushrooms need more soil nitrogen than grass does and a fairy ring can be started from a single fungus spore. Subsequent generations of the original spore will grow outward seeking more nutrients since the parent fungus would have used up all in the immediate area. Rabbits eat only the grass and not the mushrooms so the mushrooms soon grow taller than the grass which the rabbits keep low. This can create rings inside of rings.

 

It is said to be bad luck to enter a fairy ring and even worse luck to destroy or disturb one. Superstitions abound in almost every culture based upon such. From the thirteenth century writer Raoul de Houdenc to the modern-day romance writer Nora Roberts, fairy rings have played a prominent role in the literature of the world. They are also found as subjects of art and were a favorite of Victorian art.

 

The roundness of fairy rings is repeated in the Native American Indian culture in the form of medicine wheels. These stone man-made circles were thought to harness the healing power of nature and used to benefit man/woman. Also known as “sacred hoops”, medicine wheels were found in areas of different tribes and are one of the common aspects found throughout the tribes of all such peoples within North America. Alberta, Canada hosts at least seventy medicine wheels that survive today. Archaeologist John Brumley notes that a medicine wheel consists of at least two of the following three traits: (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point. The lines of stones radiating outward from the center appear as spokes in the directions of east, west, north, and south.

 

The medicine wheel was not a set pattern, though. The number of spokes differed from wheel to wheel and some spokes were not evenly spaced out in the design. One of the oldest remaining wheels dates back over forty-five hundred years. Some are aligned astronomically with the horizon and others reflect the position of the sun on the four seasonal equinoxes. How their power was utilized is a subject of much debate but it is clear that they held power and served purpose of healing and living.

 

While many fairy rings are found throughout Europe and the medicine wheels of the North American aboriginal people known as American Indians seem to be found only on the two American continents, there are other such rings. The landscape of Africa also hosts fairy rings. The explanations for them in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland seem to lose validity when comparing that topography to the land of Africa.

 

Often described as a “thousand blinking eyes in the desert”, the fairy rings of Namibia are considered one of the world’s great natural mysteries. In a place called “The Land God Made in Anger’, the Namibian circle number in the millions although such circles are also found where the grassland transition to desert, from Angola to the Cape province of South Africa. The Namib Desert is a remote and harsh environment. Reasons for the circle abound but then, just as plentifully, are found without backing. Biologist Walter Tschinkel was certain the circle were the work of termites. “They are really neat places, these little clean patches. They are like little satellite dishes. I looked at them and thought ‘this has to be termites,” Tschinkel remarked. “It is the sort of things termites do.” However, his theory proved false and while others still believe in the sand termite as the cause, that theory also fails to justify all aspects of the circles.

 

More recently a scientist took a holistic approach. Many theories have focused on the underground gasses believed to be affecting the soil and grass formation. Folklore of the region mentioning underground dragons whose breath create the circles. Stephan Getzin, an ecologist from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, in Leipzig, Germany decided to consider all theories but from a different perspective – a bird’s eye view. He took to the air to examine the Namibian circles and discovered something very interesting. The circles not only appeared as eyes in the desert, dancing across the landscape, they were evenly spaced and had an organization to them. His findings have revealed only that there is still we do not know and that all previous theories might have some validity although none would be the entire story. “I’m sure this is not the end of the story,” summarized Getzin.

 

These circles, these evidences of unknown karma upon the environment, whether natural or man-made, are excellent examples of the sacred in our own lives. Sometimes it is what we do to ourselves and sometimes we are simply the victims of another’s behavior or choices. The fact is that we can learn and heal from everything.  Life is a series of lessons, a process of acceptance.   Not all of life’s lessons are pleasant or invited.  Healing occurs when we learn. What we choose to eat and drink affects our living and how we live has just as important an affect.  Selecting to live graciously with respect to all gives us a greater chance of being treated the same. Even when we are not, we can find the lesson and move on to greater things.

 

My thanks to you the readers who have accepted this blog and read it.  You come from forty-three countries world-wide and much of this particular post came from my most popular post in the last two years.  Those of you who have taken the time to comment have taught me and I accept those lessons with gratitude and joy.  Life is not for the faint-hearted.  Life takes courage and is seldom “easy”.  Your acceptance of these posts has been a blessing and I thank each of you.

 

Eventually, good will go around the world and encompass it and us.  The best karma will be found in the acceptance we give one another.  Today’s world is one of name-calling and inciting terror.  Sharing kindness by allowing people to be, accepting them for their differences in spite of them, opens a door for a better tomorrow and a brighter, safer future for everyone.  The sacred part of karma is in learning from the painful and spreading joyful kindness and acceptance to all.

 

 

Envision – Day 5

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas – 5

Envision

 

“What if you were wrong? What if everything you ever believed was a lie? What if you missed your opportunity because you didn’t know your worth?” Shannon Adler asks.  “What if you settled on familiar, but God was trying to give you something better? What if you decided not to go backwards, but forward? What if doing what you have never done before was the answer to everything that didn’t make sense? What if the answer wasn’t to be found in words, but in action? What if you found the courage to do what you really wanted to do and doing it changed your whole life?”

 

James Joyce needed a word to describe someone knocking on a door.  As a writer, he understood the importance of descriptive phrases but he wanted something more than “He knocked on the door.”  He wanted to illustrate the sound but could find nothing he deemed satisfactory.  He sat back and envisioned the scene in his head and came up with the longest palindrome in the English language – TATTARRATTAT!

 

A palindrome is a word that reads exactly the same front to back and back to front.  From the Greek word “palindromos”, it literally means running back again.  How often are our lives like that?  Running back again over the same mistakes, never seeming to get anywhere, never realizing unspoken and fuzzy dreams?

 

In 2002 Peter Norvig, with the aid of a computer, wrote the world’s longest palindrome sentence.  It contained fifteen thousand, three hundred and nineteen words from sixty-three thousand, six hundred and forty-seven letters.  It began “A man, a plan, a caddy…” which sounds like the start of a great story.  In fact, one might think he’d borrowed it from Brian Doyle Murray who wrote the movie “Caddyshack”.

 

Norvig’s palindrome sentence, though, did not make much sense.  He describes it: It contains truths, but it does not have a plot. It has Putnam, but no logic; Tesla, but no electricity; Pareto, but no optimality; Ebert, but no thumbs up. It has an ensemble cast including Tim Allen, Ed Harris and Al Pacino, but they lack character development. It has Sinatra and Pink, but it doesn’t sing. It has Monet and Goya, but no artistry. It has Slovak, Inuit, Creek, and Italian, but it’s all Greek to me. It has exotic locations like Bali, Maui, Uranus, and Canada, but it jumps around needlessly. It has Occam, but it is the antithesis of his maxim Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.   If you tried to read the whole thing, you’d get to “a yawn” and stop.

 

Sometimes we go through life with that same yawn and then while we may not literally stop, we really do spiritually in our soul.  We stop dreaming and we stop believing in others.  We assume we know what is what and who is …whatever.  Today there will be pundits and politicians and cult leaders verbalizing words which will not be based upon envisioning but rather based upon fear and greed.  We will approach others using those same views, kindness becoming lost in the process, turned into cruelty which overtakes our humanity.

 

Norvig described his palindrome sentence by making a reference to a principle developed by English logician and Franciscan monk William Occam.  Known as Occam’s razor, the Latin phrase translates as “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity” or “plurality should not be posited without necessity.”

 

There are times when we need to see the details, observe the minute differences but those times are few and not usually present in the superficial traveling of our lives.  As we approach someone to give the wave of greeting or share a smile, we need only to see the overall body.  We are not going to spend the rest of our lives with this person we are passing.  We are simply sharing the gift of kindness by envisioning their being as a living creature.

 

My challenge to you today is to dare to dream of the goodness of those with whom you share your city or state.  Don’t multiply the differences beyond what is necessary.  Simply see them as the human beings they are.

 

Anthony Liccione explains how such behavior can lead us to improving our own lives as he describes another palindrome.  ““Level, is spelled the same forward and backwards. Those on the upper level can always hit the bottom, and those on the bottom can always rank to the top. Envision your footprints up there already trailing, and your feet will soon follow suit.”

 

Envision a better world!  Change doesn’t happen overnight but it starts with a single envisioned goal.  Dare to envision a better world and better you.  See the possibilities in the person you pass, not the differences.  Envision victory and it will happen!

 

 

Clemency – Day 4

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 4

Clemency

 

“Hakuna Matata…It’s a wonderful phrase!  Hakuna Matata; ain’t a passing craze!”  If you have ever seen the movie “The Lion King”, just hearing those opening lines of one of the more popular songs has you already singing the rest of it.  “It means no worries for the rest of your days.  It’s our problem-free philosophy…”  The 1994 movie was not the first time the Swahili phrase was used in a song, however.

 

A Kenyan band used the phrase in the chorus of their hit “Jambo Bwana” and several years later a German band released an English-language song entitled “Jambo – Hakuna Matata”.  It was “The Lion King” that made it a household familiar saying which is really quite interesting since it is seldom used by native speakers of Swahili.  They prefer to either say “hamna shida” or “hamna tabu”.  The song from “The Lion King” is so popular that a Hebrew version exists online.  Everyone likes the thought of “no worries” as a way to live, it would seem.

 

Considered an unofficial motto of the country of Australia, “no worries” is a phrase that seems to speak to the supposedly relaxed nature of Australians.  Usage of the phrase goes back only about fifty years but the relaxed carefree and easy going, quick to forgive Aussie reputation dates to much earlier times.  Many feel it also characterizes the casual optimism which seems to permeate the Australian culture.

 

Dr Richard M. Jacobs of Villanova University feels there is quite a bit of difference between a sermon and a homily.  The sermon, he writes, is in “the form of a lecture or discourse given for the purpose of providing religious instruction or inculcating moral behavior.”  One would seldom expect to hear the phrase “no worries” or “hakuna matata” in a sermon.

 

Dr. Jacobs characterizes a homily very differently.  “In general, a homily is a scripturally-based reflection [which] provides food for thought about the challenges of living in today’s busy and hectic world.   Ideally, the material conveyed by a Sunday homily addresses the real daily lives of ordinary people.”  While a homily might mention “no worries”, it is also doubtful that “hakuna matata” would be encouraged.  The homily is designed to be a shorter format than a sermon and was made popular by St Peter Chrysologus, a bishop appointed in 433 ACE.  Known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for his short but inspired talks, he supposedly feared boring his audience. His piety and zeal won universal admiration.

 

This leads us to an interesting point and our word and gift for this, the fourth day of our twelve days of kindness.  Today’s gift is clemency, a word which has all but become forgotten in everyday living.  Nowadays, it is used only in the judicial system.  Originally, the word “clemency” was derived from the Latin “clementia” which meant gentleness, calmness, or mildness.  It goes even further back as a compound word made from the “Latin “clemens” which translates as calm or mild and “clinare” which translates as to lean.

 

How often do we hear the phrase clemency is our daily instructions and spiritual teachings?  While most of us would admit to wanting an overall life philosophy of “no worries” and the ability to live “hakuna matata”, few would be able to cite examples of it in their beliefs.

 

Mercy is what most deities offer their believers.  It is what most believers are encouraged to share with others.  We are not created to be judge and jury for each person we encounter.  We are told to love and show mercy, to offer clemency to those who offend us.

 

My challenge to you today, on this the fourth day, is to show someone “hakuna matata”.  Perhaps it will be that person who cuts you off in traffic.  Instead of shaking your fist at them, wish them well.  That person who hurriedly sneaks in front of you in the line at the coffee shop or marketplace…smile and give them a “No worries” response.

 

It is not always easy.  As I write this I realize I need to let go of some anger and hurt caused by the words of another just the other day.  I need to simply say “hakuna matata” and move on with my living.  After all, hanging on to negative emotions doesn’t accomplish anything.  It doesn’t burn calories; it just deprives us of feeling good ourselves.

 

So live a casual optimism and focus on the positive.  Enjoy a carefree day with a problem-free philosophy.  As with other things, giving clemency to another will build our own character.  Gandhi described prayer as “a potent instrument of action”.  I think he would agree showing mercy and offering clemency is as well.  Lewis Carroll wrote:  “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”  Sharing clemency helps both others and ourselves.  “No worries, mate! G’day!”

Acknowledge – Day 3

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 3

Acknowledge

 

What a difference two letters can make.  When it comes to kindness, those two letters make all the difference.  Knowledge is wisdom, intelligence, learned matter.  Knowledge is good but unless it is put to use, it really is little bit more than curiosity answered.  Add the letters to the word “knowledge”, and all of a sudden you have the easiest way in the world to show what you know.

 

By putting an “a” and a “c” before the word “knowledge’, we create a new word and a great way to show kindness.  The word “acknowledge” comes from fifteenth and sixteenth century words from both France and England, words that mean “recognize” or “understand” or “accord”.  Let’s start with the accord variation first.

 

All too often, particularly in the political world, it is felt that one must be in complete accord or agreement with someone in order to acknowledge them.  I hope that is not going to become the norm because it really is a very cowardly way to live.  We can acknowledge someone and understand that they are not us and do things different without undermining our own lives.  No one is exactly like you or me.  When we acknowledge that fact, then we are free to show kindness, especially to those who are different.  Their beliefs only threaten us when we live fearfully and without confidence in our own beliefs.

 

The understand facet of this word is similar in its application.  To acknowledge someone having a different opinion and fully grasping their opinion means we understand them.  It also is showing them great kindness because it is allowing them a dignity, much like what we referenced in our conversation yesterday about respect.

 

The easiest and most cost effective way of showing kindness to someone is to recognize them.  I don’t mean call them by name but treat them as if they have value. After all, we all have value in our own special way.  Regardless of which creation myth you believe, we are all wondrously made.  Recognize them and then follow up with behavior that reflects that recognition and you will be showing someone great kindness.  It can be as easy as a hand raised in greeting or a joyful “Hello!”

 

In 1865 the American Civil War, officially known as the War Between the States, was drawing to an end.  The states that had seceded were rejoining and the Colonies were once again a viable democracy.  France had been involved with the colonies almost since their inception, sometimes as an ally and sometimes as an enemy.  However, for almost one hundred years, France had assisted the colonies.  It was because of this connection that historian Edouard De Laboulaye suggested France create a statue and give to the United States.  The commission for such was awarded to sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.  France would create and gift the sculpture to the U.S.A. and it would build the pedestal upon which the statue would stand, furthering acknowledging the partnership and friendship between the two nations. 

 

A need for fundraising delayed the start of the massive project until one year before the US/s centennial celebrations.  The finished statue was delivered and dedicated in October, 1886, ten years after the nation’s centennial.  The inscription, the winning sonnet in a fundraising contest of 1883, was penned by Emma Lazarus:  ““Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.   Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

This inscription acknowledges each and every immigrant that passes through Ellis Island and serves as a welcome to the thousands of others that arrive in other ports across the country.  The Statue of Liberty, as the statue became known, operated as a lighthouse for almost fifty years, sending its beacon of light emanating from Lady Liberty’s torch out into the night, giving safe passage and welcoming all in acknowledgement of their presence.

 

My challenge for you this day is to wave hello to someone.  Acknowledge their presence.  Nothing complicated in that, is there?  And if you cannot raise your arm to wave then nod and smile.  By doing so, you will be showing kindness to that other person, regardless of their station in life or bank account or position of authority.  Person to person, you will be welcoming them just as the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions throughout the years.

 

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is to recognize their existence.  We don’t have to want to emulate them or believe just as they do.  Acknowledgement simply means we recognize their presence.  To acknowledge someone is to show kindness of thought and presence and it costs us nothing to give.  Remember your challenge for this day is to simply wave a greeting to someone or nod your head in a friendly manner towards another person.  No one is truly invisible and when we acknowledge another, we are giving them value and worth.  It is a simple gift that will mean everything to someone.

 

 

Respect – Day 2

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 2

Respect

 

There are five days left in this year and, if you haven’t already been overrun with flashbacks, consider yourself lucky.  It is the time of the year when it seems like everyone and every media outlet are talking retrospectives – the best of the year in everything from fashion to electronics, music to toys, etc.

 

We seldom think about the concept of retrospection having anything to do with the word “respect”.    Its history or etymology dates back to the Latin “respectus” which translates as “looking back”.  The more modern definition dates back to the late sixteenth century.  It was probably the result of someone’s retrospection and consideration of another’s past behavior but somewhere around the late 1580’s, the word came to mean a feeling of regard or esteem based upon the actions or attributes of a person.

 

The term respect is a subject of great debate among philosophers and psychologists.  A driver respects the speed limit while also respecting his/her parents.  Surely one is not exactly the same as another.  Most agree that how we respect ourselves often determines the lives we lead and the choices we make. 

 

It is most important to have self-respect but it is also important to respect others.  The relationships we have in this world revolve around the respect we show others and how we live is based upon the respect we have for ourselves.  In other words, the kindness we live towards ourselves is mirrored in the kindness with which we treat others.  The person who dislikes him or herself will probably be equally as critical to those around them and being critical does not take one down a path populated with friends.

 

One of the first steps for respecting others and ourselves involves losing assumptions.  When we let life teach us rather than assuming we have all the answers or know what another is thinking, then we open ourselves up to being free and create opportunities to learn.  Sometimes the greatest way to be kind is to let the person be uniquely themselves without insisting they conform to our own ideas or standards.

 

The lack of assumption usually leads to a heightened sense of dignity.  When we let people be themselves, we give that which they are dignity.  Feeling that you are dignity is the foundation for a healthy self-esteem, both in us and in others.

 

When we show dignity to another we are also usually being fair.  Injustices occur every day based upon someone’s assumptions and more times than not, those assumptions are flawed and faulty.  Letting go of assumptions also means fairness will rule the day.  Take the time to treat everyone equally and meet out the same justice to all, regardless of their position, race, creed, financial status, etc.

 

Such fairness and dignity extended to all comes under the heading of good manners and correct etiquette.  The use of derogatory language is again based upon flawed and ignorant assumptions which lead to discrimination.  No one feels dignified or respected if they are the victim of discrimination. 

 

Consideration is also a part of good manners as is punctuality.  Sometimes we think our time schedule is the most important in the world.  Insisting others follow our schedule is permissible every now and then.  It is not respectful to make everyone dance to our own tune and nothing else.  Letting people explain themselves is also a great kindness.  When we listen to others, truly listen to them, we are giving them our attention, our time, and letting them know they are valued.    

 

You might have noticed that nothing I have mentioned as a way to show another person respect costs money.  To show kindness to someone by respecting them requires no financial outlay at all.  It is not only a gift of kindness that we share with others; it might just be the very best gift we can give ourselves.

 

Life coach Steve Maraboli explains it this way:  ““How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”   Yesterday I challenged you to share a smile.  Today’s challenge in this the twelve days of kindness is to live two acts of kindness – one to another person and one to yourself.  It might be letting go of some guilt or simply being on time for a movie date.  Whatever it is that you will do, remember that respect is a two-way street.  It is aa gift we give ourselves whenever we look back and then give respect to another.

 

 

Generosity

12 Days of Kindness

Christmas 1

Generosity

 

Ask someone about nobility and several answers will be commonly given – regal, majestic, rich, entitled (both actually possessing a title and feeling better than others).  Some might even go one step further and start describing coronations, rituals involving the nobility, or perhaps the acknowledgement given to those in the nobility with their titles, curtsies, and bows.

 

What you do not expect and will seldom hear are descriptions of the nobility standing shoulder to shoulder with the poor or outcast.  We picture large castles for the nobility, not simple lean-to huts.  We imagine the nobility wearing the finest and latest fashion designers and not the worn-out jeans or the homeless.

 

This Christmas my blog posts will not follow the Twelve Days of Christmas nor will I select a nondescript, politically correct topic.  I am indulging in the twelve days that fall between Dec 25th and January 6th.  Between mid-November and the second week in January there are roughly twenty-seven, 27, holidays celebrated worldwide.  For many, these next eight days mark Kwanza, a holiday time of community and family with no specific religious connotation or affiliation.  Kwanza is a great holiday, as are the other 27 but I would like to start a new one – the Twelve Days of Kindness.

 

Most of these twenty-seven holidays are not about self…well, not directly.  They reference our individual growth and personal peace by celebrating people, events, and beliefs that all speak to our connectedness.  If you are new to this blog, welcome.  If you are a seasoned reader, then thank you.  Your reading this connects us and strengthens the ties that truly unite us all.  Reading, though, does not get our living done.

 

We all believe in something.  Just believing does us nothing, though.  We have to put that belief in action and every good belief involves at least one other person.  Last night people worldwide celebrated the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  Regardless of what you believe. Chances are you saw a celebration, went to a party, gave or received gifts.  Christmas is pretty hard to escape.

 

Historically and archaeologically, the is more evidence of this man’s existence than evidence he did not live.  For many it is unrealistic to think the baby that people would believe was the son of the Creator would be born in such a humble manner.  The “King of Kings” as this baby would grow up to be called would have needed a noble birth.

 

It was somewhere during the 1580’s that the English would nobility became spoken.  An anglicized form of the French “généreux” (14c.), which is derived from the Latin “generosus”, the word generous translates as “noble birth.”   Thus a generous person was someone born into the nobility.  Surprised?

 

Today the word generous is an adjective but it doesn’t just mean someone who gives to others.  It literally means someone who gives to others without expecting anything in return.  Nothing.  Nada.  Nil.  Zero.  So when we give to a charity or drop some coins into a bell-ringers bucket, we should get nothing in return, not even a sense of “well done, self!”

 

I confess that when I help others I help myself.  Usually I am not really thinking about that but, in retrospect, I realize that I have probably given twice as much as I have given.  I was taught the habit of generosity through seeing such in the actions of my parents and others.  For some, their giving was more about making themselves feel good, however.  They really gave very little thought to those who would receive their giving.  Many of us are like that.

 

When I was nine years old, a dear family friend gave me a most unusual Christmas present.  She gifted me the sponsorship of an orphan on the other side of the globe.  She paid the monthly sponsorship fee but it was my name on the paperwork and I was the one who received the monthly updates on the boy who lived in deplorable conditions due to the political nature of his home country.  While others were playing with roller skates, I was reading about how the sponsorship fee had helped dig a well so the village could have safe water to drink and for other uses.

 

The next year this friend continued the sponsorship and it was with tears in my eyes that I heard my parents complain to her.  The three adults agreed that this would be the last year of the sponsorship and, true to her promise, the next year the friend gave me a book.  I still have that book but I also still have the spirit of awareness that was the real gift those two years.  Her gift made me realize the nobility of each birth, the awareness of not only how lucky I was in my own life but how similar that child was to me.  She gave me the gift of connectedness to my spirit within and the world around me.

 

Oscar Wilde once wrote “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  I am blessed with friends who follow through on their beliefs by giving to others.  There is always a need, nonetheless, for us to do more.  There are times in which we think we cannot give anything else.  Maybe our own lives are in chaos; maybe we are the ones in need.  We all have something to offer, though, and in that offering, we often find something greater, something we might not have known we needed.

 

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia was speaking about doing for others but it works for us as well. And so, on these twelve days, I ask that you not only read but act.  I ask that you spread a little kindness each day, living out one aspect of kindness.

 

I challenge you today to smile at a stranger.  It will cost you nothing and if you wear a head covering, then live that smile – let someone go in front of you through the door or marketplace walkway.  Live the nobility of your own birth and presence by being generous.

 

Perhaps you have some old clothing that you could pass on to someone in need.  Maybe you could advocate for animals or donate an extra box of rice or bag of beans to a food pantry in your area.  These are all great acts of generosity, our characteristic for today, and are very needed.  However, my challenge for you costs nothing – simply share a smile with a stranger.  If you can do more, then please do so.  First, simply share a smile.

 

Regardless of who we are or where we live, we are connected.  We share a planet.  We share basic characteristics of being human.  Hopefully, in these twelve days we will share kindness.  This is not a new idea.  The Roman Seneca once said “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”  In this the 21st century, we might have lost sight of that just a little.  We seem more interested in what separates us then it the ties that unite us.

 

Much is spoken and wars carried out because of those difference.  There is no real number for the varieties of religions that are practiced on the planet today; the numbers keep changing as religions are overtaken by extremists.  The 14th Dalai Lama, the man known as Tenzin Gyatso once wrote:  “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”  Regardless of what you call your religion, today I hope you share a smile.  Trust me, you will get at least one in return.  🙂