Tag Archives: Kindness

The parable of the shovels

Two men stood on opposite sides of a field. An Overseer gave the order: “Dig.”

The tip of a metal shovel breaking ground.

The first man said “Okay! I can handle that. I’ve been preparing all my life to dig.” He selected his best shovel from five shovels leaning against a large storage shed, and he set to work. He had no trouble digging; his parents had paid for digging lessons when he was a child, and he had a college degree in shovelling. He was so good at digging that sometimes this man wished he had more shovels. The families of some of his friends had so many shovels they needed more than one storage shed. They had more than they could ever use, and this man knew his life would be better too, if he amassed a larger supply.

The second man across the field heard the “Dig” instruction and set to work. He had no shovel, so he dug using his bare hands. He had never had a shovel, so he wouldn’t have known what to do with one if he had it. He believed that shovels were something only other people had, and they were a dream he would never attain. He was a little afraid of shovels, truth be told. And the people who had shovels didn’t treat him nicely at all, so he didn’t want to become like them. Because he didn’t have a shovel, he had to dig longer and work harder than the other man, and he still didn’t get as much done. But he kept working. One day he fell ill, but he dug anyway. There are no such things a sick days for people with no shovels.

The first man didn’t pay much attention to what was happening on the far away side of the field, but one day he decided to take a well-deserved afternoon off and go for a walk. When he came to the side of the field where the second man was working through his lunch hour, he saw how little progress the man had made.

“Look at that,” he said. “He’s hardly done anything. He’s waiting for me to pick up the slack.”

He shook his head and walked away. “He’s just lazy and riding on my coattails.” He didn’t notice that the man had no tools to work with. It didn’t occur to him to share any of the shovels he wasn’t using.

The Overseer came back to check on progress. He visited the man digging with his bare hands, and he complimented him on his progress. “You have done well,” he said. The digger knew he had worked hard. He felt proud of the results of his hard work, even though he knew it wouldn’t look like much to others.

hand-tool

The Overseer went to visit the man with many shovels. That digger said, “Look at what I’ve done.” He waved an arm to show off the large area of ground he had worked. “I’ve done so much more than that guy over there.” He pointed to the small patch the other digger had worked on the opposite corner of the field.

“You have done well,” the Overseer said, “But do you think you might have a shovel to spare?”

Startled, the first digger replied, “Why, sure, I guess.” He’d never thought of that before. He looked down at the shovel in his hand. It had a sturdy handle, and it was just the right length. He really loved it. He didn’t want to give that one away, so he kept his favourite shovel. He gave the Overseer one he’d forgotten he even had out of the back of the shed.

The Overseer returned to the far side of the field and placed the shovel into the dirty and calloused hands of the second digger. The man held it out from his body, overwhelmed at first. He had never handled shovels, so it felt awkward. He didn’t think he deserved such a thing.

“Use it. It will help you,” the Overseer said.

Eventually the second digger gained confidence and became quite comfortable with the new tool. It worked so well for him, he even enjoyed some time off every once in a while.

  • There will always be people with more or fewer tools.
  • Don’t judge people who don’t have tools.
  • Don’t be afraid of tools; master them and they will help.
  • Everyone is worthy of tools.
  • Consider the needs of others and get them some tools, if you can.
  • Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have more tools than we really need.
  • It’s okay to keep your favourite tool.

Found hearts

While hiking at the Mill of Kintail last week, I came across this heart rock on one of the boardwalks.

Rock painted with a purple hear

A few weeks ago, I woke up and looked out my bedroom window to see this collection of hearts on my neighbours’ lawn, in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Over the years, I’ve encountered heart-shaped rocks in several locations, including during a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia. That heart became part of the foundation of the house we built together.

My niece went to an amethyst mine near Thunder Bay and brought me back this sample.

Heart-shaped amethyst

When I come across an unexpected heart, it always makes my smile. I think we all need a little lift these days, am I right?

May my found hearts help to lift yours. What are your favourite hearts?

You have a superpower

Oh yes you do.

The youth leader at our church introduced me to the book What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston. Within that book lies the answer.

The main character, Nalvana thinks that everyone but her has a superpower. She has friends who run fast, build with super strength and dangle from monkey bars for hours.

Every day she watches her friends and wishes she could do what they do. She tells them how great they are.

Nalvana is feeling badly until her mother helps her to recognize her own superpower. It’s a power we all have, if we choose to see it.

Nalvana makes people feel good.

Book cover: What's My Superpower, by Aviaq Johnston

Social media hate/love: Catch you on the flip side

Sometimes I think: “I should dump all my social media accounts.”

I get irritated by people tweeting or posting about foods I should or shouldn’t eat. Sometimes one post telling me that I SHOULD eat a certain food is followed quickly by another telling me that I should NEVER eat the food. It’s irksome.

And people can be horrible. Hateful. Mean.

But I don’t dump my social media accounts.

All those contradictory food posts make me realize how much I trust my body to let me know what it needs.

And people can be so wonderful. Inspirational. Kind.

I decided to ask my circle of social media acquaintances for their thoughts. The results wouldn’t stand up to scientific method scrutiny, but they represent an overall picture of the situation. And that is:

For every bad, there is a flip side of good.

We don’t like:

  • HATE that is easy to spread, aided by anonymity. “I do not like how cruel and thoughtless people can be when not face to face,” one person said. “How quick to judge, and attack, how divisive some posts can be.”
  • FALSE NEWS and rumours
  • SHALLOW “LOOK AT ME” POSTS, sometimes mindless and trivial
  • ADS and blatant self-promotion
  • HOW IT ENCOURAGES US TO CONSTANTLY COMPARE OUR LIVES TO OTHERS
  • HOW IT WASTES OUR TIME

But then, we stick with it because all those things have a flip side. We like:

  • ALL THE LOVE AND CONNECTION, with friends, family, distant connections and people we wouldn’t connect with otherwise. “The other side of that the hate] is how kind strangers can be; how supportive and uplifting,” one friend said. Another added, “I’ve developed supportive friendships around the world and have met several of them.”
  • USEFUL INFORMATION, breaking news, information in emergencies, recommendations for services, event notifications, genuinely happy news from friends, and hobby groups.
  • PEARLS OF WISDOM AND INSPIRATION, intellectual stimulation
  • PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE, finding out about something we need
  • THE BOOST we get from others who share their creativity and positive experiences
  • ENTERTAINMENT “Oh and I love the cute animal videos,” a friend said. Don’t we all.

There are valid reasons to cut and run from social media. There are valid reasons to stay. I’ll stick it out, because I’m an optimist.

Catch you on the flip side.

* Exits whistling *

Carve your name on hearts

“Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” 

—Charles H. Spurgeon

I first read this quote years ago in the email signature of one of my daughter’s teachers.

It reassured me to know that my daughter was spending some of her days with a person with that kind of mindfulness. He was wasn’t working for himself; he was working for the children. Every day he was carving his name on students’ hearts, so he’d better make it good.

Today, you will carve your name on someone’s heart. What indelible impression will you leave?

Child's drawing where a mother and daughter make up one side of a heart.
When she was a child my daughter drew this picture of us. We’re carved into her heart together.

A post for a WOW friend: The gift of being chosen

Sand castle
A sand castle on Maryanne’s favourite beach: Anna Maria Island

The first time I saw my friend Maryanne, she and her eighteen-month-old son were building houses out of sand in the shade of a play structure in our neighbourhood park. Seated side by side, they packed sand into plastic containers and constructed houses of all shapes and sizes.

I played with my own eighteen-month-old daughter nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation.

“What kind of house do you want to build next?” she asked.

“A bungalow,” her son said.

WOW. What toddler knows the word bungalow? And who was this Wonder Of Women with him?

Over the twenty-three years of our friendship (both those children are now almost twenty-five), I have said WOW about Maryanne many times. She has other exceptional qualities besides an advanced vocabulary and a knack for creative story building.

She celebrated her 60th birthday on the weekend and the occasion caused me to reflect on her WOW qualities.

  • GENEROSITY – I have been at her house to see her open her door wide to people in need. No matter if an arrival is unannounced or if it means re-evaluating food supplies or sleeping arrangements, she accommodates with grace and dignity. It is a gift rarer than the finest diamonds.
  • SELF-WITNESS – She has the ability to rise above herself, look down and sort life out from a higher perspective. This skill has led her to success in business and helped her to overcome tragic loss.
  • INTUITION – She seems to reach through the veil of the universe. She just knows things. Sometimes I have to do a double-take after hearing her insights.
  • LAUGHTER – She is fun. We laugh together a lot.

Her generosity means that saying “No” does not come naturally, but her self-witness is telling her that sometimes that’s exactly what she needs to start saying. She’s learning to listen to her intuition and to choose what serves her and what does not. Which activities, causes or people should she say no to because they drain her without ever giving back? Which activities, causes or people energize her or bring her laughter?

Maryanne and I during a night of smiles and laughter

Maryanne is ever-evolving and choosing how to spend her time and with whom to spend that time. Like Pokemon’s Pikachu saying “I choose you!”

I will be sixty in a few years too, so I’m also am developing the steely inner resolve that comes with the wisdom of age. I am more discerning about how I spend my days, and with whom. I am drawing firm boundaries around demands on my time. One thing I know: Time spent with Maryanne is time well spent. I choose her!

She inspires me to be a better person. I’m not Maryanne’s best friend, but I aim to be the best friend for her in certain circumstances. I hope I refill her well in some way and bring her laughter.

On her 60th birthday I asked myself, “What gift could I give to such a WOW person?” The only thing I could think of was to let her know this:

I appreciate the gift of being chosen.

Birthday cake with Limited 1959 Edition topper
A “limited edition” cake for a “limited edition” person