Tag Archives: Kindness

What friendship looks like: #TheTellMeChallenge

In social media these days, the #TheTellMeChallenge asks people to reveal something about themselves without directly mentioning the subject.

For example, “Tell me you’re a baby boomer without telling me you’re a baby boomer.”

Romper Room logo

In that spirit, I took this picture in the woods near my house. There are three paths trodden through the snow: two for friends to walk side by side and a third for social distancing while greeting fellow walkers.

Tell me you are a friend without telling me you are a friend.

Three paths trodden side by side through the snow in the woods.
Community spirit

The hate virus and the kindness vaccine

I haven’t written for a while. It’s been hard to think straight. I live in Ottawa, you see. The city occupied.

People who don’t live here probably find it difficult to understand how this came to be. How could we let the truckers just waltz into our nation’s capital and occupy? Well here’s why.

Pretty much every day there is a “pro-test” on Parliament Hill. [Pro-test: to testify FOR something.] In the BEFORE times when I strolled around downtown on my lunch breaks, I passed people marching and hollering about something every day. We are so accustomed to people saying to themselves, “Why, I’m mad as heck about _____. I’m stomping off to Ottawa to shout about it!” We really didn’t pay much mind to an incoming convoy.

Of course, we did expect them to leave again, politely. We are still waiting for both the leaving and the politeness.

Many, many of the comments by supporters of this movement are full of obscenities or incomprehensible ravings. Lots of ranting about MSM [Mainstream media] [That is, media where information is fact-checked and sources verified.] Or, here are other popular options:

It’s a struggle to stay positive in the midst of this. The negativity and hate spread like a virus.

Hey, wait a minute. There’s a solution to the spread of a virus. A vaccine! That’s it!

But what is the vaccine for hate? I must find it and inject myself so that when someone replies “Honk honk” to my comment I don’t reply with, “Pithy.” Or when they reply with a string of trucks, I don’t answer with, “That’s great! Maybe someday when you grow up, you’ll learn to spell.”

No those wouldn’t be kind responses. I’d be allowing myself to be infected by the hate virus. I must build immunity. I must inoculate myself with an injection of kindness.

Ah yes, I feel better already.

On the first weekend of the occupation, I skated on the Rideau Canal. A gorgeous, sunny day. Perfect ice conditions. But when I reached the end of the canal downtown, this was the sound.

Horns blare in downtown Ottawa, Sunday, January 30, 2022

That was what residents in downtown Ottawa listened to, ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT, for 10 DAYS. An injunction means the truckers can no longer sound their horns at night, but the days are still mayhem.

Supporters of this movement repeat that this is a “peaceful” protest. If you think so, please, let me know where you live.

I will bring some friends and block access to your street so that you cannot come or go. We will blare our horns outside your home 24 hours a day. When challenged, I’ll say, “But I’m being peaceful!” And because I said so, it will be true. If you don’t believe me, I’ll blame MSM for making me look bad.

Oh, there I go. I can feel the hate virus building strength again. Time for a kindness booster.

Oh, yes. Kindness. I recommend the shot for everyone.

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?

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.

The power of simple gifts

I attended the CanWrite! conference in Vancouver, BC on the weekend.

During the open mic session on Friday night, Jean Kay of Poetry to Inspire told a story that showed how simple gifts can ripple out and multiply in ways we never anticipate.

Every morning as part of a meditation practice, Jean writes a poem. She has published her poems in books, she writes poems for special occasions, and she sells printed copies of special prayers, like this “Prayer of Thanks.”

A prayer card with a prayer by the title of "Prayer of Thanks" by Jean Kay

Recently Jean was selling her work from a booth at a promotional event. A woman picked up a “Prayer of Thanks” card. “I have been saying this prayer every morning for thirty years,” she said.

Startled, Jean took a closer look. The woman—96 years old that day at the booth—was a former co-worker that Jean hadn’t seen since she presented a copy of the poem at her retirement party thirty years ago.

The woman had gone home after the party, stuck the card in the corner of her mirror and recited it every day since. Jean had no idea that her work, her thoughts and her words had been rippling steadily through all those decades.

That retirement story reminded me of another friend’s recent retirement.

My friend, Brian, retired a few weeks ago after being a United Church minister for forty years. At his final service many of the people whose lives he had touched showed up to support him and to let him know how deeply his work, his thought and his words had affected them.

In his final sermon he referenced the story of the loaves and the fishes. He had started in ministry with only simple gifts to offer. Like the loaves and the fishes, they seemed like they’d never be enough. But with time and grace, his simple gifts were enough. They more than enough. He “fed the throngs” and has leftovers besides.

Simple gifts are all any of us have to offer. They might seem like they’re not enough. But a prayer of thanks, support through grief, kind words, belly laughs . . . they ripple out over the decades.

Those simple gifts are more than enough, with leftovers besides.

Rippling positively …