This has been a challenging season. Although I usually avoid lamenting about the reasons why on public forums like facebook or blogs, I did leave a comment on a secret group thread because…I just did. I was in a whining kind of mood. That’s not to say what I posted was unimportant, because it was but it wasn’t necessary.
What is more important though is how my friends responded. Many of these–most of these–are people I’ve never met but we have common goals and discussion points, and our interactions are casual and intermittent. A followup question to my comment prompted more comments. I’ll admit to being a bit embarrassed actually because I had unintentionally moved the focus away from the purpose of the group and onto something personal I’m dealing with. Like I said, I was whining. They were all being so incredibly kind and supportive that I was humbled.
One woman in the group did the most amazing thing. She wrote,
“Perhaps the thing for us to do here is not revel in the details of pain but to share beauty that can help her focus on other things?”
She posted a beautiful picture of tulips and others followed with their own version of beauty–chickens, elephants, flowers, amulets, family. We laughed, we cheered, and yes, people still wished me well. This whole exchange brought me to tears. Truthfully, it got me through the day.
There was another day decades ago when I was dealing with cancer. An acquaintance from our church called and gave me a life-lesson which I remember even now.
When I answered with a weak hello, she said, “I prayed about how I could help you and it occurred to me you might need help to clean your house. So I laid a fleece before God and said, ‘if she answers the phone, I’ll do it.’ You have to let me, okay?”
Oh it was against my nature to do that, actually, though I couldn’t see how I could say no. While I slept, she vacuumed my floors, washed my kitchen (not just my dishes), and cleaned my toilets. When I awoke, she changed the sheets on my bed, and freshened my room. In this practical and humble way, she began to shift my perspective.
During that same time, another friend asked if she could drop something off. She wasn’t going to stay. When I answered the door, she stood behind her husband, both of them smiling. He held a massive tray that contained a complete roast beef dinner. Everything was packaged to preserve the heat–no small feat in February. The entire roast, potatoes, carrots, green beans, a salad, buns and a chocolate dessert rested beside a small bouquet of purple alstroemeria that she chose because they barely have a scent.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said, “but I ended up making two complete dinners. We thought you guys would like one of them.”
I sobbed. She never asked for anything in return. She only found a practical way to care.
Thanks to these simple kindnesses I was no longer hopeless. Instead, I could hope more. And I learned, as Stephen R. Donaldson put it, “In accepting the Gift, you honor the Giver.”
And that, to me, is what compassion is–hope more moments brought about by being kind to one another. Change myself, reach out to someone else, impact lives, influence the world.
- Go to the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Facebook page, and see what others are up to.
- read posts, and share the ones that speak to you. Search for #1000speak
- write a post and add your voice to the 1000.
- read a story to a shut-in friend.
- knit scarves, hats and mittens for those who don’t have shelter.
- shovel your neighbour’s driveway.
- phone someone, even if you’re “afraid to wake them”. Most likely, everyone else is afraid too.
- pick up groceries for someone who can’t drive.
- give a frazzled young mother a morning to herself.
Join us, won’t you?