"Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. Henry James, novelist (some believe one of the greatest in the English language)
A friend, who happens to be a “retired” (hah) minister, read the blog The Best Advice…Is Back. She wrote an email thanking me for providing her with her Lenten practice this year. I was confused.
I didn’t write anything about a Lenten practice. The Lenten practices I know about are about giving up booze and doing more praying and reading scripture sort of things. But I tried to see what my minister friend noticed.
In the blog I had mentioned the research around the benefits of kindness like feeling happier, improving relationships, strengthening our communities and sense of belonging, improving health. I did not yet mention the wildest one which I am saving for another blog – slowing ageing. And I did note that kindness is contagious – helpful for all.
Then I shared the research around the likelihood of those benefits starting to kick in if we take one day a week to do 5 acts of kindness (which have been planned ahead of time). It’s done for 6 weeks.
Oh, then it dawned on me. It was those 5 acts of planned kindness done once a week over a period of six weeks that she was talking about as a good Lenten practice which she was going to try. Then my friend added, “I’ll be looking for the practice to be ‘revelatory.’”
It was that “revelatory” word that my friend used which pumped up my motivation to try the 5 acts of kindness myself. So yesterday was my designated kindness day.
As I thought about what I would do. I decided to:
1. go to CPR training with my husband, John (I have put it off because I was nervous about not being proficient),
2. contribute to a good cause – I chose BlueBridge Alliance (which gives police officers the ability to meet urgent needs of families or individuals https://bluebridgealliance.org/),
3. help at the Cashmere community meal,
4. send an email to someone I want to stay connected to but who is challenging,
5. watch the movie “The Reunited States” on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7BB-5uq2dU.
It all sounded good. Things I did want to do. Did perceive as kind. And listing them, planning it out helped nudge me forward.
CPR was great. I could do it. I’m now quite eager to find someone dying of a heart attack (just kidding). I do feel well equipped to help. The research on compassion suggests that many of us don’t help others because we don’t feel competent or know how to help.
Then we went outside. Our car, inexplicably, was totally dead and we had not learned how to revive a car. The CPR instructor did try to help us. But we eventually relied on Triple A. We told ourselves that we were lucky that the breakdown had happened in the parking lot.
I made the donation. Sent off the email. Feeling accomplished, yes. But now noticing some fatigue coming on. I had not even made it to the community dinner yet.
As we were going down our hill to help at the dinner both John and I said, “Maybe this is too much volunteering for one day.” We were feeling tired.
That was about to change.
The dinner was packed with people. The Catholics were cooking. It looked the whole town was there. After that, it’s kind of a blur of people chatting, getting food and giving food, swapping babies from arms to arms, kids in mermaid outfits and shamrock shirts chasing each other.
Then, everyone – people of all sorts, those who had been seriously hungry, those who came to connect with friends, believers and nonbelievers, those who spoke English, those who only spoke Spanish, octogenarians, teens…everyone started wiping the tables, sweeping the floor, taking down tables and chairs.
What was going on? I could barely keep up. Someone introduced himself as an appliance repairman. He noticed there was a freezer which was unplugged. Was that because it needed repairing? He would be glad to do that for nothing.
People were in the kitchen cleaning floors and washing dishes. The Catholic folks would take no money for the cost of the food they had bought and prepared for practically the whole town.
People were on fire to help. Smiles all around. The tiredness had gone away somewhere and been replaced with something like…I don’t know. Maybe a bit of bliss.
It’s something similar to the elation I see in folks when Red Cross rolls into town and all the people line up to give their blood. It’s crazy. It’s…REVELATORY!
When does it reveal? That there’s good in us, that we can work together, and that we can get all revved up by helping. When we do, we experience that life is good, meaningful. Perhaps we even experience...awe.
I was recently reading a new book on awe. The author shares his research on the ways we humans seem to experience awe. Some are not surprising. Music, nature, for example. (I will be sharing more later).
But there’s also something called “collective effervescence.” I’m guessing I just experienced it in the strangest place. A community dinner…cleaning up with everyone afterwards. Crazy.
AND the number one place where we humans experience awe…when we see acts of courage, acts of overcoming obstacles, and acts of KINDNESS! (You can bet I’ll be sharing more about this).
Okay, so far, 4 acts of kindness. Already REVELATORY. But to round off the kindness report, the movie was good, a documentary. Maybe I’ll have a chance to share more about it later because it promotes a pretty powerful and hopeful vision about how we can reunite as Americans.
In the meantime, others may want to get cracking on those acts of kindness. BTW, there’s a new group who has started a Kindness Counts Initiative. They are promoting kindness and sharing stories of kindness on their website, on Facebook, in the Wenatchee World, and on the radio. We can share our own stories at KindnesscountsNCW.org https://sites.google.com/digitalmedianorthwest.com/kindnesscountsncw/home.
(Lastly, please do feel free to share your own thoughts and stories and struggles related to kindness with me. I’ll share them with others if you want.
AND lastly, I have no idea why this happens, but please know that I NEVER unsubscribe you from this blog. But somehow it happens rather frequently that people do get unsubscribed or the blog starts going to your spam for no apparent reason. You should be getting regular blogs, at least weekly, unless I am being held captive.
And...I WAS on vacation in the Bahamas, Eleuthera, with my oldest son and his family. I have 48 bug bites on my ankles to prove it - and totally worth it, but here's my favorite video which also pumps me up in several wayshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvBBF5Uf-sM&t=58s )
How might we journey together to The Good Life, perhaps using a Lenten practice, of 6 weeks, 1 day a week, 5 acts of planned kindness? Nevermind all the health and happiness and youth and strong relationships stuff…what might be revealed to us? I can't wait to find out more. Kindly, June