Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A helpful musician

My husband was showing an out of town friend the way to a local music story where the friend could buy strings for his guitar.  We live downtown and there is always a broad variety of people on Queen Street W near Steve's Music.  Some were amblers, some were shoppers, others were street people asking for money.  Our friends decided to buy two sets of strings at the music store.  On their way back home, my husband watched our friend, bend down to give a street person playing a guitar one set of strings.  Later, he explained that he noticed some of that person's strings were missing when he heard him play as they walked on their way to the store.  "It's his living", our friend said, "we should always help someone make a living". 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Surprises on the Jerusalem Tram

In September 2011, a new light rail vehicle line was innaugurated on the Jaffa Road in Jerusalem after many delays in the construction process.  For that first month, it was free to one and all.  We decided to board it near our hotel and travel to the end of the line in east Jerusalem.  As usual, no one queued for boarding public transit.  Those with the sharpest elbows got on the tram and found a seat first.  Then, to my great surprise, those of us who boarded last were evaluated for our seat worthiness by those seated.  Old people, pregnant women, mothers with small children, the disabled were all quickly offered the seats before the tram even started up again. It did not matter if you were obviously an Arab or a Jew or someone hard to place like a tourist, if you qualified, you were offered a seat.  The seats were offered by Arabs to Jews and by Jews to Arabs.  After the great push at the door, I was amazed.  At every stop thereafter, the same thing happened, sharp elbows boarded first, and seats were offered to the seat-worthy before the tram started again.  I love happy surprises.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Last week, our book was published. A multi-faith, international group of women wrote essays stories and poetry on our own spiritual journeys. We each tell you where we have been, how we have grown and where we are focused for the present and the near future. It's an amazing series of women's experiences and reflections on growing with faith. Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power is available on www.amazon.ca. It's a provocative read!
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Interfaith Journey to Israel #6

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
Day 5

We woke up this morning in Jerusalem.  After an early breakfast, we drove to a spectacular view of the Mount of Olives.  We were not the only ones travelling by tour bus that chose the early morning view.  The was a whole herd of buses at the viewpoint and we climbed down joining other tourists.  We drove down through the Judean desert to Masada, a mountain top fortress, built by King Herod over 2000 years ago.  This was the site of the last stand of a group of Jewish zealots against the Romans.  Their only choice was to be enslaved or killed by the Romans.  They chose death by suicide as the Roman army approached the fortress after building a hill road to it with Jewish slaves, already captured. 

The rocky desert is hauntingly beautiful but it seemed a rather austere place to be. There were huge water caverns dug out of the rock beneath the fortress.   What little rain that fell in the desert was funneled by rain gutters cut into the rock so that it would run into these caverns. It was a great feat of engineering.

The heat was daunting.  There were a group of tourists there from a cruise ship.  One woman decided to wear minimal clothing to improve her tanning potential.  She nearly passed out from heat prostration.  Another passenger tried to cool her off with cold water bottles under protest from the insensible woman.   As I watched others try to look after her, I was grateful for her kind friends watching out for her despite her resistance to their efforts.

We drove back up to Jerusalem in time to welcome the Sabbath at the Western Wall.  It was quite a sight to see groups of men, dancing and singing in the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest and renewal with such joyful vigour.  The members of our interfaith group were swept into the dancing on both the men's and women's side of the prayer space in front of the wall.  Many people told me that this was one of the most moving experiences of the trip. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Interfaith Journey to Israel #5

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
Day 4

We began our day at the Temple Mount, the location of the famous Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, holy sites in Islam.  But few of our Muslim friends were with us because they were visiting the Mosque where Christians and Jews are not longer allowed to visit.  We were standing in a circle on the beautiful grounds in the early morning sunshine, when one the guardians of the site, clanging two metal "pot covers" together, ran toward us shouting.  "No prayers here, no Jewish prayers" and kept clanging this metal pot covers together to prevent any prayers from reaching God's ears.  He started shouting directly at me.  "you Jew, no prayers" I told him quietly not to worry.  I was not praying.  Our Roman Catholic priest had been praying for peace in Jerusalem a few minutes earlier.  We all left the site.

Our bus took us all the Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum.  I have visited this museum many times but I find each experience to be unique.  Survivor, Hanna Pick, shared some of her story with us in a private room.  She had been a childhood friend of Anne Frank and the story she shared was around her friendship with Anne Frank when they were schoolgirl friends in Amsterdam, both German immigrants, escaping the Nazis in a new city.  As a fellow prisoner, she also met up with Anne Frank again in 1945 just before Anne Frank and her sister Margot died of typhus in the concentration camp.  Our whole group was profoundly affected by this experience.

Back in the bus, we drove to Gush Etzion, a settlement in the disputed territory (the West Bank) beyond the "green line".  Mayor Saul Goldstein, gave a talk about why the Jewish settlements make sense to him.  These areas that were intended to be Arab Palestine by the UN in 1947, were given by God to the Jewish tribes of Judah and Simon when the Jewish people entered the land from slavery in Egypt according to the Bible.   In fact, Jews bought back some of this land from Turkish landholders in the 20th century for purposes of Jewish settlement.  There were Arab raids on the settlements before the founding of the state of Israel and the children of the original settlers, the fathers of whom were killed in the raids, returned after the 1967 war.    Saul Goldstein and his fellow settlers has created a beautiful, green community and were determined not to leave it again for the sake of a peace deal.

Back in the bus, we drove to Hebron, a mostly Arab city in the disputed territory.  In Hebron, which existed from the biblical era, there is a cave, purchased by Abraham, where most of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried according to the Bible.   Muslims also revere Abraham.  Buildings have been erected around this cave to mark the holy site.  However, after terrible battles between the Muslims and the Jews in current times, the building has been divided into a Jewish section of access and a Muslim section of access for visits.

We have seen much "marking of territory" by each religious group and even within religious groups on this visit and lots of hyperbole about who is really in charge.  It makes a mockery of holiness for everyone.

We returned to Jerusalem late but went on a tour of the archeological tunnel under the western wall.  How such huge stones were cut and laid out with biblical era technology is a mystery to me.
More about Jerusalem later.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interfaith Journey to Israel #4

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
Day 3

This was the most challenging day of our trip together.  So far, we had been bussed from site to site, visited religious historical sites and heard some presentations about current interfaith relationships within Israel.  The presenters spoke with relatively hopeful attitudes that we received this information with guarded optimism.  Today we were focused on the borders between one and another.  During my previous visits to Israel before the 2 Intifadas, the Jews and the Arabs lived side by side relatively quietly.  Israelis visited Palestinian villages and cities and many Palestinian people worked in Jewish towns and returned home in the evenings. Now it is very different.  To prevent easy access to suicide bombers many of whom came from Jenin, the borders are fixed and well guarded.  This is an aspect of the “security issue” that is a thorn in the side of those who disagree with Israel’s position.  Today we visited Jenin, a Palestinian town and refugee camp.  Our buses, less our Israeli Jewish guide, were boarded by Israeli soldiers so that we could show our passports.  Israelis are not allowed to travel to Jenin.  We first visited a tiny Orthodox church from the 4th century in Burkin where we were greeted by the church caretaker.  There is no Christian community using this church regularly at this time.  Again, the icons were beautiful and the light in the church was soft. 

Our next stop was to a new hotel which was located next to a midway with rides like a roller coaster and Ferris wheel that was not open at the time.  The juxtaposition of the marble hotel and the silent midway in the noonday sun was compelling.  The hotel was quiet too.  We were welcomed by the Governor of Jenin and district, Abu Musa.  He was a serious person who blamed Israel for all the misfortunes of his people.  Cookies and juice and water were offered to us before we left for the buses to take us back to the border.  I was happy to have had this snack because we spent about 2 hours at the border crossing.  Israeli soldiers were serious and business-like in putting us through a security routine similar to what we experience before boarding a plane.  Some of us were angry and upset.  Others took this experience in stride as a necessary precaution when 2 peoples are at war with each other.  There is not only a high physical wall here between the communities but also a strong psychological barrier of deeply felt mistrust.  We were hot and uncomfortable with this experience but everyone held his or her temper. 

We boarded the buses again and went to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and see Manger Square.  The Church housed 2 Orthodox communities and was adjoined by a Roman Catholic Church that was build later.  Our guide explained the significance of the church layout and described the services and crowds at Christmas time.  Opposite the Church facing Manger Square was a newly built mosque to serve the growing Muslim community in Bethlehem. 

We were exhausted as individuals when we checked into our hotel in Jerusalem but there was yet another presentation scheduled for that evening at dinner.  We heard from two brave and dignified representatives from The Parent’s Circle, a group of about 500 people, both Israeli and Palestinian who lost loved ones in the ongoing conflict.  We came to this dinner with many unresolved feelings about our experiences together and the stories that each person, Mr. Rami Ehanan and Ms. Seham (Moira) Ikhalyel, told us, moved each of us as individuals. Everything we experienced so far became the context for how we heard their stories of loss. 
We went to our beds exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Interfaith Journey to Israel #3

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011

Day 2

On this day, we experienced the land from a Christian point of view.  Kibbutz Lavi is near the Sea of Galilee.  After a very generous breakfast at the Kibbutz, our buses drove to Tiberius where we boarded a wooden boat for ride modelled on an experience of Jesus in the Bible.  We heard the biblical text with the soft wind blowing in our faces as we looked out on the pastoral hills surrounding the water.   Next, we bussed on to Capernaum, the location of St. Peter’s home where a modern Franciscan Church now stands.  One of our religious leaders, F. Damien McPherson is a Franciscan monk and we were greeted with great warmth.  We heard a reading of the Beatitudes, also known as the Sermon on the Mount.  Our next stop was a baptismal site called Yardenit where the Jordan River meets the Sea of Galilee.  Some Christians in our group chose to reaffirm their baptism there and stood in a semi-circle in the shallow water of the Jordan River.  Tiny fishes darted between their legs.  The Christian clergy both Roman Catholic and Protestant undertook the ceremony.  We sat in the dappled shade and watched.  The look of quiet happiness and joy on the faces of our Christian friends as they re-affirmed their baptism was very moving to see. 

In the afternoon, we visited the Christian site of Kfar Cana a village where Jesus performed the miracle of the wine.  The roads wound up and down steep hills and the views of the valleys were spectacular from the air-conditioned bus window.  How difficult it must have been for people in biblical times to walks these hills in the heat, carrying what they needed for the journey and hoping for the best!  You could understand the importance of hospitality at that time.

Later that afternoon, we had a bus tour of Haifa, a city that lies on the Carmel Mountain range and a narrow plain on the coast of Israel.  Where the small villages in Israel are often mostly Arab Christian and Muslim or Jewish, the cities are all mixed with people from all those communities plus others who are not affiliated with those communities.  We visited Beit Hagefen, the Centre for Arab-Jewish culture, youth and sports in Haifa.  We heard some speeches and saw a film about the work of this centre and I bought some postcards as a memento.    This place and the dialogue centre in south Tel Aviv both gave me some hope that grass roots dialogues can continue while the political battles and inter-community confrontations rage on.

We returned to Kibbutz Lavi, ate dinner and fell asleep immediately on the pillow. Another early start is planned for tomorrow.  It feels to me like we have been touring for a week.

Interfaith Journey to Israel #2

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
Day 1

We flew overnight for 11 hours to arrive a bit tired and time-challenged in Tel Aviv, and began our all- day tour in 2 buses, starting in Tel Aviv at a century- old building, still under renovation that housed a synagogue/interfaith centre.  We were struck by the bright early morning sun and the heat because it was still the middle of the night in Canada.  Rabbi David Rosen gave us an excellent overview of the complexity of the interfaith relationships in Israel over the past 50 years.  There is freedom of religious practice in Israel. However, within each religion, there are also disputes and strongly held views, some for peace-building and others strongly suspicious of those working toward peace and compromise, which has an impact on the conversations among faith group members.

We had a driving tour by bus of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, (the older city) and drove north to Nazareth the largest Arab city in Israel.  We visited the Church of St. Joseph, the traditional site of the home of Joseph and Mary.  It was a large building, shared by 2 orthodox faiths, with beautiful orthodox icons, both paintings and sculpture.  The priest there indicated that the Christian population in Nazareth is shrinking.  Our next visit was to Terra Santa College which was attached to the Roman Catholic Basilica.  Father Amjad, the local parish priest had attended this College as a student.  Mr. Bahig Mansour, a Druze man who is director of Israel’s Department for Religious Affairs came to welcome us.  We laughed with him as he explained that he was late because his wife, a native of Nazareth, gave him bungled directions.  He also emphasized the significance of freedom of religious practice in Israel that is protected by the government.  He shared a bit about the Druze religion which is quite secretive.  It does not accept converts. 

We climbed onto the buses in the hot afternoon sun and were driven to Kibbutz Lavi where we had dinner and fell into bed exhausted, knowing that the tour would begin again very early the next day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Interfaith Trip to Israel #1

A group of Canadians, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews, mostly from the Toronto area, came to Israel with clergy from each of our faiths for a one-week tour of the holy places of each faith with the hope of developing understanding of the other.  When I return to Canada from Israel next week, I plan to write several blogs about the experience.  I did try to write a blog last week from an internet cafe but lost it when I ran out of internet minutes.  My husband and I are now in Tiberius, visiting our son who works in this city.  We are staying for about a week in a guest house on Kubbutz Ein Gedi.  It is hot every day and we arise before the sun emerges from behind the mountains to the east but the sky is full of that soft pastel light from the dawn.  The water of the lake is still and you can see and hear the birds start their morning journeys for food.  Our trip together with people of faith was very moving at times and very confusing at other times.  I will share some of these experiences soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taking time for someone else

My Blackberry phone did not work.  I could be heard by callers but I could not hear them.   That's another column.  On my landline, I called their help centre and worked with the patient woman to take apart the Blackberry and put it back together. In the end, she suspected that the problem was with the hardware.  Off I went to the Bell store where I waited for a while for a technician to help me.  (Some people don't read their manuals ever!)  The cell phone was sent away for service for 4-6 weeks or earlier if I was lucky.  I was told to wait for a phone call telling me it was back.  I actived my old Blackberry and after a week, I went to the Bell store to find out whether it would be returned to me sooner.  Fortunately, my repaired cell phone was on its way to the Bell store.  After the long weekend, I returned to the Bell store early one morning.  Alas the repair staff were not arriving until after 3:00 pm, but one staff person offered to look at the big plastic bag of packaged repaired  phones that were on the floor.  The bag was full.   It was quiet in the store and another staff person helped him.  They had to open every package in the bag.  My Blackberry was the last package in the bag.  I was lucky that these Bell staff took their time to do another absent person's job.  They put it together for me and off I went into the bright sunny day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spare Change

Walking down
Queen Street
on a cold day, I hear an inquiry every so often: “Spare Change?”  I look over and see a person huddled on the sidewalk with an empty coffee cup.  Sometimes I reach into my pocket and give the person a loonie, or a quarter or even a toonie.  Sometimes, I just say “hello” and move on. 

I am not sure why I give money to some and not to others.  I try to say hello to everyone who asks for “spare change”.   Last week, I was walking in close proximity behind a trio of students.  I overheard one person say: “Spare change, what makes him think that anything I have is extra?”  The others laughed in agreement and I was left wondering what the question “spare change” really means. 

On reflection, I think that the phrase “spare change” is an abbreviation of some much more complex questions: 

  1. Can you spare me from hunger, thirst and homelessness for today with the change you received when you made your last purchase?
  2. Can you spare me from the humiliation of begging more today so that I can change my posture and I can stand up and walk on the street too?
  3. Can you spare me from my unfilled yearning for a drug or a drink because I can not change myself just now?
  4. Can you spare me from my extreme isolation and change me into a part of your world too?
  5. Can you spare yourself the fear of me when I am desperate and try to rob you in the changing streets?

I have heard people accuse the beggars of misrepresenting themselves.  They suggest that the street beggars are all looked after by the government and they have a home and food somewhere and they just want extra money.   Otherwise the beggars should look for work like everyone else.  They are just lazy.

I don’t think so.

Some people are down on their luck through no fault of their own.  Others do not have natural talents or accommodating personalities.  For these people, finding and keeping work is very difficult.  Others are clearly mentally ill.   Life can be very tough. 

I have also heard that the poor will always be with us.  I do not think that it is my job to ignore these individuals or to leave it only to the government or the police or social service agencies to deal with them.

When I am lost and looking for an address, I am so grateful that a stranger on the street takes the time to show me where to go, sometimes even walking me in that direction.

When the bus driver notices that I am running down the sidewalk, trying to catch the bus and stops to wait, I am grateful.

It’s up to each of us as individuals to be responsive to others on the street and hear what they are asking for.  We can change and spare the person who is asking for help from some of his frustrations.  It would be a better city for our efforts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the receiving end of kindness

I had some unexpected surgery three weeks ago.  My daughter Elana on the west coast let family and friends know by creating an email group and encouraging them to get in touch with me.  I received many emails and some get well cards of encouragement.  Each contact meant so much to me.  Some people offered prayer, others offered funny stories and still others told me how much they cared about me.  I know these people.  Many have heavy burdens of their own at this time in their own lives and yet they each reached out to me.  People came with prepared food too so I could take a break from the ordinary jobs of life while I recovered.  My daughter Rachel took the bus in from London to look after me for the first few days out of hospital.    I saw the surgeon yesterday.  I am relieved that the biopsies indicated that the tissue was benign.  I found that being on the receiving end of kindness to be a necessary lesson in humility.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going the distance

My friend told me that she heard from a a former partner who is very ill now.  He lives in rural northern Ontario and must get treatment in a big city hospital.  Without hesitation, she volunteered to drive many hours to his home and spend a week to help put his things in order and close up his home and get him to treatment far away from there. That takes alot of energy and a heart filled with kindness for others.  I have watched her do wonderful acts of kindness for many others over the years.  She inspires me.  Who insprires you?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Offering quiet encouragement

My exercise regime includes an aquafit class early on Sunday mornings.  It is always crowded and regulars try, sometimes with great vigour,  to get to their favourite spots at the front of the pool as soon as they can.  This morning we were joined by a woman in her last trimester of pregnancy.  I think this was her first time in this class.  She was relegated to a spot in the back corner of the pool near where I was working out.  The aquafit instructor noticed this newcoming after leading the class for about 10 minutes.  She walked over to her and quietly added some special instructions so that no harm would come from exercise that may be too strenuous, and then the instructor casually walked back to the front of the pool shouting instructions to the rest of us all the way. 

It's challenging to notice someone special in a crowd who may need some individual attention.  I was impressed.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lost Hat

We went out for dinner with friends in a busy restaurant but had a drink together first in a bar below the restaurant.  It was a cold night and I wore a favourite tam.  Somehow, I forgot my hat in the bar and did not return for a few hours.  I asked about my hat, which was reversible, one side was false leopard skin and the other was plain black wool.  I had worn the leopard skin side out that evening.  The hostess found my hat and put it aside, carefully turning it to the black side so that only the owner could identify as her own and I got my hat back.  Sometimes people look out for you when you don't even expect it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Supporting a colleague

My regular hairdresser has been off sick for a few months.  I saw a sign in the salon change room inviting all the clients of the salon to make an appointment on Sunday, February 20 for any service.  Each of  the staff at the Salon will donate their pay and tips to my hairdreser who has been off work for so long.  This salon is not usually open on Sundays so each person is also donating a day off too.  It is amazing to notice all the different ways that people can give to each other.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Kindness that can not be Returned

Today was the funeral of the policemen, Ryan Russell, who was killed on duty.  The police station where he worked is on the corner of my street and the funeral parade passed 2 blocks away.  I went to see the parade of marching police from Toronto and from many other places.  I watched all the people who came to the funeral from other Canadian cities and from the US.  They marched for over an hour to honour him.  Although people repeated the same things about the policeman, it seemed appropriate to express a common feeling so widely.

We often return favours to each other and some of us note who did these favours for us.  Attending a funeral is a kindness that can not be returned to the giver of the kindness. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quiet Dignity

Early Wednesday morning, a Toronto police officer was killed while trying to stop a stolen snowplow.  On Thursday morning, I attended a very moving ceremony to welcome 42 new Toronto police officers at their training academy.  There was a reception held for "VIPs" prior to the ceremony.  The senior police officers and politicians talked in quiet voices to each other until we were gathered together to march into the Hall were the ceremonies would begin.  Usually, I feel comfortable walking up to strangers in setting like this and introducing myself.  I sat by myself watching the roomful of people whom I did not know.  I did not want to interrupt their conversations.  Even if they were not directly talking about the events of the previous day, every conversation was affected by those events. 

One person who was responsible for getting all the VIPs placed correctly in the procession approached me.  Somehow, my name was not on his list.   He apologized to me and assured me that I was welcome and that there was a place for me in this VIP section. 

Attending an event with so much military precision, pomp and ceremony was an unusual experience for me.  All the speakers at the ceremonies remembered their fallen colleague in their remarks.  When all the new police officers were introduced and congratulated, the ceremony was over.  Their friends and families joined them.  There was very muted joy in the room.  A ceremony that usually ended with exhuberance and celebration ended differently yesterday.  It was an honour to attend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hospitality as kindness

Last night, I attended a dinner sponsord by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute which is an outreach organization of the Turkish-Canadian community.  I learned a great deal from the formal program but it ran long.  I was one of two non-Turkish Canadians at the table.  One of our table hosts stayed with us until the program was complete.  It was a snowy night and he had a long drive home to Ancaster from downtown Toronto.  I was impressed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words and Power #2

A different group of women were talking about self-image today.  One slender woman is on a new year diet.  Each woman in turn spoke about how negative she feels about her appearance in the mirror.  I am not sure whether women alone are plagued by doubts about their appearance.  Each woman appeared fit and healthy, but seemingly unaware of what a blessing she had.

When a person puts herself down, she is using words to self-attack.  If you are never good enough for yourself, why should anyone else accept you as you are?  On the other hand, if you learn to like yourself and be kind to yourself just the way you are, other people will also feel comfortable in your presence.  Another important benefit is that you learn to accept other people just the way they present themselves too. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Words and power

This morning, I was sitting in the members' lounge at the Y and overheard part of a conversation.  The television set was tuned to a news network which was focused on the shooting of 18 people in Arizona yesterday.  Earlier in the news, there was a long piece about bullying as well.  Some of the viewers in the lounge suggested that other American politicians contributed to this shooting spree because they use gun-related language when describing how their followers should react to a political opponent (get them in your cross-hairs).  Another viewer lamented that this shooting will lead to more pressure for "politically correct language".  Only crazies, she thought, would take the meaning of these "poetic licenced" expressions literally. 

I do not know why the young man chose to shoot 18 people.  It is possible that he was mentally ill.  It is possible that he took a rational course of action based on words he trusted.

I know that words are very powerful.  From the verbal insults that the school bullies cast at their fellow students, to the strident language of policital opponents that are reported very widenly, both by broadcast and by personal devices, words can cause reactions.  Words colour the imagination, suggest what is possible, affirm who is powerful and who is not.  Words can castigate our enemies and glorify our friends beyond reason.

The biblical creation story tells us that the universe was created from nothing but the word.  The only real power that any of us has, is in choosing our words very carefully.  Each of us can uplift or downcast others with just words.  Should we legislate how words should be used?  I am not sure that such a law covering all public speech is even possible.  But each of us can choose to measure our own words beginning with the next words we speak.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A compliment makes my morning.

I was walking out the door, all bundled up against the morning chill.  A woman walking in the door noticed my new pink hat and told me how wonderful it looked on me and brightened up my dark coat.  I had been ready to hunch over as I headed into the wind, but I straightened up and walked out with a confident gait, feeling pretty on that chilly day.  I think that the act of kindness here was to offer a compliment in this brief encounter.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can I get something for you?

We live in a condo downtown.  We bump into our neighbours infrequently.  I know less than a dozen people who live here.  My husband has quite a cold and stayed home from work today.  This afternoon there was a knock on the door.  Our next door neighbour found out that my husband was not feeling well and offered to shop for whatever he needs.  We have not seen her for over one month.  I thought his cough gave it away though the walls.  But she heard about his cold from staff in the building. 

I keep worrying that some day I will not observe an act of kindness and will not have a daily story for this blog.  So far, I have been fortunate.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Distraction as kindness

This morning, I was waiting my turn for an outpatient appointment.  Across the room was a group of 4 people, talking to each other in loud voices about their hospital experiences.  One guy tried to outdo the other.  I tried reading, listening to my ipod and checking my emails to no avail.  A volunteer came into the waiting room, saw me on my own and greeted me.  We had a coffee together and talked about book clubs.  She even found out for me where I was in the line-up.  I relaxed for the rest of the wait.  The check-up was fine.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making others happy

I was leaving a film at the Carlton with a friend.  Two teenage girls were admiring the lobby mural as we, deep in conversation about the film, passed them, .  One asked my friend to take a photo of them in front of the mural.  My friend did take one picture and checked with the girl if it was exactly what she wanted.  The girl saw a resemblance of a character in the mural to Harry Potter.  She requested another photo.  She and her friend posed beside this painted character as if each was holding Harry Potter's hand.  The image worked out well.  The girls took the camera back, admiring the trick photography and my friend smiled at her accomplishment and off we went for tea.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Self-containment as kindness

This morning, I went to the Y, determined to try some different exercises.  I could not find the running track and then I spotted a woman I knew, just standing in the gym.  I asked her where the track entrance was and then I noticed that she had been deep in thought, because my voice startled her.  She smiled at me warmly, told me where to look, and then turned back to her inner thoughts.  She could have been irritated at my interuption but chose to be pleasant instead. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why observe kindness?

Some friends have asked why I chose to look for acts of kindness this year.  I think that cynicism is a constant threat to an open mind and an open heart.  I want to avoid this easy path down to cynical explanations for the way the world works.  I want to be always open in my interpretation of surprises ahead.  Events that are more difficult to experience and/or observe will also occur.  Watching for kindness in others will offer me insight in how to proceed. 

This morning I attended a celebration of the birth of a little girl.  There will many toddlers and their parents at the party.  One mum was obviously tired of chasing around her toddler.  Her sister said something quietly to her  and took up the chase of the engergetic toddler while the mum relaxed for a few minutes and chatted with friends. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Observing Kindness

During 2011, I will be looking for acts of ordinary kindness around me and sharing what I see on this blog. 

This morning, January 1, 2011, at a buffet lunch after services, I watched a woman sit down beside a man with Alzheimer's Disease who was sitting alone.   His wife was at the buffet getting them both some lunch.  The woman had been sitting with a group of lively friends at another table.  She got up when she notices the man alone and stayed to chat until his wife returned.