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.