Monday, December 29, 2014

The kindness of knowing just what you need.

I am fortunate to still have friends from my childhood and teenage years.  In some years we have shared our lives and traveled the same part of the road forward and in other years, we have lost touch with one another for months.  The most prominent feature of a long-standing friendship is the ability to pick up the conversation where you left it so many months ago.

Some of my friends have suffered profound loss in their lives, of parents, spouses, children, their own good health.  But we know each other very well. We try to lend an arm to each other on the journey.  It helps to know what gives your friend pleasure and what frustrates them.  My friends are great observers.

One friend sent me goofy get well cards everyday when I was recovering from major surgery.  I laughed until I was finally better.

Another friend proposed a day of learning drawing outdoors with an artist whom we both admire as a great teacher.  My first effort was just awful.  Had I lost the ability to draw from life?  I just needed a few reminders from the great teacher and I was on my way again.

When my beloved Dad died, one friend remembered with me some of my dad's acts of kindness with others.  I smiled for the rest of the day.

Friends just know how to help.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Chair

I was an outpatient at a very busy physiotherapy clinic.   There were many patients in the room, each attended by a therapist.  An elderly Asian lady was brought into the large room.  Behind her was her elderly husband.  Both appeared to be recent immigrants and did not speak or understand English well.  Clinic staff were directing the husband to wait for his wife outside the treatment space but he did not want to leave.  Finally the staff gave up and left the old man standing near a wall watching his wife's treatment with interest. 

My therapist excused herself and quietly went to another room to get a chair for the old man.  He hesitated and finally with her encouragement he sat down.  The therapist later commented to me that rules can't apply to all persons at all times. She was appropriately sensitive to the old couples' needs. 

Our society is rule-driven to create more efficiency in everything we do: Take a number! Park only here!  Wait in line! Give your message after the beep! Citizens to the right, Foreigners to the left! Raise your hands!  The rules seem to drive so many human interactions that the person gets lost in the cause of efficiency. 

We lose so much when we forget our obligations to each other as people.  The possibility for kindness in these human interactions are diminished by the strict applications of these rules.

Multifaith Leaders Mark Loss

Last month, two soldiers in uniform were killed by men who declared themselves soldiers of Islam.  The Toronto Area Interfaith Council held a memorial service in a beautiful dark church in downtown Toronto.  This was held before the actual funeral of the soldiers and feelings were raw.  None of us knew if another soldier would be targeted in the near future.

We were from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.  We talked and prayed and sang about our feelings to each other.  The temptation to blame other adherents of the faith of the killers was never taken up.  Here in Canada we stress individual guilt rather than group guilt but we knew that blaming the faith group would be tempting in our general society if it happened again.  We are challenged  by these murders because these soldiers were killed because they represented our whole country to the killers.

The loss of these soldiers affected all our communities.  These soldiers represented Canada for us and their loss could affect our sense of safety in our society.

We each mourned the soldiers in the language of our own faith and our common language of English.  We trusted each other.  Mourning together was offering kindness to each other. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stealing Time

I was standing chatting with an acquaintance after breakfast when his cell phone beeped.  He looked down and found a notice from his business security system that someone had tried to enter without the right password.  Instead of rushing off, he told me about an employee, recently fired who stole time.  It had to do with her figuring out how to change the office computer check-in system to show her coming in earlier than she actually did for a few years. It came to light when a colleague suggested to her that she was lazy, not getting the work done so often that this colleague always had to make up for it.  The time stealer got angry and went to this man, her boss, to protest her colleague's "insults".  His investigation into this person's computer records in the office exposed her scheme.

Stealing time started me thinking about giving time as a generous way of kindness that so many people follow.  Many of my friends are volunteers, doing hands-on work like delivering meals on wheels, coaching sports, creating community gardens, or others donate time sitting on charitable boards and advisory committees, or even pausing on a busy day to listen to another person's story. 

I would like to applaud all the volunteers today, both formal and informal givers of the gift of time to all of us who need you. 

By the way, before his story ended, the man received another notice that all was well.  Another employee forgot the new password to the office.  We each continued with our day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting lost and found in Montreal

My husband and I were standing on a street corner in downtown Montreal, looking for the Metro sign which were told would be right there.  We checked our map again.  Snow was swirling all around us and the streets were full of pedestrians doing their Christmas shopping.  One woman, carrying a big, heavy bag, stopped and asked if we needed help.  She assured us that the Metro station was nearby but we would have to descend below street level through a store across the street and turn left, go straight and then diagonal at the food court.  We must have looked uncertain.  And then she offered to walk us to the Metro stop.  She was on her way to a dance that would not begin for a while, she assured us, as she took us across the street, into the store and all the way to the Metro.  And then, she was off to the dance.  I hope she found some dance partners that were worthy of her.

Welcoming Differences

This morning at the gym, I entered the coffee room and was welcomed by a friend who was chatting with an older woman whom I did not know.  My friend introduced us.  We talked about the meanings of our names for a minute and then the woman asked me my name again and its meaning.  I repeated myself and continued chatting with her.  My friend invited us both to look at her photos from her recent holiday.  The photos were spectacular.  Both of us were impressed. I was additionally impressed with the comfort and grace of my friend in conversation with a charming women who could not remember. 

My late mother suffered from Alzheimer's Disease.  I often noticed that when people, even some acquaintances and family members, first realized that my mother's short term memory was faulty, they turned away from her and did not continue to include her in the conversation.  I felt hurt, watching my mother's exclusion. 

It did my heart good to watch acceptance of a person, challenges and all.