Appreciating Fragmented Beauty

 

Pink Clouds -sig

 

There’s still good in the world.

 

I see warm breezes

Hear growing grass

Smell blue skies

Feel songs of sparrows

 

Things are not right.

My world is out of alignment. Nothing is as it should be.

It’s difficult to find peace in turmoil, to appreciate the beauty around you when it’s fragmented by ugliness.

The world is broken.

People amaze me, after all these years, with their ability to be unkind. With all the ways they have perfected their unkindness.

 

I will not let this sink me.

Even if the good arrives a bit mixed-up, I will continue to take it in.

Because it is still there.

I have to believe it is still there.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

 

Do you ever wonder if there is any good left in this world? Are you able to find beauty and goodness around you in the midst of a difficult situation?

Philosophy, Families, and Kindness

 

Last week, while reading a history book with my son, we saw a sidebar about Confucius stating that he advocated family loyalty and kindness.

This confused my son. He asked about unkindness within families.

I debated what to say.ThoughtBubble

I don’t put rose-colored glasses on my children. The world is not pink.

However, there is only so much information they need. When one of my boys asks me something, there is a split second where my mind quickly determines how to answer by factoring in his chronological age, his emotional age, and his sensitivity. I go from there.

So, with my 8-yr-old, I simply said, “Some families treat each other badly. They are…not very nice to each other.”

To which he cried and said, “Like if you don’t get a birthday card from your parents? Because that would be awful. Cards are a wish for good things and, I don’t know, it means ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m thinking of you’.”

I stared.

He continued, “So ‘unkind’ like if your father never wrote you a card?”

Yes. Just like that.

Can I bottle this innocent beauty? Just for a few more years…

 

Handwritten Notes

A typical note for my kids.

If, for my son, not ever receiving a handwritten note is what it means for family to be cruel,
I’m not going to correct him. Not right now.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

The Places You’ll Go

 

I just returned from vacation during which I witnessed a lot of ugliness.

With all the talk about compassion saturating the blogosphere, I’m still wondering what world my children will live in. I don’t know if anything has changed. ThoughtBubble

I hope much has changed. I hope people who are compassionate have discovered they are not alone. I hope people who are not compassionate read something that helps them act with more kindness.

When I think of compassion, I think of all living things. Of all parts of the world. Of my friends and family.

And, yes, especially my own children.

Although my thoughts reach across the globe, I live here. With my children. While they are no more or less deserving of compassion than others, they are closer to me in all ways. (Also, I am a mother. Our lot can be a wildly protective one.)

As we celebrate Read Across America today, I look at my children’s copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go. This book describes the world as wonderful and confusing and beautiful and scary. This is all true. But if there is more compassion, I will worry less about what places my children will go.

 

The Places You'll Go

Dr. Seuss Day

 

There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action

 

I am inspired by all the bloggers who posted in support of compassion. It was fascinating to see the different ideas, anecdotes, and topics people wrote about. ThoughtBubble

My #1000speak post, about an experience I had a year ago, reminded me how many times I’ve brought my children to homeless shelters, safehouses, schools, and libraries to donate clothing, toiletries, and books. What, if anything, had they learned from this?

I decided to ask them what compassion meant.

Neither one of them could answer me. They shifted in their seats and looked at the wall and floor with their I-don’t-know-the-answer faces.

Gah! Really? “Think about it.”

My 10-yr-old said, “Uh…love?”

My 8-yr-old said, “Friendship. I think it’s how you feel about a friend.”

Hmm.

I asked them for an example of something compassionate.

My 10-yr-old said, “Helping someone with a math problem if they can’t do it.”

My 8-yr-old answered, “Giving someone a stuffed animal if they’re sick so they feel better.”

They started sharing ideas: donating to homeless shelters, hugging someone if they’re sad, bringing an animal to the vet if it’s hurt…

Both my kids struggled to define the word compassion, but they know how to be compassionate people.

 

Rainbow

You don’t need to be able to define compassion to be compassionate.

 

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

1000 Voices for Compassion

 

Mike greeted me in the parking lot of the homeless shelter. He shook my hand and thanked me for bringing supplies. “If you don’t mind me asking, who was in our house here?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Who stayed here? Your father? Brother?”

“Um…”

“It’s okay,” he smiled, “I was just curious.”

“No, it’s fine. I don’t know anyone who stayed here.”

“Oh.”

We started walking to my car. I’d been donating to other shelters for years but this was my first time at this house and I was thrown off by Mike’s questions. “Am I supposed to have a connection or contact or something? I didn’t know.”

He stopped. “You don’t know anyone who stayed here?”

“I really don’t.” My mom and 7-yr-old were in the car and I glanced toward the overloaded trunk and backseat. “I called ahead…I’m sorry.”

“We don’t,” Mike cleared his throat. “People usually give to the women and children’s houses. The men’s shelter doesn’t get many donations.”

“Well that’s…terrible. I mean it’s good that the other… We donate to shelters and safehouses, too. My mom made cute blankets for the kids…”

I was looking back and forth between Mike and the car, knowing my mother was going to wonder why I was standing in the freezing cold having a visibly uncomfortable conversation.

“May I?” He motioned toward the car.

“Yes. Sure.”

When we reached the car, Mike knocked on my mother’s window. She rolled it down, staring over his shoulder at me. I shrugged.

He introduced himself to her. He told her that she had done a beautiful job raising her children. He thanked my son for coming and asked if he could shake his hand. My son beamed.

“Okay,” Mike straightened up, “what can I help bring in?”

“Oh, um, everything in the trunk,” I picked up some bags of men’s hats, gloves, and scarves while he grabbed a few bags full of clothing. We continued carrying toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap, leaving them in front of the building, while I wrapped my brain around this exchange.

He unlocked the door and dumped the contents of the bags on a long table then spread everything out. “This way, the guys can take what they need when they come in,” he explained.

He picked up some sweatshirts and fleeces, “These are really nice.” He looked at me. “They’re new?” It wasn’t a question, really. The tags were on them and there were a lot of the same size, same color.

“Yes.”

His eyes filled up. He was quiet for a minute. He told me about how many of the men there were veterans. How many men had diabetes and couldn’t get help for it. Then he told me his story.

One about being here—not as staff director, but as a man who needed this place to survive.

“We get donations from men who used to stay here,” he continued, “or wives and kids of those men.” Then he asked me something that, at the time, I couldn’t answer. “Why are you doing this?”

I responded with a ridiculous, “I don’t know” followed up by “I just wanted to help”.

“Well, thank you. Thank you.”

We walked back out to the parking lot in silence.

As I got into the car, my son said, “He was nice. I’m glad we brought those things here.”

I cried.

 

This is what Google has to say about compassion:

com·pas·sion

noun: compassion

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

I disagree. I don’t believe pity has a part in compassion. Concern, yes. Sympathy, yes. Not pity.

Compassion is an emotion that gives one the ability to empathize with another’s situation without having actually been there. Wanting to help someone though you might not be able to relate to what they are going through, is compassion. The proverbial putting yourself in someone else’s shoes creates concern, empathy, sympathy—things that help you understand the pain of another person. Put those shoes on. Walk awhile.

 

Path of Compassion

 

“Bloggers from all over the world are coming together to talk about compassion, in one epic event on February 20, 2015.” Read about #1000 Speak for Compassion. The birth of the project was here at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion by Yvonne Spence. I am honored to be among the thousands of voices blogging for compassion today.

 

1000speak

 

 

My World Revisited

 

The post about My World was difficult to write. It made me feel vulnerable. It also made me wonder why I feel the need to be thankful for people who are not insensitive and unkind to my children.ThoughtBubble

Instead of being grateful for the times people behaved well, I’m grateful for the times people did not behave badly. It seems like the same thing, but the focus is different.

The times when people are not close-minded, rude, indifferent, or mean are so few.

I’ve always tried to change the way things are. Now I question myself. Should I continue to try to educate and enlighten people? Should I try to change the world in some small way? Or should I concentrate my efforts on home and prepare my children to venture out into this world?

I never felt like this was a decision I had to make. I foolishly thought I could do both. Why, now, do I feel like I have to choose?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

My World

 

This year, as always, I am grateful for the big things like the fact that I have a home, food, and clean water. I am grateful for my family and my friends.

And I am grateful for the little things, like chocolate, wine, sushi, and books.

I write this the day before I hit “publish” because I had a different post planned for Thanksgiving. Something like the Yam Sham I wrote last year.

I have to post this instead.

I want to thank:

  • the woman who didn’t glare at my son when her daughter was being loud and my son cringed and covered his ears because he can’t stand loud noises
  • the hairdresser who didn’t become irritated with my son for crying because he was uncomfortable in the chair and afraid she would cut him
  • the hairdresser who didn’t embarrass my (other) son for not recognizing her because he has trouble remembering faces
  • the waitress who didn’t scoff when my son got upset about his burger arriving with a bun because he can’t eat burgers that way (she got him extra fries after taking the bun away)
  • the child at the playground who didn’t laugh at my son when he was stuck at the top of the slide because he was scared but couldn’t figure out how to climb down the ladder
  • the woman at the grocery store who noticed my son’s shifting and fidgeting and flapping and didn’t hesitate before complimenting his patience during the long wait because it’s impossible for him to stand still
  • the man in line at the post office who didn’t ignore my children when one son spelled “antidisestablishmentarianism” and started chatting about atoms and quarks while my other son gave him a detailed weather forecast for the next ten days
  • the dental hygienist who didn’t scowl at my son when he broke down because she was new and he didn’t know her
  • the woman in the waiting room who didn’t roll her eyes when she asked my son what grade he was in and he answered that he was in 2nd but taking an accelerated 5th grade math class at Stanford University because he doesn’t understand that many people think he is bragging or lying
  • the group of boys who played with my son and didn’t mock him for flapping his hands because he was excited
  • the man at Starbucks who didn’t make a big deal that my son’s birthday cookie coupon had expired because my son needed that cookie to be a “special” cookie

Strangers. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. People who have no knowledge of who my children are or what struggles they face. This is how the world should be. And, occasionally, this is how the world is.

I am grateful.

I don’t often say this, but when it comes down to what my world is, it is this:

Walk in the Woods

My Two Boys

This is my world. And if I can believe, even for a day, that the outside world might be kinder, more compassionate, better than I think it is, I will be happy. Because I will know that my two boys might live in a place that will not crush them.

Even as I work to prepare them and help them become stronger, I am terrified of letting them go into this world. I hope that my two boys might live in a place that will show them the kindness that they show others.

These strangers have given me hope. I am grateful.