Recently I shared in a blog a quotation I saw on a poster by the side of the highway;
“In a world in which you can be anything; be kind!”
Jennifer Dukes Lee
Got me smiling
I was out walking on the weekend and crossed a small bridge across a creek. On the handrails of the bridge – often used by cyclists – there was a set of house keys attached by a plastic strap. Obviously they had fallen out of someone’s pocket – and another hiker or cyclist had seen them and then gone to the trouble to attach them to the railing of the bridge in such a way that they were easily seen and still not fall into the water. Only a small thing, but it got me smiling.
On that same walk I and my walking companion were passed by many cyclists and time and time again they thanked us for staying close to the side of the path as they passed by – allowing them more room. But the constant ‘thank you’ as a blur of lycra flashed by got me smiling. In a supermarket the other day I asked one of the workers where the ice cream cones were. He could have replied, “Aisle 5!” and continued on with his shelf stacking but no, “Come this way Sir” and he walked with me to a space right under an almost neon flashing sign that said, “Deserts!” some four aisles away; he got me smiling.
I was once hiking (tramping) Stewart Island to the south of the South Island of New Zealand and arrived at a hut on a cold rainy night about two hours later than planned. I had hiked the last five or six kilometres in the dark wondering if I was lost. Finally I saw the lights of the cabin and I stumbled in soaking wet, cold and hungry but just relieved to have arrived safely. After finally getting into dry and warm clothing I stumbled into the dinning area to be greeted by about eight fellow hikers and one walked over to me and offered me a huge mug of hot chocolate; it really got me smiling! I was visiting my niece today to meet her newly born son. On the doorstep was a small package addressed to the newly born (his first ever article of mail) and inside it was a book, beautifully autographed, sent to the family by a famous Australian poet; it got me smiling.
I know these are silly little examples but IF we look, our lives are full of them.
Last week a friend pointed me to a film clip. It was from Simon Sinek and he was talking about the highest performing organisations and teams on the planet and he referenced the US Navy Seals. Sinek said,
“The Navy Seals are one of the highest performing organisations on the planet. And a former Navy Seal was asked, ‘Who makes it through BUDs, who makes it through the selection process to become a SEAL?’ And he said, ‘I can’t tell you who gets through, who makes it, but I can tell you the kind of people who don’t make it.’ He said, ‘The star college athletes that never have been really tested to the core of their being. None of them make it through. The preening leaders who like to delegate everything, none of them make it through. The big tough guys that come in with huge muscles covered in tattoos and want to prove to everyone how tough they are – none of them make it through. Some of the guys who make it through are skinny and scrawny. Some of the guys who make it through you will see them shivering out of fear. But every single one of them who makes it through when they’re emotionally exhausted, when they’re physically exhausted some way, somehow, they’re able to dig down deep inside themselves, to find the energy to help the person next to them!’ Service, service, giving to another, having their back is what makes the highest performing teams in the world, not their strength and not their intelligence. It’s their willingness to be there for each other.”
Now I have no idea whether Simon Sinek is quoting a real conversation but I do know that what he reflects runs true to my life experience.
Reflect on your last week or two – despite all the anxiety what / who has got you smiling – how and why?
Do you agree with Simon Sinek – it is all about service? What is your experience in this area?
As I have shared in a previous blog I was in Italy when the Covid pandemic really began to kick in. Here I was on the other side of the world far from family and friends and in the midst of one of the pandemic hotspots. It was quite scary. Here was Italy where in the north of the country hundreds of people were dying each day – with their loved ones locked out of the hospitals unable to visit them – people dying alone and with the medical staff and facilities totally overwhelmed.
During this time I was taking part in a Sabbatical and my fellow participants were from all over the world. Sadly, often the topic on the evening news, after the shock and sadness of what was happening just a few hours away from us, was the panic buying of ‘essential’ items in supermarkets in faraway Australia! Not for the first time in my life I was embarrassed to be an Australian. Some of the sabbatical participants were confused thinking that the situation in Australia must be so much worse off than in Italy for there to be such panic buying.
Why? Why would people in one of the world’s richest countries with one of the world’s best health care systems be panic buying toilet paper, pasta, cooking oil and more? Why would Australia over the first weeks of the Covid 19 pandemic get to the point where they would have to put security guards on shopping centres and make special shopping times to ensure that the elderly could get access to what they needed to live?
The pictures of empty supermarket shelves haunted me. I suppose being in the midst of the Italian pandemic – in lockdown – with hundreds dying each day magnified the difference between Italy and my homeland. To this day I remain so grateful for our health care system and relative prosperity of Australia that has meant that our entire number of deaths and total number of infections for the whole of the pandemic period is less than some other nations for one day!
But in the midst of all of this wealth, opportunity and first class health care – why did so much greed and fear rare its head?
My feet of clay
But before I go further, rushing to take any high moral ground – Damien is no angel – no mother Teresa going out on to the streets to work with dying people. I did not give up my plane ticket back to Australia as the pandemic worsened to someone in greater need. Would I have filled my shopping trolley full of toilet paper had I been back home and tasked with the community shopping? Would I have fought over the last bottle of milk on the supermarket shelf? Would I have elbowed the little old lady out of the way as we both reached for the last packet of pasta?
It is so easy to take the high moral ground. But I wonder what is it in we humans that sometimes when faced with fear, with physical threat to life or limb, some descend to animal instinct of ‘kill or be killed – survival of the fittest’ – while others seem to respond with heroic self-sacrifice? I understand that there is that innate drive or need to protect those who are near and dear to us and this would explain some of the motivation to ensure one’s own family did not go without.
I suppose all of this was an invitation to me to reflect more deeply on kindness and generosity. I suppose the word that continues to come back to me is paradox. The paradox is that in giving we receive. The paradox is that those who live by kindness, who are kind, also smile and smile often.
When was the last time you saw a blaming, shaming, fear dispelling, self-centred person who was truly happy and free?
One of the dangers with ‘kindness’ though is that we can be kind to our kind; to our kin and forget everybody else. True kindness knows no boundary of tribe or religion or life story. Kindness grows wide eyes; eyes that see beyond the label the other may be given or choose to wear. Kindness only sees the person. And kindness comes from a free heart that does not need to be thanked or congratulated or noticed. Kindness does not keep score nor is a martyr with a grim face that says, “Look at what I’ve done for you!”
I may be naive but I truly believe that the universe blesses those who are kind. When we trust our heart, when we trust love and this leads to kindness and generous giving I have found that I have never gone without.
So here we are in the midst of Covid 19. Here we are with a high degree of stress and anxiety all around us. Here we are with so many of our brothers and our sisters feeling vulnerable and fearful. Therefore here we are with the perfect opportunity and time for kindness. But let’s not complicate this. It is not rocket science! Kindness is so very simple.
The power of kindness is in the message it gives without saying a word. So;
When we do a small task for another or with another – message – I value you!
When we write that letter or email, give a gift of flowers or some home-made jam – message – I appreciate you
When we pick up the phone and call, visit or remember in the midst of busyness – message – You are special
When we sit with, walk with – in silence or in chat – message – I want to waste time with you
When we laugh with, play silly games, set out on adventures however simple – message – I enjoy your company
When we just are with people and they know – deep within them that we enjoy their company – message – You make my life richer
When we don’t dump in anger, don’t see the petty selfishness and allow and accept the foibles of another – message – I, like you, am far from perfect
When we remember their pain, walk with them in their fear, share our fear and feet of clay and face adversity together – message – You are not alone
We are all in this together – and I am beside you
The sun will come up tomorrow – the dawn follows the night, the calm follows the storm.
Yes, our Covid Kindness will sow seeds of hope, focus our hearts on the positive and find meaning in the sorrow. From our Covid Kindness we individually and we collectively will emerge stronger and wiser. The kind and reflective heart will mull over the lessons of Covid and sow seeds that will truly gift future generations with a better world for all.
Self-Kindness and Earth Kindness
Each morning after our community sacred sit and song I turn over our compost bin before breakfast. I check on the garden, notice a new shoot on the newly pruned roses, and notice a new strawberry flower and which paw paws are showing signs of ripening. All of this is my little way of beginning my day with kindness; self-kindness & earth kindness! From this space hopefully my heart will change so that naturally, like breathing, I will find myself being kind to the other, kind to the stranger – kind to the life I have been granted the privilege of sharing for another sacred day.
And will I fail? Sure, often and almost always – and I then will hopefully smile a kind smile, an ‘oh well’ shrug of the shoulders and laugh with the adventure of being alive in this most precious time of wisdom. And remember what Sinek said,
Service, service, giving to another, having their back is what makes the highest performing teams in the world, not their strength and not their intelligence. It’s their willingness to be there for each other.
In the midst of Covid let’s be there for each other and for the only Earth we have!