K261: Kindness

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind”. ~ Henry James

A critique by a British author a couple of weeks ago stated, “So much of it, in the vast morass of ‘reality TV’, is about engineering situations where people will be rude to each other. “ And what seems to follow is that it becomes a habitual to view things from the vantage point of what is different, opposition, us and them, tit-for- tat , blame and disrespect.

Meanwhile, what’s universally shared gets ignored. All we have in common that is valued is overlooked. It’s like TV producers, political pundits, hate radio hosts and corporate marketers are constantly poking us (in our emotional bodies) to keep us at odds and rude. More importantly, it divides us. We are less resilient when we are fractured, alone.

Sometimes it is better to just act with civility even when we aren’t feeling it. Because being rude and cruel to each other doesn’t benefit us in any way. And this vulnerability to manipulation is creepy.

Of course openly dealing with issues up front and directly beats backbiting. Okay, sometimes we don’t get this right. *sigh*

Even so, we need each other more than in any time in generations, if we are to survive. It matters that we show each other respect. It is practical—besides being right.
This was the lead article in the community newsletter I just distributed in the park this week. I used the concept and opening sentence from Why Civility Matters [. . .] I am still in awe this early afternoon at what I witnessed last night in my neighbors' kindnesses.

First of all, we had a party to welcome back a neighbor who was in New York all summer and just got back. We were also celebrating the Autumnal Equinox. Last weekend I’d asked one woman, a really gregarious registered nurse, to collect money for food and she zoomed around and collected almost $200 in just a couple days. Astonishing.

Then we had three people shop, cook and set up most of yesterday. Very exhausting. And a bunch of us made things to bring (that will be another post) to the party. Now, this is all pretty standard for any group get together. There are several event planner types and the ball gets rolling.

What really touched me and impressed me last night was a remarkable atmosphere of good will. A couple of neighbors who have lived here 16 years, who had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary came and we toasted them – because they are leaving. Their son wants them to live closer to his home, 22 miles from here. Very heartwarming. And, the woman who bought their place came to the party with a friend. They joined in and I was impressed with the way they were made to feel welcome.

Another couple of times during the party I had two different neighbors suggest making a plate for people who didn’t make it to the party. One older Mexican couple was apparently embarrassed about having not donated. They were really surprised when their neighbor (who speaks Spanish) followed through with her own suggestion and took them food. BTW, she had injured her foot so she hobbled over with the help of a cane loaned by one kind guy and on the arm of another kind guy. It was contagious, this kindness. It feels like I am just being gratuitous, but I need to also add that this woman got another Spanish speaking neighbor to the party by persuasion.

The R.N. not only gathered money, set up tables, invited the new tenant and her guest – she ran home and brought paper plates. She knew I was the one pushing the neighbors to bring their own plate and fork, so I continued to harass her. She also made a plate and took it to my closest neighbor who had contributed to the party, but just wasn’t into the crowd scene. In fact this nurse and another neighbor checked twice at this home. Heartwarming. And yes, another spontaneous gesture very late in the evening was bumping into our Mexican family and convincing them to come, despite Mom being so shy. Her teenage son translates and it grows easier.

This Autumnal Equinox gathering brought out half of the community (a new record), a victory with the Spanish-speaking family (one of our main goals) coming, every single bite of food was eaten, courtesy and goodwill prevailed and the conversation was varied, lively and engaging (and in two languages). The weather was perfect and the firelight under the stars was magical.

Even so, the night took a frightening turn when one of the primary event planners, a man who'd shopped all day and cooked the chicken and grilled eggplant all evening had a fall. He had gone into his home adjacent to the picnic area and had a misstep that sent him flying into a door frame shoulder first. He laid there screaming out to us all. It took at least 10 minutes (he thinks) for someone to respond. But, then our true heroes stepped up. The RN was there immediately stopping the blood flow from his face cuts where he’d hit a glass pane and broken it with his head in the fall. Two men, one a former fire fighter / marine and another who is inarguably the most thoughtful guy in the whole park. Between these 3 they stabilized a broken shoulder, staunched the flow of blood and got this man to the VA hospital for further treatment.

I just got a call from him this morning and he sounds good despite a broken arm bone. He filled me in about his no-work, his canceled clients for his second job (catering meals) and the kinds of medication he was given. Apparently he'll need an operation this next week. He said the hero nurse returned this morning to wash all his dishes, to give him a sponge bath and to help him into clean clothes. She even fixed the butterfly bandage on his nose. He is so overwhelmed with the outpouring of everyone on his behalf.

This is what I envision as community. I am awed. Next to the generosity lavished by my neighbors, I feel I am dragging my feet. There is much to do. And as my last post stated in the Brian Eno quote,
. . . The dream becomes an invisible force which pulls us forward. By this process it begins to come true. The act of imagining somehow makes it real . . . And what is possible in art becomes thinkable in life”.

Consolation, Joe Rosenthal

Joe Rosenthal's art, the human figure is presented with impressive weight. The solid rounded shapes of Consolation display a substantial inner fortitude, what some critics have called "enduring universal toughness." The artist does not portray the human form as fragile or teetering on the edge of collapse. Instead, Rosenthal's heavy sculpture seems able to hold its own ground against the chaos of conflicting forces.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. Your words of expression, the pictures used for visualization, and the quote at the end by Brian Eno wrap the whole post up in a beautiful bow. What a package of kindness to share! It gave me goose bumps. This is the style of writing and expression we need more of on the internet, reminding mankind what it really means to be kind, and how simple it can be carried out in random acts as we interact with each other moment by moment. To have such love and kindness as this community has is very powerful! Imagine every community like this the world over and it will become real. Thank you for your blogging and energy.

katecontinued said...

I appreciate you letting me know what this means to you. What more could I ask of a reader?