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Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

I heard the clickity-clack of Ms Bean’s toes pacing around the bedroom, followed by flashes of lightening and thunder. I had no idea what time it was when Bob’s cell started blaring like an Amber Alert. Then came the sirens. It was 12:45 am.

That night, Bob had gone out to a neighborhood association meeting. I was disgusted with politics – Amy had dropped out, then Pete – and I’d become habituated to the  non-stop storm weather coverage. Tornado watches were nothing new in Nashville. Following all the transplanted, tough northerners, I barely paid attention to the predicted path of what might become a twister.

Instead, I tuned into The Hunters, on Amazon Prime.

Bob usually wakes up fast, but he must have been in a deep sleep cycle because it took his screeching phone to get him up and out of bed and into his office. The TV anchor said, “A tornado has touched down in Nashville, get to your safe space immediately.” And just like that, the darkness enveloped us – lights, TV, street lights were all gone and all we could hear were the sirens. “Get Dressed,” he told me in a way that meant this is an emergency, do what I say, I’m the doctor (for Dr Who fans).

I pulled on a pair of pants under my nightgown, got my robe and went downstairs with Ms Bean nearly attached to my knees. Our only space without windows, since we don’t have a basement, is under the stairs at our game table. I could hear the wind rattling the windows, and the blinds upstairs went whooshing. Bob said he heard a freight train, but all I could hear were the sirens and the windows and the whistling in my ears. As I sat down like I was ready to play a game of backgammon I realized I only had my bedroom slippers on…

So I went to the front door in the dark to find a pair of boots. After all, if we were buried in this house I’d need to be able to walk out to whatever was left. I could hear hail pelting the windows and the doors. And then, just as fast as it started, it was over. Maybe it only lasted a minute or two, and I felt like we were tickled by the tail end of hell. I could hear the emergency alarm from the apartment complex across the street, and the sirens kept blaring for another half hour.

The Bride woke us at 6 am. Were we OK? She wanted to come to us but streets were blocked.

I put some Aussie Bites and iced tea out on our picnic table, people stopped by to tell me their stories. One girl was from Oklahoma and she slept through everything! When we walked Ms Bean that first morning, everyone on the street was in shock. Ms Berdelle’s son Scott was staying with her thank God, so many of her big tress were down. One crushed her friend’s car. All her clerestory dining room windows were broken. Another friend, the girl who loves my chicken soup, wondered if we had a tarp, one of her windows was gone.

Then I turned a corner and debris was everywhere, windows were blown out of fancy, three story condos. It felt like I’d entered a war zone.

Yesterday we were part of a cleanup crew. Pulling mangled pieces of steel off sidewalks, picking up roof tiles and chunks of insulation, sweeping sidewalks. My arthritic knees did about as much bending as they could do. Tears had been close for a long time, our house was fine, we had only lost power along with the rest of the city. But seeing neighbors come together, giving out water, setting up food and charging stations, rolling up their sleeves to help, that’s when it hit me. It’s the kindness that gets me every time.

I still cry now. For the horrible loss of life. For the people whose homes are condemned. For our neighborhood non-profit, Crossroad Pets, a pet store with a purpose. Their building was hit hard. https://crossroadscampus.org/

They take in stray animals for adoption and train local, disadvantaged youth in grooming and general animal care. Many of their employees have aged out of the foster care system, and y’all know I was once a foster child. If anyone is looking to help out with donations, Crossroads could sure use your help.

I want to thank so many of you for reaching out to check on me and the family. The Great Grandparents live 8 miles away and are doing fine. We’re camping with the Bride and Groom until the power comes back. The Bride saw a man with carbon monoxide poisoning, so remember to keep those generators outside if you’re lucky enough to have one. And always look for people helping people.

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Out of the blue, my Little Pumpkin asked me yesterday from his car seat if I knew why he didn’t like Donald Trump. I had to ask him to repeat himself because you know, he talks like a three year old, but as soon as I said, “Why?” (why is one of his favorite words actually), he replied just as clear as a bell,

“Because he’s mean.”

So I prattled on about how Mr T is also a narcissist and a bigot, but still it’s not nice to call people names. The world of adults can be very complex. Teaching a child to be polite at the dinner table for instance, while flossing your teeth would be a No. Talking about politics in the car with a toddler who is just out of diapers for naps, probably not a good idea.

And because there is a wall of kindness in my neighborhood – an art installation meant for people to Instagram their ideas of kindness around the world – I’ve been thinking a lot about morality, and plain basic decency lately. How can we teach children to be ethical when it seems like all bets are off in this post-Trump year. Our Grabber-in Chief leads the pack of men behaving badly.

The Republican Senate candidate from AL is being defended by his good ole boys, quoting the Bible. Hitting on teenaged girls it would seem is acceptable, but for Kevin Spacey, hitting on teenaged boys is not. Isn’t being a pedophile a uni-sex situation, universally condemned? The Catholic Church has finally figured it out. This is the murky field of dreams, or nightmares, we seem to be wading through – thank you Harvey Weinstein…

The Love Bug and I watched the artist, who flew to Nashville from the Twin Cities btw, painting her gorgeous bouquet of flowers on the back wall of a restaurant at twilight. She was sitting high up on scaffolding, like Leonardo with floodlights, when I asked our Kindergardener what kindness meant to her. The Love Big said,

“Letting other people go first.”

Now I must admit, she was always a sensitive child. Whenever I would play a game with her, she would purposely try to let me win. And depending on your point of view, that can be a good trait, or a bad one. But for this old feminist, I thought maybe she needs to get a little more pushy, like her Mama at that age who was leading the pack of bad girls in preschool. I remember always pulling her aside to say, “That (behavior) is hurting your friend’s feelings.” Or, “Think about how you would feel if…” As a grandparent, I realize more and more the pull of nature over nurture.

Maybe it’s time we women went first for a change! Teach our girls to fight hard, with their words and maybe even their fists if need be. To push bullies away, to yell when some boy starts behaving badly.

We swept up so many legislative seats last Tuesday, women of all colors and even a transgender woman, who unseated an incumbent conservative in VA, that I came close to crying. Something I won’t do in public. And in MN, a Black transgender woman won a seat on the City Council. So many Democratic women won, I think because of the Women’s March and the “Trump Effect.” Pink pussy hats and all.

The survey found that 70 percent of Democratic women were “appalled” by Trump’s victory, more than two-thirds were “shocked” by it, and more than half reported feeling “angry” and “depressed.” Nearly three-quarters of Democratic women reported “a sick feeling” when they saw Trump on the news. The women with the most visceral reactions were roughly four times as likely to engage politically after Trump’s victory than they were before it. For Democratic women in New Jersey and Virginia, casting a ballot may have represented yet another way to express their displeasure with Trump. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/09/in-tuesdays-elections-women-won-big-here-are-three-things-we-learned-about-women-and-politics/?utm_term=.e9aaf4695e2b

So yes my Little Pumpkin, Mr T is mean. But his election may have started a revolution, and like Madame Thérèse Defarge, we women are pretty angry and out for revenge after years of patriarchy and white privilege, with our knitting needles and our vote. And no, my sweet grandchildren, revenge isn’t good per se. #Kindness is listening to everyone’s story, #Kindness is Compassion.

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I remember when we moved back to NJ. The kids were little when we attended a new parents night. The elementary school principal spoke about all the wonderful things her school had to offer; while we parents were encouraged to think about outcomes. What did we hope their school would help instill in its students? She made a list on a blackboard; it was a long list. Parents were calling out things to put on the list – creativity, cooperation, academic achievement. This was a school, mind you, where awards for Being Quiet were displayed proudly on one wall. I called out, “What about compassion?”

Silence.

The Love Bug and the Bride are visiting us this week, and I just happened to read an article about teaching kindness.

It’s amazing the subjects that deserve research, how does one raise a successful child? How to raise a happy child! Finally it’s occurred to someone that children need to be taught NOT to always think of themselves first. I’ve noticed with the Bug, who will turn 2 next month, that altruism is there just waiting to be nourished. She noticed my wrapped hand and kissed it immediately. She shares her food willingly. She pets Ms Bean gently.

But I always thought you teach kindness by modeling it yourself. It’s not something you need a worksheet for, it doesn’t need to be drilled into your child. Today I offered the Bride a small gift of time to work out at our sports club. I played with the Bug, while Mama and baby-to-be raised their heart rates a bit. Since it was raining when we arrived, we didn’t swim, but we joined in with a group of children who were at day care and tennis camp. Suddenly a toddler ran into a wall, cutting his eyebrow.

The Bride arrived just in the nick of time, she got to work examining the boy, cleaning his superficial laceration and reassuring his mama that it didn’t need sutures. The Bug saw some of this medical operation, and I’m sure she registered this in her brain. We are the kind of people who help people.

Random acts of kindness might sound good in a curriculum, but I think it’s something we learn before Kindergarten, at our parents knees. Maybe if more of us practiced this concept, we’d be less inclined to wage war, or shoot down planes for instance. Maybe it’s as simple as that?

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Bug rock climber

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There was a wonderful South African musician at the TEDx conference we attended recently. He talked about “Ubuntu” (pronounced “oo-boon-too”) and then he played a song about it; about how it is hard to translate from the Swahili, that it means much more than kindness. It encompasses reconciliation, forgiveness, and compassion. And when I think about it, it is something akin to that indescribable something that makes someone go out of their way for another, to treat a stranger like a family member. Unlike some people who are all about themselves – their needs and desires – a person with the spirit of Ubuntu is connected to humanity, writ large.

On this day when South Africa buries one its greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela who is the personification of Ubuntu, it seems only right to pause and think (or write) about it:

Lately, Bob has had to take my 4-wheel drive CRV to the hospital because of the snow and “wintry mix” weather we’re experiencing. Feeling a bit forlorn encased in ice on our hill,  I was lucky to catch the tail-end of a Morning Joe interview with the daughter of our Secretary of State, Dr Vanessa Kerry. Here is a woman from MA who also practices her life with the Ubuntu spirit.

A practicing physician and new mother, Dr Kerry managed to create a bold new system with the Peace Corps to make physician/provider training in developing countries sustainable. She started Seed Global Health – “..an innovative public-private partnership to place nurses, physicians and other health professionals as adjunct faculty in medical or nursing schools overseas in March 2012.” http://seedglobalhealth.org

Instead of joining a 2 week mission to treat patients in Uganda for instance in your specialty, something she called a “band-aid” in the scheme of things, young doctors can pledge a year of their time training another doctor, who will go on to train 10 more doctors, etc. And the caveat is that her non-profit will help defray the student loans most physicians have accumulated. Absolutely an ingenious idea! Health care in 57 countries suffers from a crucial shortage of approximately 2.4 million doctors , nurses and midwives.

We have a governmental agency in this country that is similar to Seed called the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Instead of training other doctors, these practitioners provide direct care to over 9 million underserved patients in America. I had heard of young physicians working in disadvantaged areas in order to have their debt relieved – mostly primary care practitioners in Native American territories. But their website lists rural clinics in MA, MN and HI as well! https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/index.html

May the spirit of Ubuntu bless us all this holiday season. Let’s not quibble over greetings like Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays, or worry about who’s stealing what celebration from whom. We are all God’s children. And even if you don’t believe in God, just smile and say “Same to You!” My card this year says “Merry Everything” and I mean it.

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And thank you Shutterfly, you rule!

 

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