Sunday, November 23, 2008

Loving Kindness

Although the holidays can sometimes bring up a lot of old emotional stuff for me (those of you who have experienced loss in your families can relate), I love to see the tremendous generosity that abounds from the human spirit this time of year

At the same time, seeing all the piles of presents and the outpouring of financial and volunteer help that we offer to the homeless and the impoverished mainly around Christmas time, has always made me a little sad.

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of an overscheduled week, I ran out to grab some Thai food from a restaurant around the corner, while my husband put our very tired six-year old to bed. We were hoping to carve out a little downtime together over Pad Thai and cold beers and catch up on all the events of our particularly stressful week.

As I pulled into the parking lot in the restaurant thinking “how quickly can I get in and out of here?” I saw a twenty-something bedraggled looking guy—who was probably homeless--sitting on the curb with his dog.

My immediate thought was, “please don’t stop me while I’m coming in or out of the restaurant, I really need to get home to kiss my son goodnight so I can have some time to relax. I’m exhausted.”

I picked up our to-go order and made a beeline for my car which was parked about 5 feet from where he was standing. As I exited, a woman and her 8 or 9-year old son walked out in front of me and began to initiate a conversation with the young man. The mother offered her son’s dinner to the guy—she said her son had eaten earlier and wasn’t hungry and had not even touched the food. And, then she insisted on going back in the restaurant to get the guy some plastic utensils, a napkin and water for his dog.

My physical reaction to this little life lesson was so strong, my eyes were flooded with tears and I could feel a small ache in my heart.

There are a lot of HOPOS out there (how my dear friend Margaret Keys loving refers to those of us who are deeply fed by “helping other people out”). And, I deeply believe it’s the responsibility of all of us to do all we can to bring more compassion and kindness to our communities and to the planet.

Like many, I try to be a catalyst and a volunteer whenever I can for small and large-scale community service work. (I was fortunate to have been raised in a family where giving to and helping others was just part of the everyday experience of living.) And, I know I do make a difference in many people’s lives.

But this recent experience—and the timing of it—hit me hard, reminding me that there are opportunities every day to serve and support one another, whether that’s the homeless guy on the corner, the sad looking teenager checking me out at the grocery store, the lonely mom I see in the afternoon when I pick up my son after school. or my own child who is in disequilibrium.

And, that generosity and loving kindness towards one another doesn’t have to be limited to a specific time of the year.

SUGGESTION: If you’re in the Central Texas area, a great web site to learn about year-around volunteer activities is Hands on Central Texas: And, the charity that our Personal Renewal Group program supports, Girls Empowerment Network Austin, is an amazing nonprofit that always needs volunteers and financial support to run their highly acclaimed self-esteem/empowerment program for young girls.

IMAGE: This painting is from the amazing artist Judy Paul. Check out more of her work on the East Austin Studio Tour Nov. 22-23. I took my son on this yesterday with friends and he loved it.

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