Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Kindness Matters. Period.

We wrap up our seven days of kindness posts with the postcard I crafted for Louise Gale’s Global heART Swap.  And we end where we began.

Kindness matters.

“Kindness Matters. Period.”

However, Jewel’s song was not the inspiration for the postcard. Instead, I was inspired by the many, many expressions of kindess I’ve witnessed either directly or indirectly and the powerful impact(s) they have made.

Many of us are familiar with the Ian McClaren’s quote (often attributed to Plato), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We read this so much that it has descended into the realm of cliche. We no longer “hear” the import of the words, but the reality is that most, if not all, of us are coping with something tragic, challenging, or traumatic.

We convince ourselves that we can do nothing to help, that our small efforts don’t and won’t make much difference, but they really do and will. Our acts of kindness may change someone’s mood from desperate to hopeful and may even make the difference between life and death.

So…

Extend a little kindness in whatever form it needs to take for the situation–smile at strangers, wish someone a nice day, drive with courtesy, pay it forward, forgive, agree to disagree, or walk away. During the particular interaction with you–no matter how brief–an individual may be dealing with something that is much heavier, much more trying, so give that person a momentary break from his or her madness.

Kindness matters. Period.

Just in case you’ve missed any of the earlier posts, they’re listed below for your convenience.

Have a kind week!

Give It Like You Get It

Yesterday, I opened the Bible app and discovered that the “Verse of the Day” focused on kindness. Spirit and Light underscored the many messages about kindness expressed in the postcards I received for the latest round of the Global HeART Exchange.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.  –Luke 6:35-36 MSG

The verses not only teach us about how to interact with everyone, including those who don’t love us, but they also promise us we will not regret our kindnesses–ever.

“With Kindness” by Lisa C.

Do all things with kindness…

Today’s “kindness” postcard features an altered photograph of daisies created by Lisa C., a postcard pal I met via Liberate Your Art 2017. Lisa’s note captures the lesson of Luke.  Do all things with kindness, that is generously and graciously, with compassion–the way God deals with us.

Our heavenly Father showers us with compassion, even when we are at our worst, even when we behave more like His enemies than His children. He is enamored with us, absolutely loves us beyond our earthly understanding. As the beneficiaries of such compassion and deep love, how can we treat anyone unkindly?

The natural result of His kindness toward us should be an overflow of kindness to others–friend and foe alike.

Throw It Like Confetti!

There’s something about confetti that makes us all happy, giddy even. The laughter is infectious and we spread it around without even thinking about it.  That’s how we should practice kindness.

Today’s post features a kindness postcard crafted by a “newish” penfriend, Connie F. of South Carolina.

“Confetti” by Connie F.

“Throw kindness around like confetti.”

I giggled with glee when I retrieved this postcard from my post office box. The confetti is so cheering!  Notice the purple and pink flying hearts? Connie sees hearts everywhere (there’s proof in her Instagram feed). And though she says the inspiration for the winged hearts was the line from Jewel’s “Hands” (see Monday’s post), the hearts carry another message: When we freely exercise kindness, we are giving love wings and tossing it “like confetti” throughout the world.

Isn’t that what kindness is all about?

Be sure to throw some kindness around this weekend. Your small part has exponential potential to heal the world.

Guard Well That Treasure, Kindness…

Many years ago one of my good friends warned me that I was too kind and admitted that she was worried people would abuse my kindness and that would forever change me.  Though I thought this would never happen, I recalled her statement more than a decade later when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person I saw. A light was missing. The spark had dimmed.  The unkindness of others had taken a toll on my spirit and was beginning to affect how I interacted with everyone.

That moment in the mirror was a wake-up call.

I had an acquaintance who operated from the belief that few could be trusted and it was “better to get them before they get you.”  Even when she could plainly see (and admitted so) that she was wrong about a person’s motives, she found it difficult to change her approach. She was always in self-protective mode, and it was clear (to me, at least) that her defensiveness and abrasiveness were the result of people’s taking advantage of her kindness.

I did not want to become this person.  I did not want to assume the worst before I expected the best. I wanted (to continue) to treat people with kindness.

Today’s kindness card, designed by Cricket, reminded me of my mirror experience and underscored the lesson I learned in “guarding kindness.”

Cricket, who designs simple and elegant cards, posted a “sneak peek” of the card on Facebook, and I admired the card before I knew it was on its way to me. The bright green and the red hearts in place of fingernails were visually appealing, but I loved the words which were typed on the card using a vintage typewriter.

“Guard Well…” by Cricket

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.  –George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant, née Dupin)

Kindness is a treasure that should be protected–given without hesitation and with no regrets. It is indeed a gift that changes the giver, even if it doesn’t change the receiver. But kindness doesn’t mean answering “yes” to every request or becoming a doormat.  As I suggested in an earlier post, one can be compassionate while saying “no,” and kindness shouldn’t cost anything.

Sometimes, people have other motives. Sometimes, people are mean. Sometimes, people are so wounded from past experiences that they know of no other way than to take advantage or hurt others.

Their behavior should not determine how we treat them, but we must learn there is kindness in walking away.

“Do Your Random Acts…”

For Lorelei, December 31, 1954 – June 15, 2017

Today, Lorelei C., one of my postcard pals was laid to rest. She was a kind soul who generously and randomly sent postcards that would arrive just when I needed a pick-me-up. Tributes on her Facebook page and the Love Notes page reveal that everyone had that experience with her.

Just hours before her passing, one of her daughters urged us all via a FB post, “Do your random acts of kindness. She loves that stuff.” I can think of no better way to honor her memory than by doing just that.

***   ***   ***

Today’s Global HeART kindness postcard features minimalist art by Christine B., the person who introduced me to the Global Art Exchange, the Love Notes community, and (indirectly) to Lorelei.  Christine sends dozens of “random” postcards every week; she clearly exemplifies “random acts of kindness.”

“Kindness,” by Christine B.

On the back of the postcard, Christine penned:

It is just too simple–be kind!

Her placing cutouts of the letters that form the word “kindness” against a plain white background makes her intent is clear. Kindness, plain and simple, is where we should place our focus in our daily interactions.

The card seems to encourage us to do our acts of kindness–without noise, without distraction, without motive or promise of reward, acknowledgement or applause. And sometimes, as Christine points out in her note, the kindness may be in “one word [that] can change someone’s entire day.”

She ends the card with the admonition:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.  –Dalai Lama

Mere days before her passing, Lorelei was still sending postcards. “It is always possible.”

Be Kind to You!

Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others. –Lama Yeshe

Today’s kindness postcard features a mixed media piece by Colette K. of Pennsylvania.

“Count Yourself In” by Colette K.

Colette sent her artwork with a piece of advice worth heeding:

Next time, when you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count yourself in.

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.

If you’re looking for some ideas, Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself.

You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest:  Take Care!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out yesterday’s post: Be Kind.

Until tomorrow…

Be Kind.

The last few days have been more unkind than usual as we’ve navigated one disappointment and heartbreak after another each time we listened to national and international news, read an article, or skimmed social media posts. Louise Gale’s choice of theme for the latest Global HeART Exchange–kindness–was almost prophetic, as if she knew that the chaos and madness of the world would need to be softened during these first few weeks of summer with kindness winging its way throughout the world.

Although I missed the signup deadline for the art swap, Louise kindly pointed me to others who would be interested in swapping postcards with me–two who also missed the deadline and one other who made extra cards. I also received kindness from faithful penfriends.

Instead of sharing all the postcards I received in one post, I’m going to “spread” the cards  (including my own) throughout the week, a small effort to “sprinkle a little kindness” every day.

Today’s post features a postcard created by Carolyn H., an artist and yoga instructor who hails from Ohio.

“Be Kind” By Care H.

Care’s mixed media postcard was inspired by the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Hands” and included a quote from the song:

In the end only kindness matters.

I encourage you to take a moment and listen to this song. Its message is timely, one many of us need to hear today.

May your week, in Care’s words, “sparkle with art and kindness.”

There Came a Wind: An Artist’s Interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 1593

As usual during summer break, I’ve been taking some time to declutter our home. In one day, I cleared several crates of stuff and found a number of treasures. One such treasure was a beautiful piece of art one of my students completed many, many, many years ago for a literature class.

Response to Emily Dickinson, Poem 1593 by Z. Lott

Students typically have difficulty reading poetry. Gasp! I’m convinced they create a mental block when they hear the word “poetry.” To decrease the pressure and to help them realize their capacity for understanding and interpreting poetry, I have students craft a creative response to a poem.  Students can write another poem, compose a song, create an art piece, etc. in response to a poetic work (from a list of “approved” poems). Through the exercise, students typically learn they understand more than they think and develop confidence to complete the other poetry assignments.

My student chose Poem 1593 by Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.

There came a Wind like a Bugle –
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost –
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived – that Day –
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

The picture does the visual work of the poem. Do you see it?

I like the message of Dickinson’s poem. Whether literal or figurative, storms come. Storms wreak havoc and destruction. Storms go. The world remains. Life is righted again…eventually.

Exactly (almost) three years ago, I “discovered” another student’s artistic rendering of a poem and blogged about it. You can see it here: “The Lamb, The Tyger, and the Lion.”

Enjoy!

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?