Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song聽“Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily聽walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal,聽Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Kindness Week Day 2: Be Nice to the Meanies

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to a person who isn’t so kind to you. I’m referring here to someone you see or interact with regularly–the acquaintance who always finds something snarky to say about you, your hair, your clothes, your goals. The coworker who works to criticize you, invalidate every word you speak or ignore your presence.

I know. I know. It’s so much easier to pay “evil for evil,” but think about what that does to your character and soul.

People’s meanness comes from a wounded place inside them. For some, it’s easier to strike out and hurt others than it is to deal with their inner demons. 聽In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz counsels us, “Don’t take anything personally.” It’s the second agreement and one I embrace wholeheartedly. Very little of what others do is because of us. As Tarshia, one of my besties, puts it, “It’s not me. It’s them.” 馃榾

Bad behavior toward us can’t be justified, but how we respond can make a world of difference.

Like bullies, mean people need someone to stand up to them–not someone big and bad who can match them hit for hit, but someone who can hit them with nice. Think of it in terms of the phrase we’re all familiar with–“kill them with kindness.” Of course, we’re not literally harming anyone, but we’re killing the meanness, healing the hurt, or undoing the wiring that makes them behave terribly toward others.

This doesn’t always work, but at least聽your kindness will disarm them and you’ll get to walk away–hands clean and character intact–without the icky residuals of stooping to their level. 聽At most, you’ll change a heart and gain an amiable relationship, if not a friend. Besides, kindness always takes the high road, and you can always feel good about that.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you run out and buy the big meanie a cup of coffee or curry favor in any way. I mean, respond to the slights聽with kindness–forgo the quick retorts, eye rolling, or backbiting. When the person who seems to be out to get you strikes, strike back in the most unexpected way–with kindness. You know what to do.

If you’re just joining “Kindness Week,” be sure to start with Day 1.

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Note about the postcard: Becky aka Dragongirl on swap-bot 聽sent the postcard for a swap in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018. It was purchased from postcardfair.com.

Until tomorrow…

Postcard from Raven: Boston’s Historic Freedom Trail

My [now former] student Raven sent me a postcard! I can’t tell how much it brightened my day!

Recently liberated from college (Bachelor of Arts in English, of course), this sweet, quiet soul has stepped out and is making her way in the world. First stop, Boston.

“The Freedom Trail in Historical Boston.” Photos by Jonathan Klein and Alan Klein.

Raven mused about how coincidental it was for her to write to me on a postcard referencing freedom:

Here I am in Boston, independent, in my own skin, making my own decisions, in my own time. His time. [Christ’s] sacrifice freed me to be who I am. And where I am has much to do, also, with who I met. You.

Isn’t she sweet?

Thanks, Raven. You made a聽really聽challenging day tolerable. Hugs, Ladybug!

Note:聽The postcard features: Old South Meeting House, Old State House, King’s Chapel, State Capitol, Old North Church, and Paul Revere Statue (top); Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s House (center); Old Corner Bookstore, U.S.S. Constitution, Old Granary Burying Ground, Park Street Church, and Bunker Hill Monument (bottom).

Happy Weekend, Y’all!

Nelson Mandela: Humility and Service

Statement from the dock at the Rivonia Trial, 1964

The quote above comes from Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela’s statement, “I Am Prepared to Die,” delivered from the dock at the opening of the defense case in the Rivonia Trial, 1964. You can find more about the speech and read it in its entirety by clicking the title above.

My Tk sent the postcard from South Africa early this month. It arrived, all alone, earlier this week when I needed to see those words as well as the words she wrote on the back–“Thank you for your contribution to my life.”

Lately, I’ve been a little discouraged as I watch people revise agendas to serve their own, or stomp all over others as they attempt to advance themselves in one way or another. Through his life and work, Mandela proved that so much more can be accomplished through humility and service. Had Mandela and others like him served to please themselves alone, South Africa would still be in the grips of apartheid.

I’m grateful for his model. For his humility. For his service.

Time to Make Art!

It’s almost time for Louise Gale’s next Global heART Exchange, so get your paintbrushes, distress inks, watercolors, and/or camera ready!

I last participated in the swap in February. I think there was an April swap, but I had too much going on to participate. I received three cards from the February swap, and they’ve been craving some attention:

“Sun Flower,” by Lucile

Lucine, of the Netherlands, re-purposed a postcard and doodled me a sunny postcard. 聽If you look closely, you can see the design of the postcard beneath the white paint. It adds a little something to the doodles. Doesn’t it?

“You Are Enough.” Made by Maria R.

“You Are Enough” comes from Maria R. of Richmond, New Hampshire. She made the card with watercolor and cutouts. Her message on the back solidifies the theme illustrated on the front:

Write your own story! Love yourself!

Jackqulynn W. of 聽Columbia Falls, Montana cloaked her postcard in an envelope that was almost as beautiful as the contents inside:

Envelope Front, Made by Jackqulynn W.

Envelope Back, Made by Jackqulynn W.

You really have to see the card in person for the full impact of its beauty.

“Heartful.” Made by Jackqulynn W.

Jackqulynn included a quote she found on the Facebook page, Butterflies and Pebbles–something to keep in my heart:

Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today. You matter. You are loved. Your laughter is a beautiful thing. And your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

The theme, as you’ve guessed by now, was “love.” 聽I’m thrilled that even though none of the senders had a clue about who I am or what I like, they all sent favorites–sunflowers, typewriters, hearts, words, and music.

The signup deadline for the next heART exchange is May 27, so step out of your comfort zone, be a kid again–as my colleague suggests–get messy, make something, and show it off!

Here’s the link: Global heART Swap.

 

Plut么t la Vie: Choose Life Instead

I heard from Courtney, one of my wonderful students. She is studying in France the 2018-19 academic year, and we promised we’d write to each other months ago! 聽According to her note, she sent two postcards at the same time–the one below was actually number two, written four months after the first. (I haven’t laid eyes on the first one yet). I’m so excited to hear from her and know that she is well.

Here’s the image that evokes many words:

脡douard Boubat (1923-1999), Paris, May 1968

This postcard was the last one of its kind on the rack and the “perfect reminder” to Courtney of me. If she were here, we’d have a long, long conversation about the postcard–the photography, the words, the poem written by French聽Surrealist聽poet/novelist/theorist聽Andr茅 Breton聽that inspired the street art turned fine art by French photographer聽脡douard Boubat.

I asked Louise, my French blogging/penfriend, about the meaning of the phrase, Plut么t la vie. I was suspicious of the “rough” translation, “rather life.” Louise translated the phrase, “Choose life instead.” As with translation, typically, I’m pretty sure there’s still some nuance (in meaning) 聽that can’t be transferred with the substitution of one word for another. We can get pretty close, but we don’t always hit the mark.

It seems almost unfair to share the art without the poem, so here it is:

Plut么t la Vie: Choose Life Instead
Andr茅 Breton

Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer
Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame
Instead of these overripe stones
Choose this heart with its safety catch
Instead of that murmuring pool
And that white fabric singing in the air and the earth at the same time
Instead of that marriage blessing joining my forehead to total vanity鈥檚
Choose life

Choose life with its conspiratorial sheets
Its scars from escapes
Choose life choose that rose window on my tomb
The life of being here nothing but being here
Where one voice says Are you there where another answers Are you there
I鈥檓 hardly here at all alas
And even when we might be making fun of what we kill
Choose life

Choose life choose life venerable Childhood
The ribbon coming out of a fakir
Resembles the playground slide of the world
Though the sun is only a shipwreck
Insofar as a woman鈥檚 body resembles it
You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory
Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand
Choose life

Choose life with its waiting rooms
When you know you鈥檒l never be shown in
Choose life instead of those health spas
Where you鈥檙e served by drudges
Choose life unfavorable and long
When the books close again here on less gentle shelves
And when over there the weather would be better than better it would be free yes
Choose life

Choose life as the pit of scorn
With that head beautiful enough
Like the antidote to that perfection it summons and it fears
Life the makeup on God鈥檚 face
Life like a virgin passport
A little town like Pont-谩-Mousson
And since everything鈥檚 already been said
Choose life instead

Of course, the poem deserves a more in-depth reading, but on first glance, Breton seems to call on us to see “life” and beauty in the commonplace, in the mundane, and the unexpected, to live a life beyond the dictates and definitions of society, and accept pain as a beautiful inevitability.

Boubat’s photograph masterfully captures the intention of the poem.

Plut么t la vie

I Need the Ocean Because…Mondays are Exhausting

“Ripples of Blessings,” Postcard made by Trang K.

Thalassophile (n.) a lover of the sea; someone who loves the sea, the ocean.

Mondays are exhausting, so I thought you–like me–might need the calming blues and purples of the sea. The lovely postcard above was made especially for me by the personalized postcard queen–Trang K. She blesses so many with her art from the heart.

Trang sent these “ripples of blessings” 聽to make me “smile and bring peace.” She has an uncanny knack for knowing what a person needs and getting it to them at the right time–and at this moment, I can use the calming vibes of an ocean, river, lake, or stream. Of course, that’s not feasible, so I’ll accept the ocean in the card.

Thanks, Trang!

[Note: the scan does no justice to this postcard].