thinking again about kindness

Today a stranger asked to borrow my mobile phone so he could make a quick call. I said no. I have very few calling minutes on my mobile plan, and they are reserved for emergencies. I would have ended up paying for his call, and he did not tell me its purpose so I could judge if I was willing to pay or not.

(I did say he could text if he wanted, but he didn't want that.) He went off and found another phone to use, presumably to organise a lift as someone soon appeared in a car to collect him. I was very glad he'd got his needs met. But for a long time afterwards I thought about the complications of kindness. It would have been nice of me to help the stranger (and if he had been in an emergency, I would have not hesitated.) But it was also nice of me to care for myself and any future need my family might have for me.

Later at home, I had a conversation with a friend about women changing their names. This subject often arises in my life. I suspect that's because it's important to many women. I believe very strongly that a person should be allowed to name themselves whatever feels right for them, at whatever age. I know women who have changed their names, and the only time they have met disapproval, it's the disapproving person who has seemed unsocial and strange.

What do names have to do with strangers borrowing mobile phones, not to mention a photo of my hair? Well, they all speak to the thoughts I've had today about kindness.

I am of course not so wise as the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders who advocate kindness above all else. But my encounter with the stranger started me wondering if kindness was always possible - if it was infact complicated, like everything else in life. Often, being kind to one person can cost another. It can even be unhelpful to the recipient.

I wonder if maybe open-heartedness to all works better for me. When we open our hearts to others, we aren't just being kind in principle, we are relating directly with them as individuals, and taking in their actual needs. Maybe they do indeed need kindness - or truth, or even an antagonist.

Today, I was open-hearted to myself when I put my needs above those of a stranger. (He was not bereft : we were surrounded by shops, and I suppose he went into one to use their landline.)

Anyone changing their name has opened their heart to themselves, and is singing a little song from that beautiful, authentic place. How can anyone refuse to hear them?

As for the photograph ... I do not like taking pictures of myself. So every now and again I sit in some lovely light and photograph pieces of me that I do like. Sure, you can't see in that photograph what I look like. You can't see my face, my little rimless spectacles, my infrequent freckles. But you are seeing what my spirit looks like.

We don't have to show every bit of ourselves ... give everything we have ... do as we're asked or be what we're named ... to be good and to welcome other people in. We don't even have to be kind - just willing to open ourselves to all the shapes and songs of love.

(And here, two profound, womanly songs from Kate Bush : This Woman's Work and Lily.)

1 comment:

  1. Your posts all have such a beautiful, calming effect. Thank you for sharing this gift of yours.s