Time of Reflection: Kindness

Big Cypress National Preserve, Loop Road, Florida

Big Cypress National Preserve, Loop Road, Florida

I started this series of self-reflections at the beginning of Lent – the time in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter. I am structuring my reflection on the Fruit of the Spirit: Love Peace Joy Patience Goodness Faithfulness Gentleness Self-Control… and this post on Kindness.

garden mist 004

My motivation was somewhat foggy, in the beginning, but I seem to be discovering my underlying need as I proceed on my journey. I will pass over the threshold into my 8th decade in August. The something-0 birthdays, like 70, usually get me thinking about what I want to do with my life as I become a decade older, like the next decade after 69. More than the other shifts to previous decades, I seem to be thinking about what I want to be like instead of what I want to do in the future. I believe I started down this path of reflection as a way to define the kind of person I want to be, that is pleasing to God, as I transition into old age.

I found a definition of kindness: being friendly, generous, and considerate. As a child I wanted to be kind and good, but I was born an introvert and introverts have a hard time with friendly. At school I always felt like I was on the edge of the “friend’s circle” – by choice. As a young adult I was told several times that people thought I was arrogant, when they first met me, but once they got to know me I was really friendly.

Great Egret nesting. Venice Rookery, Florida

Great Egret nesting. Venice Rookery, Florida

A few years ago I decided I needed to be more friendly. I set the goal of learning how to do small talk – by forcing myself to talk with people when waiting in line at Polly’s, our local grocery. It worked; I actually enjoy these shared smiles, comments, laughter. Maybe this can be my gift of kindness to people who are in mind-numbing jobs, or whose work involves being harassed and berated, or who are detached because of the stress of a too-busy day. Maybe kindness is acknowledging all those invisible people I encounter as I move through my world.

The considerate part of kindness seems a lot like “playing nice.” The sentence I wanted to write next involved pointing fingers at all of you who don’t play nice; but probably anyone who reads my blog is nice. But consideration does seem to be a two-way street. I have had a hard time being assertive with people who are not considerate of me, when I feel like I’m doing all the giving. I even had a student, on a course evaluation, tell me to stop being so nice.

This is about the kindness in relationships, about the give and take that is needed. J & I weren’t always considerate of each other – especially when maintaining our relationship and keeping our household afloat required a whole lot more giving than taking. As I look back, it seems like we became snarky when there was more work than the two of us could accomplish, and neither of us felt appreciated. Both of us were giving a lot, but neither of us seemed able to recognize the different currencies we used. I didn’t recognize how stressful it was for J to be the only provider, and he didn’t seem to appreciated how hard I worked to care for our home and children. We weren’t always considerate of each other – and sometimes we didn’t play nice.

Anhinga caring for chicks. Venice Rookery

Anhinga caring for chicks. Venice Rookery

Life is easier now that we are both retired – from paid work and child rearing. However, we still have to consider the needs of the other while taking care of our own needs. We have learned to speak up, with honesty and compassion. Most important, we have learned to let the other know when s/he is being naughty – with humor and gentleness instead of meanness.

Our greatest challenge now is being considerate of the physical changes that are taking place in our aging bodies. We remember when we were young and swift and agile and firm and slim and constantly horny. We remember when we could remember things. Now we need to be considerate of how the bodies we are living in don’t allow us to do all that we used to do. We are gentle with each other, and ourselves, because we understand that the changes taking place are inevitable and scary.

Black Vultures watching us from high in a tree. Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Black Vultures watching us from high in a tree. Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Generosity is the last part of the definition of kindness. J & I engage in playful games around being generous – every time we decide on the tip after a meal out. J says I’m too generous, and I gently prod him to pull out more from his wallet. I say he is too generous in always grabbing the check instead of letting everyone pay for their own meal.

There are many ways of being generous but money is such a big issue in families. We have always pooled our money and have been very considerate of family needs over our personal needs. Now, J & I feel a strong need to support and take care of young people who are working hard to make it – struggling like we struggled. We struggle with how much to help.

Looking into our crystal ball.

Looking into our crystal ball.

Our issue is that we need to make sure we have enough money to support ourselves until we die. It is a big adjustment when employment stops, when we can no longer say we will work a little harder to make a little more. We now have to rely on what we have – the income from our investments and the money we saved. We don’t know how long we will live and what healthcare costs we will incur. I would love to give it all away but that doesn’t seem responsible. J agrees. We are learning new ways of understanding generosity, together and with kindness.

I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on kindness, how to be friendly, courteous, and generous; and this is what I now understand:

When kindness is a part of my spirit, from God, there are no random acts; kindness is evident in everything I do.

 

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Categories: Faith

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32 Comments »

  1. It’s so wonderful to grow old together. The learning, sharing, growing. I lost my husband way to soon and miss that we didn’t get to grow old together. You have really done some introspection to be able to write this wonderful post. Thank you. All good things come from God.

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    • So very true. And people see kindness in a smile or touch, things that transcend language barriers. A Kyrgyz woman and I exchanged the laughter of kindness as I was trying to purchase tomatoes from her and I didn’t know either Russian or Kyrgyz. I got my tomatoes and we both received warmed hearts and some laughter. Thank you for visiting and your comment.

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  2. What a lovely person you are Pat . Your posts like this never fail to hit the right note with me . I couldn’t even begin to be so eloquent as to be able to share such feelings like you do, but I’m sat here agreeing and thinking I see some similarities in us both .
    As some one has already said love him lots , and I for one have no doubt acts of kindness come naturally to you although you may think otherwise … well … we’re human after all … and all apt to have little ‘moments’ 😉

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    • Thank you so much. I am so happy that I discovered my talent for writing because it is giving my life meaning in retirement. You have made me very happy with your affirming comment. 🙂

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  3. This was beautiful. I didn’t get to see old age with my late husband, but Lord willing, I will with this husband. Growing up an introvert with a well-developed Charlie Brown complex, this really spoke to me, especially the part about having to force myself out of my shell and learn how to make conversation. It opened up a whole new world!

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    • Extroverts just don’t know how hard we work. 🙂 I can tell you understand and I do hope you and your husband will have many wonderful years together.

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    • Thank you, Nora. What an affirming compliment. I found I love writing by keeping 10 years of journals while I was getting my fibromyalgia under control. I love blogging because it gives me an audience for my photography and writing. Thanks for following along on my journey. 🙂

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    • Oh, good, but don’t let them fall over your eyes when you are driving. I know I am learning so much from people who are older than me (although there aren’t as many as there used to be) so my hope is that my life can help to guide someone younger. Thanks you so much for telling me this, RoSy. 🙂

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  4. As I read this Pat, this felt like holding a mirror up to my life with my husband. It is always the simple acts that are the most profound, leaving a lasting impression on hearts, and kindness is one of those. Lovely post! 🙂

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  5. Your photos are so beautiful, and thanking so much for sharing your thoughts. No act of kindness or generosity, however small, is ever wasted, and if we can help someone and brighten their day with something we do, or even just a smile, I feel we’ve helped ourselves along the road to becoming better people. Lovely post, Pat. 🙂

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  6. Amen! Crossing those older “0” birthdays are milestones that call for examination. The kind that do indeed remind us of who we want to be more than what we want to do yet in life. Thanks, having FM, my journey feels so similar to yours.

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