We welcome back former columnist Geri Larkin. She shares her thoughts on kindness and community.
Suddenly Bodhi the Dog is fourteen years old. His body is failing him. I’m OK with everything except the seizures. They last for minutes. The first time one happened I grabbed him off the couch and ran to the car to head for the vet. A man was working in the yard across the street. All I could say was “help.” He rushed over, took the dog from me, and settled him into the front seat. Then the neighbor next door, when I called to say I had left the stove on, hurried over to turn it off and locked the door. Both checked in with me later that day to see if there was anything else they could do. The man across the street was a complete stranger and I’ve only known the neighbor for a few months to wave hello.
This is what love looks like. Its taste is kindness. When I look, I see kindness everywhere in this tiny little town I now call home. A grandfather steers three toddlers through the library to a preschool story hour. When they sit, the kids climb all over him, almost knocking him over. They are besides themselves with what can only be called joy. A librarian lends me her personal copy of a book I’m looking for. Again, a stranger. I’ve been looking for the book for months.
Kindness is more than empathy. It includes paying attention, a welcoming, and a willingness to step into a situation as it is, helping however we can. So while I’m humbled by the young people who are stepping up to the huge issues that face us all—particularly those with the courage to consider public service—and am always thrilled to witness genuine love matches, what breaks my heart open are these moments of genuine kindness. A person quietly listening. A daughter offering thoughtful, wise suggestions. Someone like the model Herieth Paul, who, at 23, continues to mentor kids at home in Tanzania, even though she has a schedule that matches any fellow superstar.
In Buddhism there is a famous teaching about a person who yearns for enlightenment. His yearning is so huge—think the size of an ocean—that he throws himself into spiritual practice until he’s managed to smash the barrier between self and, well, everything. But that’s not his ending. This enlightenment, powerful as it is, means nothing unmanifested. So he heads back into the middle of a small village where he starts wiping kids’ runny noses and leaving extra veggies on the doorsteps of neighbors and donates everything but the clothing he really, really needs to a local charity.
He practices endless kindness.
This is love winning. Now.
Geri Larkin was a regular columnist for S&H for many years. Check out some of her writing here.