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Kind hearts come alive

“I wish I read your Sabbath Moment before my meeting,” my friend, a hospice chaplain, tells me. “I was just with my hospice supervisor. Her question to me, ‘What are your long term goals?’”
“I wanted to laugh out loud,” she says, “knowing she was looking for a singular kind of answer, one that fits tidily under ‘Employee’s Goals and Objectives’. Instead, I’m thinking; I am 80 years old.  I have just come through a time of a cancer diagnosis, chemo and radiation. I would like to live another year in my new house with my new garden that my friend will help me design. I would like to live my remaining years with a sense of grace and gratitude. So, I speak honestly.”
“The only reason I am still working is because I love the work and meeting the hospice patients,” she tells the supervisor, “If I stop loving it, I will retire.”
This does my heart good. I loved the smile on her face and in her heart. And I say, Amen.
You see, here’s the deal: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Thank you, Howard Thurman.)

I am writing this on November 13, World Kindness Day.
Let’s start here: Kindness isn’t about a quiz requiring the right answer, or a contest requiring a winner.
Just as our work is not only what fits under the heading of job or vocation or accomplishments or resume. Or even “long term goals”.
As Mother Teresa reminded us, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”
What makes you come alive? Let’s make that our first question.
That even in times of sorrow or adversity or discontent, this life can become fertile ground for kindness, generosity of spirit, mystery, delight, touch, tenderness, vulnerability, risk and yes, even gladness. Alive, we touch this day, places and encounters where our humanity blossoms, and our light spills. We embrace what Mr. Rogers called the “graciousness at the heart of creation.”
This I do know: kindness makes our heart come alive. And the gift and invitation? “My wish for you is that you continue,” Maya Angelou writes. “Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

Yes, there are reasons we don’t (or can’t) bring our whole heart or self to this moment. We mistrust what we have to give. Or feel undone by life’s fragile and heavy nature. Don’t want to hurt. Wait until everything is perfect. Afraid to make mistakes. Comparison with others as if life is a race or contest.
I do confess, in times of anxiety, my tendency is to shut down. I can tell you that I let my heart constrict. I play everything safe. In order to appear strong, self-sufficient or successful. Recently I had a very good wise friend tell me that it is a good time to reclaim Terry. The self I discarded to role or function.
And the fuel for this reclamation? Self-compassion and gentleness with self. Ahhh, self-kindness.
It’s Paul Tillich’s reminder, “You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not seek for anything. Do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.”
If that happens to us, we experience grace. This means that I can live and choose and commit and work “from acceptance” and not “for acceptance.”
I’m not in the business of needing to impress anyone or earn points. The sacred present begins now. This encounter. This moment. This conversation. Grace is the fuel that allows us to “get in” this life, to live from hope and for hope, to live with and from an open heart, even when life gets wobbly. Yes. When I bring this self—not just my long-term-goals-self—to any encounter, I see the sacred power in vulnerability.
So. Where do we begin?
Love allows us to begin where we are.
We can let go of where we think life should be.
We can be unafraid of what is untidy. Or unknown. Or daunting.
Because kindness spills from an invested and vulnerable heart.

Back to my friend’s story. “I love what I do,” she says. Even at a time where life is catawampus and wounds are real.
The word vulnerable itself comes from the Latin vulnerare which means “to wound,” and so at the root of vulnerability is my own sense of wounded-ness (the broken places). To be authentic in a moment in which I feel wounded, I have to honestly acknowledge the places where I feel hurt and then muster up the strength to just be with the pain. This takes tremendous courage.
Literally speaking, courage comes from the Latin cor, meaning heart. So, when I open up to any experience fully, with courage–wholehearted–it naturally opens me up to a deep love.
And the good news? The blind musician Facundo Cabral said it beautifully: “If you are filled with love, you can’t have fear, because love is courage.” True vulnerability, in its most profound form, is an act of love.
In this vulnerability, we have the capacity for joy, to embrace beauty that blooms amidst adversity. Let’s just say that joy can be an act of resistance. Be gentle with yourselves my friends. And let your kindness spill.

Did you know that November is National Family Care Givers month? Thank you for the work you do.  No one is on this journey alone. We can let go of our need to go it alone. We’re all just walking one another home. (Thank you Ram Dass)
On Friday night, in the Moore Theater in Seattle enjoying the Soweto Gospel Choir. Let’s just say, we all went to church. Songs to embrace what sustains the heart and spirit. This little light of mine, Heaven help us all and of course, some Aretha.

Quote for your week… “There’s a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call, and answer in extraordinary ways.” From the film “Mother Teresa”


Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, This is Beth Hayward. I am happy to renew my subscription–your blog is my favorite email on Mondays. So inspiring and real! Thank you! I just returned from Nepal. My daughter is on the board of a home for abandoned girls there –and visits for three months a year so I went to see her, the girls –30 of them –and the work she is doing in the world. Wow –being in a third world country was mind boggling, heart opening and deeply humbling. This photo is my most favorite. It was taken from Annapurna Eco lodge –a sunlit glimpse of the Himalayas on a cloudy day. In Gratitude,” Beth Hayward… Thank you Beth… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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Letters that do my heart good…
–“Terry, This is that Minnesota friend who appreciates so very much your writing. My wife Jean has a Charka, the spinning wheel Gandhi invented. It looks like a book, or small wooden box and does not look at all like a typical spinning wheel. In India, in that day it was illegal to spin the cotton grown in India. It had to be sent back to England to protect the English industry. The Charka was invented to allow the Indians to spin in secret and not get caught. As you wrote it was like a sanctuary for him. Jean’s Charka began its journey over Indian mountains via buffalo, then on modern transportation to our home. Jean has trying to grow cotton this summer in Minnesota from seeds she hand ginned this  past winter. Thanks again.” Flip
–Terry When I wander with my camera, for hours sometimes, just being totally present, I do, as you say, become totally calm. I am not thinking with words. I refer to it as being “in the zone.” And unusual things often happen then — small creatures do not run from me or seem afraid of me. Squirrels will eat right at my feet. I can walk up close to birds or ducks or rabbits. I can almost hear the trees talking.  I don’t really know how to put it into words. I’m sure this is not unique to me but I’ve never heard anyone else describe this. I get into a similar zone/space with painting but then, of course, there are no small animals around. It’s a rather delightful experience – thought I’d share it with you. Carolyn


“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear
and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I’m doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son’s room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.
Why do I give my emotion an animal’s name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks to me like a magnet of blood.
How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?
Michael Ondaatje

Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations
— of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life’s enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Wilferd Arlan Peterson

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