Saturday, December 8, 2012

Awareness & Acts of Kindness

Awareness & Acts of Kindness
There are realities we all share, regardless of our nationality, language, or individual tastes. As we need food, so do we need emotional nourishment: love, kindness, appreciation, and support from others. We need to understand our environment and our relationship to it. We need to fulfill certain inner hungers: the need for happiness, for peace of mind -- for wisdom.”
Swami Kriyananda (1926)
Author, Founder Of Ananda

Throughout this holiday season and beyond I want to develop a deeper awareness of my environment and those around me. It is so easy for me to become absorbed in my own little world and my own struggles that I forget sometimes the greater struggles and needs of those around me. My life is blessed. I am fortunate to have found resources to help me when things are thrown off kilter or I face challenges. But I have also found that for me to be truly at peace, I have to pay it forward and practice random acts of kindness in even in the smallest of ways. Sometimes it is opening a door for somebody, letting a car squeeze into my lane of traffic, allowing somebody to move in front of me at the checkout, giving up my seat on the Metro, or just listening. The rewards always seem greater than the act.

This issue came to mind as I reflect how over the past year many people of my acquaintance have had to deal with a tragedy or momentous challenges. Just this Thursday I spoke to a coworker who has lost his wife of 41 years, mother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law within 2 years. I’ve lost one dear friend to breast cancer and another to alcoholism. My sister has systemic lupus and chronic pancreatitis, which caused a dependence on prescription drugs.  I’ve one young coworker who required open-heart surgery, another treated for breast cancer, and another has just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. People I care about have dealt with accidents, job losses, death of a spouse/parent or child, suicide of a loved one, devastation from Hurricane Sandy, divorce, financial challenges, drought, and flooding.

I want to keep all of this in mind as I encounter people who may not have the joy of the season or holiday spirit that one expects at this time of year.  I want to remember and have awareness that every person I meet is dealing with something difficult in their lives and I want to respond with kindness and compassion rather than frustration and impatience.  I want to sow kindness, compassion, appreciation, and emotional nourishment so that it will come back to me when I need it most. And I will need it. We all will need it.  Every one of us faces the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at times in our lives. And if we all practice those random acts of kindness, I believe we will have the emotional support and nourishment we need at times of crisis and during the long lonely times that follow a crisis.

I have no control over other people, places or things – only my own attitude and my own actions. So let it begin with me.

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