A few weeks ago, I saw the movie, Where Did You Go Bernadette? This film is about a woman in a midlife crisis, something most of us can relate to. The part of the plot that really resonated with me was, when Bernadette needed help… she turned to an enemy. What made this fascinating, and was played out quite well by the actresses, was that the enemy, the villain of the movie, was Bernadette’s neighbor. These two women were complete opposites and we’re strangers despite the fact that they lived next door to one another. The movie, based on a novel by Maria Semple, explores the need for kindness, within society, within a marriage and with strangers. These women thought they hated one another but they found that their assumptions had built walls that left each of them silently screaming for help.
Think about babies in the newborn nursery. If one cries, they all start crying. They are strangers but their collective nursery experience bonds them together. When one needs help, they all chime in. Now, I know y’all might be thinking…. Really? One baby woke up ALL the other babies and then a chorus of wailing ensued. Maybe. But think about this, they helped one another. They bonded as a group. Women who work together tend to end up on the same menstrual cycle. We as humans have an instinctual need to bond, to protect the group, to be a tribe and to reach out and help one another. Sometimes we shy away from helping. The typical independent American mindset says …. do it on your own and don’t reach out to others, you might get burned. Jinpa, the Dali Lama’s aid says, “Practicing compassion for others isn’t about developing a new skill, but is about reacquainting ourselves with an instinct we’ve been taught to quell.”
In this final blog in the series on kindness, let’s set up an exercise that we shall call…. Intention and Reflection. My suggestion is to set an intention for the day and then in the evening reflect upon its success. Remember Oprah’s gratitude journal? Instead of thinking about all the good things that have come our way, which is a great spiritual exercise, try journaling about the fulfillment of your intention to be kind to yourself, your loved ones and the world. Plan ahead, awaken to the possibilities that are already on your journey. Add a few minutes into your morning ritual to write down a few ideas and how to execute those acts of kindness. Ask yourself, who needs your attention today? Be prepared to share a random act of loving kindness with a complete stranger. Let your intention turn into a prayer:
“Today, may I be more mindful of my body, mind and speech in my interactions with others, and may I relate to myself, others and events around me with loving kindness, understanding, and less judgment.”
Remember the calendar idea I mentioned in the last blog? If you are a live by a schedule type of person, create a chart with simple acts of kindness and check them off each time you show love and compassion. Here are some suggestions for your Kindness Calendar:
Volunteer to watch your neighbor’s kids, purchase extra pet food and drop it off at the animal shelter, coordinate with an assisted living facility and buy flowers for someone who has no friends or family, write a list of all the things that you love about your spouse, child or friend. I could go on and on. You get the idea so be your creative self and share with us. Leave a few suggestions in the comment box.
Some final thoughts. Remember Mr. Rogers? His goal in life, his reason for producing his show, was to share his passion and provide examples of simple acts of kindness. Won’t you be my neighbor? Let’s go out there and give love away!!!!!
Grace and Peace,