I’m anxious to share Part Two of Danny Parker’s column with you this morning. I was moved when I read it:
The Gift of Kindness (Part Two)
What is your relationship with others? With the entire world?
The gift of kindness flourishes when we extend our good wishes and intentions to the people and even pets and things within our lives. What can we do to help them? To acknowledge them? To let them know we care? One thing is to give up on any hesitation to let others know that you love them, that you care for them. And if you have some sour relationships in your life, to do what you can to heal them– or at least make your part of the offer.
A great sadness in our life is not be able to fix all things that we would like. However, remember that there is nothing at all, nothing, that prevents us from having the intention to want to help all difficulty and pain. We have full power to have that intention and it is a special and loving gift.
When you extend the gift of kindness, you begin to realize ALL of the things you love. And the things you love are not just the Hallmark card moments. They include many wonderful mundane things. There is a marvelous poem, “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved,” by Nazim Hikmet, a Russian poet, that is too long for here, but I will just quote a few stanzas so you can get a taste. It comes from a man who has just happened upon the gift of kindness on a train from Prague to Berlin in 1962:
“I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much
I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts…
I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue”
The author doesn’t know why kindness has anointed him that day to see the world as it is, but he is smitten, in love with the sun, the sea, clouds, rain or a woman he’s left behind. He is overcome by beauty, even in the middle of difficulty.
Our own suffering can be the greatest obstacle to realizing the gift. That and the tendency to blame other people and circumstances for our misfortunes. Blame is a losing game; give up on it.
Praise and gratitude are the fountain that gives us back and nourishes. Choose them.
I’m not saying this is easy with myeloma. But it is possible.
This holiday season I have had my own reckoning. Although now still in CR three years after a stem cell transplant, I came down with a severe case of shingles three weeks ago. It has affected my left upper chest, the left side of my neck and ear and left me in severe pain. I can’t feel my left side of my neck. It is very difficult to sleep.
Yes, I am under consummate medial care of course: acyclovir 800 mg, five times daily and some drugs for pain, but the suffering has been acute. I could not even make it at the table through Christmas dinner. Worse, I’ve had to come off Revlimid which I am on for maintenance while my immune system puts up a war unlike any I’ve experienced in recent times.
And still amid all this duress I keenly feel the gift of kindness. I feel it for myself, for Pat, and all of you and for our whole troubled world. The gift of kindness, you see, is being in love with the everything– with life itself.
How do we cultivate this gift?
I practice meditation– long quiet stillness. Others may practice prayer, quiet and devotion. Or quiet morning coffee or a special time to yourself each day.
To everyone, I recommend daily walks outside to see your world, to see the sky, the grass and hear the birds. Meet your neighbor. Pet the dog.
As Pat may have told, I’m a Zen priest, in the Soto Zen tradition. However, all of this is beyond religious persuasion. A wonderful acquaintance of mine is Brother David Steindl Rast– a Benedictine monk. Listen to his narration on gratitude and the gift of kindness in this Ted talk by Louie Schwarzberg:
And if it is too cold to be outside for a walk, post yourself by a window so you can see the world go by, just as with Nazim Hikmet. You, too, might be graced by the gift of kindness.
And that can make all the difference.
I’m glad that Danny shared his personal and difficult battle with shingles as 2013 ended. I didn’t feel it was my place to mention it.
Despite his high risk multiple myeloma diagnosis–and a number of serious side effects associated with his ongoing treatment–Danny manages to stay active and upbeat. To be kind and thoughtful–in spite of pain and heartache–is a true test of our humanity, don’t you think? He does it naturally, without pause.
Danny has always been an inspiration for me. He’s a great friend, too. No matter how busy he is, Danny somehow finds time to check up on me. I just wish we lived closer; he’s on the east coast of Florida and I’m on the Gulf Coast.
Thanks for sharing your insights with our MMB readers, Danny! Now maybe you can start working on the column about meditation that I’ve been pestering you to write…
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat