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Categorized | Inspirational, Tips

A Gift of Kindness (Part Two)

Posted on January 07 2014 by Pat Killingsworth | 1,057 views

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?

Danny-Parker-Two1-150x150The 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

6 Comments For This Post

  1. suzierose Says:

    Hi Danny!

    So sorry to hear about your terrible bout with shingles. It is sad that medicine is unable to alleviate the awfulness of this over an extended period. I believe that grace will pull you through and the poem you cited is just the anecdote. When the body fails we have to find inner peace and the spirit can lift us up so that we focus on inner peace and allow us to ignore the physical pain.

    Not being able to find a comfortable sleep position is challenging. Have you tried one of the body hugging pillows and laying on your right side with it?

    Also, I use a HappyLight. Have you purchased one of those? They are not expensive but you will be surprised at how uplifting they can be. It is something about the ambient light. It works.

    Wishing you the spiritual contentment to transcend your acute physical distress and please try the HappyLight!!


  2. Danny Parker Says:

    Hi SuzieRose,

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll certainly look into them!

    Don’t worry; I’m okay. A key thing I wanted to tell: we don’t have to be pain free or even comfortable to be happy. Happiness is largely a choice.

    While pain may be inevitable in life, how we respond to it has a lot to do with how far our suffering will go.

    I often say this: “regardless of circumstances, I choose to be buoyant and happy.”

    Can’t always do it, but often it works. And if we can do it, it is like a sweet aroma for fellow travelers. Helps those around us too.

    So, we dance on….

  3. Nick Says:

    Two things, in addition to thanking you, Danny, for such an insightful contribution to Pat’s valuable column.

    1. I had shingles so I sympathize! I would urge you to keep in mind that (a) it will come to an end, and (b) it responds to Vicodin. 🙂 I’m of the opinion that our society’s perfectly appropriate concern in managing dependency has resulted in a real of using pain medicine when we are actually in pain. There’s no need to be in the type of discomfort that Shingles confers. I came to this point of view in discussing quality of life with a 20 year survivor of an extremely serious form of cancer that has necessitated this man’s multiple throat and jaw surgeries that have left him with difficulty in everything from salivating to swallowing to tasting food. Yet he continues to enjoy life. He manages his daily pain with a regular diet of Percocet but is a highly functioning executive with many friends, a wife of many years, and a full social calendar in addition to his work duties (now winding down as he enters retirement after a full career). My point is, don’t be afraid to take a pain pill. 🙂

    2. While nowhere near as profound as your observations, I will add to the chorus about showing kindness to others (regardless of our specific medical condition). I remember I always used to wonder, when a friend or loved one faced some sort of tragedy or crisis, whether or not they wouldn’t want to be bothered by a call to check in on them — or whether I didn’t know somebody well enough to intrude on a private experience. When I was going through my own diagnosis and initial aggressive treatment, the calls and emails that touched me most were from people that I wasn’t in regular contact with, or whom I didn’t know particularly well, but who just wanted to let me know they were thinking of me. I found these remarkably uplifting. Perhaps it’s because it’s a reminder of how many lives we touch — more than we think. In any case: when in doubt, call someone, email someone, send them a note and let them know you are thinking of them. The worst it will do is nothing — and it might significantly brighten their day.

    Feel better!

  4. Steve Says:

    Thank you, Danny! Your many gifts of kindness to the readers here are certainly well-received, I’ve no doubt.

    i enthusiastically agree with you that meditation can be an invaluable assistance in getting through difficult times. Having practiced my own version for over 40 years (a blend of pranyama and mindfullness)I know how well it can alleviate both physical and emotional discomforts.

    In case any of the other readers might be interested, here’s a link to web page that explains via a brief audio how to begin a kind of mindfulness meditation.

    Hope you feel better soon….Namaste’

  5. Danny Says:

    Nick and Steve,

    Many thanks.

    Nick, thanks for the suggestion on the pain meds. These days,we are made sometimes to feel third class citizens even to need pain medication, but as you point out, here we are in pain. And those medications are meant for this. Thank you.

    I did neglect to tell that Nazim Hikmet also is indirectly telling us that his insight may have come from that sixth cigarette– or was it that blonde?

    I’m not saying that we should nurture our bad habits or create new ones, but I do think that we should honor even the faults in our life.

    No, I don’t think you should smoke. And if you do, you should give it up.

    But if you do have a cigarette, please enjoy it.

    Same for anything else like that. If you think ice cream is not good for you, it doesn’t help to condemn yourself while eating it. Just the opposite:

    “I won’t eat this all the time, but let me enjoy this cone of ice cream fully.”



    That’s more like it. Honor even your faults. You’ll never get rid of them all anyway. And sometimes you don’t even know if they are faults.

    Better to be kind, even with problems.


  6. Pat Killingsworth Says:

    Sage advice 🙂

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