Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Journey Toward Healing: Part II- The Kindness of Strangers

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion."  - The Dalai Lama

I arrived at the West Palm Beach Airport, to the sight of an amazing and welcoming woman, holding a sign over her head, that read, in bold, handwritten letters, "JUDY S." I instantly forgot how tired I was from the flight, which had been delayed, during my connection in Baltimore, for over three hours. I paused, there in the terminal, for a moment, pondering the wonder of this stranger, who came there, just for me.

Over the years, several of my friends have taken service oriented trips to third world countries. A common thread woven through all of their stories is how generous the people of those places are...often giving up all they have, even their most prized possessions,  for the sake of demonstrating kindness to someone they'd never met.  This from the poorest of the poor on the planet.

I remember having a heart for giving, like that, as a child.  In the early years, when I was in elementary school, there were always an abundance of refugees in class with me.  I can recall, clearly, a number of instances where I would bring gifts to them from home, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  It was altruism in its purest form.  I believe we are most like God when we are young- our faith in goodness and love abounds- our willingness to pour out all that we have is instinctive and requires no forethought or mathematical figuring...Then, somewhere along the line, the materialism and selfishness, of our Western culture, invades our spirit, and we lose at least some, if not most, of that sense of generosity.  The very living of the scripture "'tis better to give than to receive" gets lost in the "getting" of more.  These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about, working toward, the very self-defeating act of "getting more."  I am as guilty as they come.

Every so often, though, I am offered kindnesses, by folks I've never met, and it is awe inspiring to me.  Getting rescued from the side of the road, in college, by a mother and her daughter, when I blew a tire on the Beltway in Maryland, getting change when I didn't have enough for a subway ticket on one freezing cold morning when I'd forgotten my wallet, and when I was sick a couple of years ago, and people, many of whom we did not know, brought us amazing meals.

Fast forward to now, and I feel compelled to include, in this series of posts, the story of the woman with the sign.  One of the many obstacles I needed to overcome, in order to attend the weekend intensive workshop, was to find a method of getting from the airport in West Palm Beach to my hotel, forty-five minutes away.  I pondered renting a car, except that I would be driving in a place where I'd never been, alone, possibly emotional, and tired from a day of changing planes.  Hiring a taxi was another option, though exhorbitant by our calculations.  Out of the blue, about a week before my trip, a married couple, who sometimes volunteer for the "Center", offered to pick me up at the airport, in West Palm Beach, which is over forty-five minutes from their home, and drive me to my hotel.  I might have ruined their evening, getting in at night instead of during the afternoon as promised, but they showed nothing but grace toward me.  Me, whom they didn't know.  Me, who had nothing to offer but chocolate covered pretzels from Sarris' Candy, and gas money (which they wouldn't accept).  Worse yet, and laughably, Me, whose company they had to be in, for an awfully long drive, which they may have found torturous ( I talk quite a bit, ask a plethora of questions, and have a really vivacious sense of humor, just for starters).   But they did it all for nothing.  Nothing.  And they came back to pick me up on Sunday, in time to get me to the airport for a late flight home.

On my journey toward healing, it was good to know, that in a world that can seem oblivious to the personal lives of the people living in it, where terrible things can be inflicted upon us at the hands of others,  you can still count on the fact that there are people who really do care, just for the sake of caring.  And it was a most heartwarming beginning to three days of very difficult work- knowing that there were these souls, seeking my best, placed on my path, by the very creator of kindness. They were vessels, from God, to remind me, despite the painful circumstances which I've endured, that love and kindness, as he designed them, are unfailing.

And that, my friends, has healing power, all by itself.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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