The Practice of Kindness

When we moved into our neighborhood, there was an empty field next to our cul-de-sac. I suppose it was only a matter of time before our neighborhood started growing, just like everywhere else in the city and suburbs. Now, part of our daily routine is to walk over to look at the tractors.

IMG_6768At least two or three times a day, Elle likes to check on the progress. The workers have become enamored with her and have even offered to let her drive the tractor, whenever she’s ready. (The verdict so far is that it’s too scary!!)

We wave, say hi, and make friends. It’s a small act, but every day a smile seems to make a difference and the men love asking her questions and telling me about their own kids. They invite us to look at their progress and tell us where to stand for the best view of the giant machines at work.

Yesterday, we were walking home from school and the girls got into an argument over an umbrella. Elle threw herself on the ground and Bea sulked off toward home. I kept an eye on Bea and was finally getting Elle situated when Bea rounded the corner. By the time we got home, I couldn’t find Bea anywhere.

She wasn’t in the house. I called out back. I ran around our cul-de-sac. I asked the workers if they had seen her. They immediately stopped what they were doing, hopped in their trucks, turned the flashing lights on, and patrolled the neighborhood.

As it turned out, Bea was sitting in the side yard, “taking a quiet moment.” I ran back to the construction site to let everyone know that Bea was found.

This had me reflecting on the practice of kindness. My first inclination isn’t to make friends with random workers nearby. But, they’ve been our neighbors, in a sense, for the better part of a year and will be around much longer. I love that Elle came to look at tractors but created a friendship in the meantime.

It’s made me think about natural relationships that I may be overlooking. Who are the moms I see frequently at the park? What about taking time to get to know the checker at the grocery store who opens his aisle specifically for us? (Elle has a way with strangers!) How am I showing kindness, loving my neighbor, getting to know them a bit more?

I just finished taking a class about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around but one takeaway was remembering the practice of kindness. It’s hard to vilify someone you actually know. It’s hard to demonize people you share dinner with or talk with about your kids. When we intentionally practice kindness, even to those who seem to be an enemy, how does our perspective shift?

I’m a fan of the underdog and tend to side with them first and foremost. But I’m learning to stop, to listen, and to remember to show kindness, even when it seems too difficult.

I suppose kindness is like most things in life. It seems to come easily and naturally to my kids, who rarely see strangers for long. It becomes more and more difficult, the older and “wiser” I get. It takes practice to reintroduce this requirement.

Perhaps showing kindness to an enemy is just too much right now. But showing kindness to the construction workers down the street might be a good place to start.

Where can you practice kindness? Is there a tangible place you can stretch yourself a bit?

BackyardThis post is Day 19 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Life Path Discussion

I have the honor of leading the book discussion of Luci Shaw’s Life Path over at SheLoves Magazine today. Here’s an excerpt, but click over to read the whole post and join the discussion!

After I got married, my parents drove up to our house with a trunk full of childhood memorabilia. Now that I had a garage of my own, I had to store these treasures. One box was filled with journals from middle school and high school. I didn’t get very far in reading them before I cringingly shut the box tightly and left it to gather dust in the garage. The angsty thoughts of my teenage self were just too much!

And yet, I couldn’t throw them away. There was something sacred about those journals and that time in my life.

Throughout Life Path: Personal and Spiritual Growth through Journal Writing, Luci Shaw iterates over and over again the importance of taking the time to reread our journals. Journaling isn’t for important events or deep thoughts. “The true journal is a commentary on all of life, and often it is the casual comment, the trivial event that is shown to be significant as you reread it later.” (p. 55)

The importance of rereading journals came to mind last autumn. My husband and I had a business decision to make and were going back and forth over the pros and cons. One day, he was flipping through an old journal and found that he had written we would make this particular business decision by the date he happened to be reading it. It didn’t help us get to an easy answer, but the reminder that we had actually been thinking and praying about this particular choice for years, gave us confidence in our final decision.

Shaw shares a story of a member at one of her writing workshops only writing on one side of the page. That way she is able to go back and write down reflections, insights, and revelations about her journey. (pg 69)

This interactive view of journaling takes our private processes and makes them less “morbidly introspective” and more of a spiritual practice.

Read the rest and join the discussion over at SheLoves!