Saturday, July 14, 2012

Compassion is a Verb and I saw it

Sorry I’ve been away.  Sometime life interrupts us, but it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you. 

I recently listened to a pod cast by a Buddhist about the subject of compassion.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many Buddhists personally.  However, they do have an interesting way of looking at the world that makes sense to me.  And being an anthropologist at heart, I am always interested in such things. So I listened to this pod cast called “Compassion is a Verb” and I thought, oh that’s nice, and went about my day.

Shortly after that, I spent several hours in several airports and on a couple of airplanes where I saw how compassion is a verb, how it is an action, and the message hit truly home.  The speaker on the pod cast quoted another Buddhist, who summarized Buddhism thus~

Everything is connected, everything is impermanent and you are not alone.


Everything is connected – It’s so interesting that just this last week, scientists in Europe, who spent billions of dollars to build a super collider and years playing around with it, essentially proved what many ancient people already knew – everything is connected.  I wonder what else we could have done with that money…I’m not saying research shouldn’t be done.  You just have to wonder if all research is necessary.

Everything is impermanent – I’ve written about this many times, in one form or another, mostly with respect to gardening in the desert.  I lost a tree this year in a freak wind storm.  After years of nurturing this little pine tree, of watching robin babies hatch in its branches and seeing it get taller than me, it blew over.  Just like that.  Done.

You are not alone – This gets at the heart of compassion, which is the ability to empathize with someone else’s suffering and act on it.  And this is what I saw on the plane that day.  There was no emergency, no reason for strangers to come together in a dramatic fashion, just our shared confinement in a small space for several hours.

It was late and I’m sure everyone on the plane was tired.  Face it, air travel is cramped and uncomfortable and boring for those of us who fly economy class.  Adults can usually cope, but it’s hard for children to be still for hours if they aren’t asleep.  As anyone who has children knows, a tired child is apt to cry and that’s just what one little girl on the plane did – she cried.  I never actually saw her because she was several rows behind me, but I could hear her and her agitated mother, yelling louder and louder for the little girl to shut up and stop crying.  (I’ve never understood why anyone thinks a person can just stop crying; if you’ve ever cried, you know it’s hard to stop on a dime.  And if someone is yelling at you, it doesn’t make it any easier.  And if that person is four times bigger than you, forget it, right?)

And this wasn’t just once.  This woman told her child repeatedly to shut up over the course of perhaps ten minutes because the child couldn’t stop.  As a parent of children myself, I felt like I was witness to abuse, like I was being abused myself.  I wanted to whack that woman soundly across the mouth, tell her to grow up.  How could someone be so cruel to a child in front of so many people?  If I could hear it, I’m sure everyone else could too.  The passenger next to me was cringing too.  Couldn’t a stewardess do something? 

I was stuck in a window seat, rows away, unsure of what, if anything I could do, and then it happened – a small woman dressed in army fatigues, got up from her aisle seat, and went back to where the mother was still berating her crying child.  Instead of saying something rude, like I imagined doing myself, the soldier asked “Is something wrong? Can I help?”  We were all tired and cramped, we all felt the same pain as that little girl, but that soldier acted and she let that little girl know she was not alone.  And that is the most amazing thing any of us could ever do.

So often we feel alone even when we’re surrounded by many.  It’s easy to forget we’re all connected.  It’s even easy to forget everything is impermanent, for a while.  But life always reminds you.

And here’s one last thing I saw on a plane that day, albeit a different flight…

I was sitting next to a very bulky biker.  He had the leather vest with all the biker pins, the big handlebar mustache.  It was easy to imagine him riding one of the thirteen Harley-Davidson motorcycles he said he owned.  Right across the aisle from him sat another man with chiseled features, tattoos up and down his toned arms and legs.  The man’s hair was cropped close to his scalp, making him seem even more angular.  The biker, who was very friendly, asked the man across the aisle what branch of the military he served in.  The man replied that he wasn’t in the military.  Not about to be deterred, the biker asked him if he was cop.  The man smiled and said “No, I’m a Methodist minister.”  I laughed out loud.

We think we know so much about people and we don’t.  We think others are so different from us and they’re not.  We think we’re separate, but we’re connected.  It reminded me of the saying “be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle”.  It could just as well say, “be compassionate, we’re all in this together”.  Peace~

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

I didn't write this, but I've always liked it.  I thought I'd share it again today~

This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night

with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced

with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid

saying, "It's OK honey, Mommy's here." when they

keep crying and won't stop.

This is for all the mothers who show up at work with

spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses

and diapers in their purse.

For all the mothers who run carpools and make

cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the

mothers who DON'T.

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll

never see. And the mothers who took those babies

and gave them homes.

This is for all the mothers who froze their buns off on

metal bleachers at football or soccer games Friday

night instead of watching from cars, so that when their

kids asked, "Did you see me?" they could say, "Of

course, I wouldn't have missed it for the World," and

mean it.

This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the

grocery store and swat them in despair when they

stomp their feet like a tired 2-year old who wants ice

cream before dinner.

This is for all the mothers who sat down with their

children and explained all about making babies. And

for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't. For

all the mothers who read "Goodnight, Moon" twice a

night for a year. And then read it again. "Just one more time."

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to

tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for

all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead. This is

for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and

their daughters to sink a jump shot.

This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically

when a little voice calls "Mom ?" in a crowd, even

though they know their own off spring are at home.

This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to

school with stomach aches, assuring them they'd be

just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from

the school nurse an hour later asking them to please

pick them up right away.

This is for mothers whose children have gone astray,

who can't find the words to reach them.

For all the mothers who bite their lips sometimes until

they bleed-when their 14 year olds dye their hair


What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience?

Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby,

cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time?

Or is it heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch

your son or daughter disappear down the street,

walking to school alone for the very first time?

The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed

to crib 2 put your hand on the back of a

sleeping baby?

The need to flee from wherever you are and hug your

child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a

child dying? For all the mothers of the victims of all

these school shootings, and the mothers of those who

did the shooting. For the mothers of the Survivors,

and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror,

hugging their child who just came home from school, safely.

This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children's graves.

This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper

changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers

learning to let go.

For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

Single mothers and married Mothers. Mothers with

money, mothers without.

This is for you all. So hang in there.

"Home is what catches you when you fall-and we all fall."

Love you Mom!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

To Garden is to believe in tomorrow~

This is it, my empire of dirt, my garden. Every year around this time, I start dreaming of growing things- planting spuds, like any good Idahoan, and peas and lettuce and such. So I’m in my garden, assessing the scene of last year’s crime. In 2011, my garden was a disaster. I was away from home, working another job, and nothing was planted at the right time. No soil was tilled, no weeds pulled. As I sweated with my shovel yesterday, digging out crazy-huge weed carcasses, I realized I didn’t have much of a veggie garden last year, but I was growing something else instead. I’ve been growing myself. And the more I dug and thought, the more I realized I’ve grown more in the last year than I have in a long time, stretched myself in ways I didn’t imagine I would. What did I do?

I took a class.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I took a leadership class through work. The value of the class wasn’t the actual training, although it was excellent. The real value was that I met some incredible human beings who were and are on the same journey I’m on. To be able to share that experience with them was truly an honor. And though I’m not physically close to any of them now, we keep in touch and I know they’re thinking about me.

I self-published two books.

I’ve blogged about this too. I wrote a fairy story nobody in publishing wanted and I couldn’t let it lie in a drawer. I never expected it would be a best seller, but I wanted to share it with people, so I did. I overcame a fear to do it and I can’t help but feel proud of it.

I placed among the finalists in a writing contest.

As a result of that placement, I got a request for a full manuscript and threw myself into an unlikely writing project. I took the project to a novel revision retreat and met the indomitable Wildcats, another new tribe I had the privilege to join. The Wildcats are a group of ladies whose zest and enthusiasm for writing outshines my own, and it’s contagious. I let myself be critiqued and learned how to become a better writer for it. At least I hope I have. So I have worked hard at writing this year, giving up almost all TV in fact.

I started social networking in earnest.

I don’t social network to the degree that some do, but at my own pace. On Facebook, I reconnected with people I knew eons ago, who actually remember me and graciously allow me glimpses into their daily lives as if we never skipped a beat. And I connected with new friends too, with Wildcats and leaders and writers.

On Twitter, I’ve made friends truer than I ever would have thought possible. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 people now “follow” me (for some reason I cannot fathom). I can only assume they, too, are compatriots on the same journey I am, to reach out to others, to pay it forward, to share joys and sorrows with, to laugh and cry with. Twitter has been a wonderful reminder for me that there are kind, gentle souls on this planet like me. It’s restored my faith in humanity.

I traveled.

Because of the class I took and the retreat I attended, I was fortunate enough to visit Denver, Phoenix, Washington DC and Ashton, Idaho. I also went to Salt Lake City last fall and Albuquerque this spring. I’m convinced every American should see their capital at least once. For me, traveling meant not only new places and new sights, but new joys and more new friends.

I connected with my dad again.

I’ve talked to my dad more in the last four or five months than I probably have in the last four years. I’m not proud of that, but I’m thankful I have the opportunity to talk to him. Love you Dad.

I don’t tell you all of this to brag, but maybe just to encourage you to stretch, to move, to go somewhere you’ve never been, to friend someone you may never meet and to love life like crazy, to grow your garden.

I’m about to submit that manuscript. Maybe the agent will want to represent me. Maybe not, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is I grew my garden and I blossomed. I hope you will too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Troll Teeth

Very few know about the magical properties of troll teeth and those who do, seldom tell. Why I found myself late one night seeking a troll tooth is entirely another story unto itself. Suffice to say, it was required for a certain spell and no other talisman would do.

Trolls are notoriously troubled sleepers, but when they do slumber, they’re like boulders. There’s no moving them.  Still, I tiptoed around this troll.  No telling what might set him off.  When he finally opened his mouth in a snory gasp for air, I saw the treasure I sought – rows of blackened ivory, peg-shaped teeth.

One only had to grasp and yank to extract them, so I’d been told, terribly rotted as they were. I gripped the smallest one I could find and pulled, but nothing happened. Nothing moved. The tooth wouldn’t budge. I cursed myself for needing the blasted thing in the first place. As I tugged, I became vaguely aware of a toady, amber eye, the size of a dinner plate, staring up at me and I froze.

“Claus? Is that you?” asked the troll, its voice unusually soft and kind.

“Yes, it’s me,” I answered, even though I had no idea who Claus was. Perhaps he was still sleeping? Dreaming of a friend?

“Are you asleep?” I asked.

“Yes, between a dream and awake. I must tell you something.” The troll’s fingers grazed my arm.

“What is it?”

“Promise me, you’ll save her.” An idea struck me.

“I’ll do it in exchange for a tooth.” The great eye blinked.

“Take this one.” And just like that, he plucked his own tooth and gave it to me. “Just remember, there’s a penalty for breaking a promise to a troll.”


“Seven years my servant,” he chuckled, wide awake.