The Buddha said that life includes both praise and blame. We can try our darndest to avoid the blame part but that effort will be futile. Perhaps we imagine a reality in which only praise comes our way, and we think that would be marvelous. Looking closer though, I bet most of us don’t know what to do with people singing our virtues.
Today I was in a Zoom meeting with five other folks under the umbrella of the Evolutionary Collective. Each person was to be the focus for fifteen minutes. The rest of us simply gazed at the human being onscreen and asked ourselves what we “got” … what aspects of the person were speaking to us. In the most profound, who is this person anyway? We didn’t know biographical details. Except for one of them, I didn’t even know where they lived. All we did was look and respond aloud to “What am I experiencing?” as we looked into their eyes.
When it was my turn, the other folks showered me with praise with words that touched far deeper than my personality or good deeds. I choose not to tell you what they said. I don’t see the purpose in doing that. It’s not important that you agree with their assessments. It’s not valuable to hear various adjectives being laid on my shoulders.
So what’s a guy to do in response?
1. Aw, shucks
2. No, no … that’s not me
3. (A big and nervous smile)
4. Thank you
I’ve always liked the number 4. “Just receive it, Bruce. Let it in. Let it inform you about what’s next in your life. Let the goodness spoken find further expression.”
I remain unbloated
I know that I’m here to serve
I will continue to do so
I volunteer in a Grade 5/6 class. Wonderful kids. They create so many moments for me, some of which I’ll remember for the rest of my days. Last week, I had challenged these young ones to sing “O Canada” with me when our anthem was played over the PA system. Today, when I realized that the announcements were coming on in a few minutes, I piped up with “Remember the challenge! You don’t have to do it, but …”
And then the opening chords of the song. I looked at the wall and let the words flow from my mouth. Tilting my head a mite, there was the chorus. I don’t know how many kids of the twenty-four were singing but it was more than a few. Ahh. Life is good.
There is great power in putting out a challenge and having it accepted by some. It feels warm inside. It makes me wish that I had a time machine and could leap forward into these folks’ lives. Will thirty-year-olds sing their anthem at hockey games? Will they believe in their country? I hope so.
As the bell rang, announcing recess, I plucked my coat from its hook. “Lisa”, a Grade 5 girl, came bouncing up to me, plastic bag in hand. “Would you like a cookie, Mr. Kerr?” I gazed down into the bottom to find some black spots on said cookie. Red alert! Specifically a raisin alert. I looked at Lisa, grimaced, and said “I hate raisins. That’s so kind of you to offer and someday soon I’ll definitely accept if you give me another variety.” She smiled and I returned the favour.
How lovely that she thought of me and was brave enough to come over and hold out the bag. I feel honoured, cherished. Just as lovely was me telling her the truth. Kids deserve the truth. My dislike for raisins has no impact on my relationship with Lisa. I’ll always enjoy the kind and generous humans who come my way. One of these days, another plastic bag will hold a chocolate chip goodie, or maybe a peanut butter one. Lisa will give and I will receive.
I need kids in my life
Some kids enjoy having me in theirs
We are both teacher and student
I phoned Greyhound today and found out that my bicycle has arrived from the west coast. I felt myself contract, knowing that I’m nowhere near ready to get back on the saddle. But it was time to pick ta-pocketa up. Happily, my boxed steed fit nicely into Scarlet and it was off to Cyzzle Cycles. Sygnan was out and about somewhere when I arrived but would be back in half an hour.
I knew that around the corner was Cyprus Pizza and I thought it would be a slice to show up there. Tony was very friendly and I headed outside to eat and drink. The wooden bench I aimed for was in the sun, and it was a hot and humid day. Tony intercepted me and moved the bench into the shade. How very kind. He was sitting with Koula, his sister-in-law. Since there were no other customers, the two of them were luxuriating under a tree.
Immediately the three of us were cozy together. Those were real smiles looking my way. I asked if they were from Cyprus and the answer was yes. With great longing, they described the beauty of their homeland, an island near Greece. Isn’t this just the way life should be … instant friends chatting in the shade?
Their pepperoni pizza was thoroughly yummy and I made sure to tell them so. Little grins appeared. Koula asked me about Belmont, my home village, and we three were off to the conversational races. She offered me strawberries, cherries and a peach from her tray, and I unthinkingly said “No thanks.” After all, I was perfectly immersed in pepperoni. But there was a niggling something in the back of my head, which didn’t move into the thinking part of my brain for a few minutes.
Was Koula’s head a little lower than it has been a bit earlier? Was there a slump in her body? I believe there was. Seconds later, she asked again if I’d like some fruit. Without consciously sensing my earlier mistake, I said “Yes.” Her glow and her outstretched hand said it all.
The gift is in graciously receiving the other’s gift. It’s a two-way street of generosity. From unconscious to conscious, I made the course correction. It’s what the world needs.
Koula, Tony and I waved goodbye after the strawberry of life was savoured. We knew what had happened and we were glad.
So I heard as I sat in my pedorthist’s office this morning as I waited to have my orthotics adjusted. Such a simple gesture of friendliness, and yet so profound. It was as if I was blessed with these words:
Is there something I can do to lighten your load?
May I bring a touch of coziness into your life?
May I serve you?
I said yes to the coffee, not really needing the beverage, but seeing the moment in front of me, and wanting to allow the completion of the giving. I was presented with a smile, and with a grey china mug full of the hot stuff. I wrapped my hands around it and felt the warmth from cup and human being. This point in time was sufficient.
Long ago, I walked into a Woodstock, Ontario elementary school for the first time, to visit a visually impaired student. An educational assistant came up to me in the hallway. I didn’t know her. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” The same welcoming, the same honouring, the same inclusion. How lovely across the years.
May I have the eyes to see the things people do to show me I matter
And may I return the favour