Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Open Your Hearts, Part 2: Just a Little Tenderness

We often think of charity or philanthropy as existing only in the big picture. Media call attention to the grand gesture - someone donates a large sum to a worthy cause or knits 4000 hats for the homeless and the press is right there. A corporation provides matching funds to a food bank drive and its logo is plastered all over the promotional material. Once in a while, someone runs a story of the small act of kindness, such as the recent story of a local man who bought a cup of coffee for someone suffering in the cold, but it's easy to form the impression that only acts of largesse are worthy of attention or have an effect. Direct acts of generosity are most often presented as exceptional, rather than things which all of us can do. We seldom consider that, if everyone did one small act of kindness every day, those efforts just might grow into something larger. Better yet, they may help us connect on a personal level.

Unlike big fundraisers, where those who donate may never personally cross paths with the people they are funding, personal acts of kindness always require engagement with the people they affect. Working in a soup kitchen means you see the effects of poverty and homelessness up close. Buying a coffee and a sandwich for a street person requires you to make the purchase and hand it to the recipient and, perhaps, engage in the exchange of a few pleasantries. The act of giving a $5 bill (the scene I witnessed yesterday) may mean that you have directly provided a meal for someone who desperately needs it.

It's not that we should abandon our larger charitable efforts. Food Banks need those sums of cash and food donations. Corporations should give back to those who provide company profits and to those who are not fortunate enough to reap the benefits of free enterprise. If you don't have those big things to give, never think that your heart-felt act of kindness has no effect. Every gesture counts in building the human connection.

As well as donating what extra cash we have on hand to worthy causes, we can begin to think outside those charity boxes. This past spring, young Ms. DD took a turn at helping to walk a homeless couple's dogs while the woman was in hospital and the husband wanted to sit with his wife while she healed. (That one made my heart sing. I'm one proud, proud mother. She'll not be happy I've told you about this, as she'd rather not be mentioned in my blog. I'm making an exception.) It takes little effort to tuck some chocolate or a granola bar into your bag and offer it to that person sitting on the street; knitters and crocheters can do the same with hats and scarves. Ask someone if he would like a meal, buy it and bring it to him. Not everyone wants your help, so always be prepared to accept the refusal of your offer with the same kindness with which it was given. If you can do nothing else, a warm greeting and a sincere smile as you pass by can do wonders in acknowledging the humanity that we all share.


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