This week, the fourth of the Kindness Challenge initiated by Niki of The Richness of a Simple Life, had us reflecting on the role models of kindness that have influenced and inspired us. What a fun task!
One of the options she suggested was to write a letter to one of our kindness role models. If you know me, you know this is right up my alley. I am a staunch supporter of love letters and think the world would be a far far better place if we sent more of them.
I have quite a stash of Love is Mightier postcards as well as a stash of Peace of Mind postcards by Sacred Bee artist Pamela Zagarenski – all perfectly delightful foundations for love letters. And so I penned four notes to people whose kindness has touched my heart deeply and made a difference in my life. They modeled behavior that has helped me grow and expand, and I am truly grateful.
While these are personal connections, I also wanted to take my reflections to a broader stage and came up with four public figures who I consider to be kindness role models.
First, the Dalai Lama. He is an embodied master of kindness, and he distills his philosophy down to pure simplicity:
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
Ram Dass is another spiritual leader who exemplifies kindness to me. For me the defining message of his philosophy is his observation:
“We are all just walking each other home.”
To really embrace this is to understand unity consciousness – we are all connected. We are all on this life journey together – no matter what our path is, no matter what our circumstances are, no matter what our belief systems are. What kindnesses we offer each other; what hand we hold when someone is afraid or lonely or heart-broken; what celebrations we share – those things DO matter. We are accompanying each other as we remember who we truly are.
Parker J. Palmer is my next nomination as a kindness role model. He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. Don’t you love living in a world where there is a Center for Courage and Renewal?! Palmer is deeply reflective and openly sharing, and one of the most profound teachings he has offered me about kindness is this:
“…And I ask myself what I might do today to allow suffering — my own and others’ — to open my heart up instead of shutting it down.”
We cannot be kind – we cannot offer kindness or receive it – when our heart is closed. And kindness is never more needed than in times of suffering. To know this, and to work towards keeping our hearts open, always unfolding, always expanding, is a life-time journey no doubt. But we walk our journey day by day, moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity. I want to be a force of kindness amidst suffering. And so I carry Palmer’s message with me, and consciously try to live it.
Morton Marcus, a beloved favorite poet of mine, most certainly belongs on my list of kindness role models, Although he died several years ago, there’s rarely a week that passes that I don’t read one of poems. He’s widely known for his prose poems, a form I particularly like. Shortly before his death I wrote him a letter, letting him know how much I appreciated his work, and asking permission to use one of his poems on my blog. In an act of true kindness and generosity he graciously gave me permission. I invite you to read his poem/teaching story entitled Gravity here. I love it so.
I chose four men for my list. Did you notice? I did it deliberately. Make no mistake, I am strongly feminist, and there are plenty of women who are on my kindness role model list as well. And it’s also true I have spent much of my life doing my best to ground Divine Feminine energies into our world. But now more than ever before I think we need to acknowledge, recognize, and support those who embody Divine Masculine energies as well. Our society is SO skewed, so unbalanced, so polarized, I think showcasing masculine models of kindness is quite important and more of what we need to see collectively.
I loved this week’s invitation, and I think it’s wonderful to celebrate those who have inspired and influenced us. What about you? Do you have a kindness role model? Have you written a love letter to someone lately? Been inspired by an act of kindness? Do tell – you know I love to hear.