kindness, milk and cookies

June 11th, 2010

I wake this morning in Seattle – Tacoma, to be exact – where I am soaking up the hospitality that greets me every place I arrive for a reading, a talk or a Mother’s Plunge retreat. Tomorrow’s Mother’s Plunge with 34 women is the multiplied outcome of a single kindness. By kindness I don’t just mean the command to come, but one person’s compassionate effort and initiative to make this event happen.

This is how we save the world. This is how we save ourselves. With living kindness, the kindness that walks on your own two legs, finds a room for people to gather, hosts a tired traveler in an upstairs bedroom, brews coffee and bakes cookies and makes the world a better place.

In that spirit I offer you this simple treatise today, an excerpt from Hand Wash Cold:

The view that there is higher ground apart from the place we occupy is based entirely on ignorance. It perpetuates fear and, worse, enlarges it. There is only one place. The one you’re in. You can never leave, but you can turn it inside out. Do you want to live in friendship or fear? Paradise or paranoia? We are each citizens of the place we make, so make it a better place.

At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.

Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.

On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.

Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids on the sidewalk stand. Tell them to keep the change.

Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

Smile at him. It will be the first smile he has seen in a very long time.

Do not curse your neighbor’s tall grass, weeds, foul temperament, or house color. Given time, things change by themselves. Even your annoyance.

Thank the garbageman. Be patient with the postal worker.

Leave the empty parking space for someone else to take. They will feel lucky.

Buy cookies from the Girl Scout and a sack of oranges from the poor woman standing in the broiling heat at the intersection.

Talk to strangers about the weather.

Allow others to be themselves, with their own point of view. If you judge them, you are in error.

Do not let difference make a difference.

Do not despair over the futility of your impact or question the outcome.

Do not pass while the lights are flashing.

Trusting life means trusting where you are, and trusting where you’ll go, and trusting the way in between, like a bus trip, the driving left to someone else. It’s bumpy but remarkably reliable.

There’s milk and cookies waiting.

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  1. Roll down your car window when you see the homeless man on the corner with the sign. Give him money. Have no concern over what he will do with it.

    Yes. I now keep a dollar bill or two in my car’s ash tray so I always have a bit of spare change for these guys. I figure it’s a better use of an ash tray than its intended one.

    Regardless of what the recipient does with the money, it makes me feel better–more generous & open–having given it.

    Comment by Lorianne — June 11, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Welcome to Seattle! I can’t believe how good it feels to give up your grocery line spot to someone else. Really a great feeling. And…I can’t wait til Saturday’s Plunge. You will love the gorgeous Bastyr Campus. See you soon.

    Comment by Erin — June 11, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  3. This is beautiful. Thank you, Karen. I hope I can attend a Plunge or a reading event soon. The words (yours) are so gentle, so sweet, so true.

    Comment by Ines — June 11, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  4. Thank you so much for coming. 🙂

    Comment by Emme — June 11, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  5. How timely! My children and I were hosting a lemonade stand today to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Only 4 people stopped, but one man did give us extra and told is to keep the change! He must have been reading your blog today.

    I think I am going to print out the part about the place you live in and it is what you make it. That’s something all of us in the household here need to see on a daily basis.

    Thank you so much for your wisdom!

    Comment by Heather — June 11, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  6. What a wonderful manifesto for living!

    Comment by Edith — June 12, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  7. Karen*

    always, i appreciate your voice.

    with gratitude,

    Comment by meghan — June 12, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  8. I also believe it is the smallest of kind acts that can go a very long way. There have been so many instances when I have asked the person checking me out at the grocery how they are, and the person literally gives me a double take, shocked I am looking them in the eye and talking to them.

    Comment by Swirly — June 12, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

  9. Beautiful instructions about how to live and feel good exactly where we are. So gorgeous Karen. Amen, Alleluia. This gospel I make my practice.

    Comment by Meg Casey — June 23, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

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