It’s time for another chapter from a book Karen and I received from JoAnn. It was from Rodale Press for Hallmark, 50 things that really matter.
I’ve been sharing some of the first person chapters — and throwing in my two cents worth. The book celebrates 50 of the simple things that really do matter in life. I share them to encourage you, enlighten you and enrich your soul. But, most of all, I hope they may inspire you to see the real value in life.
In college, I was among a group of student activists who constructed a makeshift shanty-town, where we planned to sleep to raise awareness of homelessness. On the night of the event, a group of men living at a nearby emergency shelter found out and asked if they could join us.
A few students were afraid of getting closer than we’d planned to witnesses of the harsh issue we were tackling. But our visitors turned out to be kind and gentle souls who kept us up all night telling their stories.
We learned how three of them had come from Mexico, intending to make money to send to their families, When they fund no work, they had become stranded. One guest was born in an orphanage and said being homeless was simply the only way of life he knew. My favorite, Earl, was having trouble getting back on his feet after spending time in prison for a minor crime. Nobody thought enough of him to give him a secure place to live, but, as he showed us, he was brilliant enough to design plans for an entire underground city.
The next morning, we left our new friends and made our way to the school cafeteria. The cafeteria staff served us mounds of waffles and omelets, which they said were “on them.”
We knew there had to be a powerful force at work to make things turn out so well. The college administration could have panicked and tried to stop us when we revealed our plans to sleep in cardboard boxes. The homeless men could have easily been cynical an dismissed us students as pampered do-gooders. We students could have rejected out homeless visitors, fearing the stereotypes that were simply not true. Instead, we all shared a cup of true kindness — and were better for it.
This experience taught me that when it comes to kindness, there is very little difference between who is giving it and who is receiving it. And we all have the warmth and nourishment kindness brings our souls. We just need to trust enough to open our hearts. The rest will take care of itself.
By Mary Kittel, 50 things that really matter, Rodale Press for Hallmark
Hmmm. My first reaction was Mary’s naivete. Unkindly, I did think she and her “activist” friends were pampered do-gooders adopting a “cause” with little to no regard for the root causes. And it was confirmed by the paragraph about returning to the cafeteria for on the house waffles and omelets.
Unfortunately, many causes get left behind. The shanty-towns or Relays for Life or advocacy events take center stage while the root causes — homelessness, cancer, environmental, et al — take a back seat for the camaraderie of the event. We tend to want to raise awareness, but often are unwilling to delve too deep. Homelessness is dark. Cancer is dark.
Mary and her friends learned a little about the whys of homelessness, but I doubt they appreciated the depth of the issue. They listened to the stories — apparently five or so of the thousands upon thousands. And at the end of the night returned to their plush, idyllic, comfortable college lives.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Mary and her friends. She did come to the conclusion there is little difference between the giver and receiver of kindness and its effect on our soul or being. I don’t begrudge the camaraderie for a common cause. But know the issue — all sides. Don’t just actively fight for a cause with your appearance, fight for it with your heart and soul.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Your uniqueness in your personality, strengths and gifts are marvelously a piece to the puzzle of who you are.