Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Seven Virtues - Kindness

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama

I wish I could say kindness comes easy to me. I wish I could say I could accept kindness gracefully. I wish I could say that kindness was a common thing instead of a rarity.

Kindness is one of those elusive, godlike qualities that cannot be owned and cannot be faked. It shines from within.

My own personal trial while facing the possibility of cancer was a lesson in humility for me. The absolute hardest part of going through something so earth shaking and terrifying was accepting the kindness of others. There were days when the smile of a cashier at the grocery store or a passerby would set me off. When I found out I had to have a biopsy and how much it would cost, the absurdity of the way things work in this country left me fearful and scrambling for solutions not for the possibility that I might have had cancer, but for how I would ever pay for it. Our insurance at the time carried an absurd $10,000 deductible, and the procedure would cost just over that. When a stranger I had never met told me over the phone that a grant would pay for my treatment at the best cancer center in the area, I couldn't stop crying. On the phone with a stranger. Her name was also Jennifer, and I could feel her kindness flowing over me through the telephone like sunshine. I thought it would kill me.
Why is that so hard for me? What is it about accepting kindness that opens the floodgates?
There's something about looking kindness straight in the eye that makes me feel I am in the presence of something otherworldly. Annie, from the waiting room at the cancer center, was the kindest of all. You can read about her here. There she was with her teenage son on the phone and her cancer. I'll never know what she's been through. I only know that her eyes were the kindest, most compassionate I gazed into during those dark days. Her red hair reminded me of a carnival and her smile was like poppies in the sun.
What a gift she gave me. What an angel.
Maybe that is why kindness is the greatest virtue of all. Those who possess don't even know it at all.


cathouse teri said...

Genuine emotion is what gets me. Makes me cry every time. That sounds cliche, but it really is rare that you find GENUINE emotion.

I have found that in the worst of times, the strangers that have helped me in the small ways you mention have made the greatest impact.

The kindness of strangers. Tennessee was on the mark with that one.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think, as women, kindness is often very hard to accept. If you were brought up a certain way (and I was), you're the ones expected to take care of others, and when you need kindness yourself, you feel completely off balance.

Betsy said...

Hi Jennifer!

I haven't been around the blogosphere as much lately and ended up missing your whole cancer scare. Breast cancer runs in my family as well, so I can really relate to the anxiety that yearly mammograms conjure up.

I just read your whole series of posts and they brought tears to my eyes.

The Dalai Lama and his views on kindness inspire me to no end. I read somewhere that kindness is something that should be passed on-- as if someone is pouring water into your hands while your fingers are spread. Kindness is not something for us to hold onto, but we can act a conduit for passing it on to others.

I am so glad that in the end the calcification was benign! I hope that your life has now returned back to normal, but that you are also able to retain some of the relief and joy you must have experienced when your tests came back negative...

anno said...

I keep returning to this post, and others that you've written, feeling that so much of what you've written merits more than what a comment can offer. If you're ever in the area...

Perhaps it's true that women deflect kindness when it comes their way, but it might also be true that it's rare to receive kind overtures that are well-matched to our needs. When you find it, what gift! I'm so glad you had these moments during these difficult times.