Sunday Blog Share: Beyond the facade

A lovely poem by Kim about kindness and compassion and our ability to make a difference.

Beyond the facade

by Kimberly Laettner – Peace, Love and Patchouli

 

You must have been a beautiful baby

the song plays quietly in the background of my mind

I hum along and wonder,

well, aren’t they all when you think about it?

When it comes down to a heart beating

and the miracle of cells dividing

multiplying

creating something so unique,

and why is it only

babies that can be beautiful

for when we see the dirty unkempt homeless man

or the woman with the missing limb,

what changes in the mind to see…

(Continue Reading: Beyond the facade)

The Power of Fear

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“Fear,” the man said. “Fear has long, fine fingers.”

Grigor Phelan found fear intriguing, full of subtleties, an art form one contemplated because nothing of its shape or color or texture was what it appeared. Fear spanned a spectrum from the subtle edge of respect to unbounded terror, and he was most attracted to what lay in between, in the murky hues of human sentiment. He was charmed by the guises of fear, how it hid itself from its host, how it crouched on the rim of consciousness. Like a child’s kaleidoscope, fear proved changeable, multi-faceted, and often lovely as it turned. It might wear the face of generosity or compassion, decency or loyalty, adoration or threat. It could be manipulated by the most benign of words or actions, or pace like a wolf at the edge of a nightfire, seeking a way in.  (Myths of the Mirror)

***

Few will deny that fear is a powerful force. I wrote the above words as the puppeteers geared up for the invasion of Iraq. Fear was the weapon of choice to convince otherwise rational adults to ignore facts and engage in some shock and awe. The Oxford Research Group estimates that 6,700 civilian men, women, and children died during those 3 weeks of “awe.”

Fear is empowering. We all know that invoking the “other” unites us, fires our collective will, and rallies our troops. How thrilling to identify a monster, threaten to lay it low, and scream our slogans. If you want to unite a people behind you, find a common enemy – a racial or ethnic group, a religion or gender, lifestyle or point of view. All other problems, all other responsibilities, every other option falls away.

Few are impervious to fear’s influence, though some are bolder, braver, and willing to see beyond the lurid illusions. No matter how one felt about Barrack Obama’s policies, it’s hard to deny the remarkable fortitude, dignity, and grace he exhibited while facing eight years of fear-based racism, bigotry, smears, and lies. The baseness of the attacks brought a whole nation to a standstill. They accomplished nothing and served no one, least of all the fearful.

Peace, unity, and progress require hard work. Fear is easy. It does away with the pesky time-consuming need for listening, dialog, collaboration, and compromise. It requires no research, no curiosity, no empathy, no diligence, no ethics, no time, no compassion, no truth. It’s so much easier to lay blame, to hide behind righteousness, to repeat the lies, to say what others want to hear, to feed and fan the flames until it becomes the norm for political discourse and cements walls of cynicism and suspicion in place.

Fear is ravenous. It claims those who wield it and makes them slaves to their own words and actions. Few who have unleashed the monster will risk the backlash should they try stuff it back in its cage. Once the beast is fed, it’s safer to keep feeding. Who would have thought kindness requires such courage.

Today, the US votes. I hope that we as a nation aren’t ensnared in fear’s talons. I hope we can stuff it back behind the bars and elect leaders who will knuckle under and start the tremendously hard work of finding solutions to the massive problems riddling our country and the world. This is serious business with lives at risk, real lives that depend on our leaders to stand up against fear and proceed with, at the very least, mutual respect.

What wonders we could achieve if we believed in the power of love.

My one political post for the year. Thanks for listening ❤

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A Mother’s Whispered Song

Branwen climbed into bed with her children and spread her cloak over them. Propped on an elbow, she brushed lank curls from small foreheads and looked into the dark eyes that peered back trustingly into hers. In whispered softness, she sang them to sleep.

Little fire, starry light, guide me on my path tonight
On waves of dreams, as you sleep, ‘cross the seas, calm and deep
Farewell to troubles, lay them low, sing the seamaids, soft and slow
Little star, flame above, sail away the night, my love                      – Eye of Blind

For several years, I had the great privilege of serving families in need. As part of my work, I was invited into homes and lives to guide, teach, nurture, and when I could, to gather baskets of memories brimming with new ways of being and believing in the world. At most, I accompanied parents and children on their journeys for mere slivers of time, and yet in the collection of hours and days, I was witness to great suffering and love, desperation and hope.

Those who travel the helpers’ path are granted gifts. Not gifts wrapped in paper and laced with ribbon that we set on a windowsill and forget with time, but gifts that reside within us, that alter who we are and how we perceive our world.

We live in a time of divisiveness. Our politics shred our world, and unfiltered rhetoric spews like bile into the air, toxic with deception and blame. It is no wonder that we are losing our ability to listen and behold each other with open minds and compassionate hearts.

Branwen and her children live in an abandoned house by the sea, but they could live anywhere: in the mountains of China, on the plains of Africa, in the arid lands of Syria, or simply around the corner. Everywhere, mothers like Branwen touch small foreheads, peer into innocent eyes and sing their children to sleep.  What would happen to our world if we became still and quiet and listened to those whispered songs?

Reflecting on Father’s Day

Dad and meMy relationship with my father hasn’t always proved a smooth ride. We’ve both lugged around our blind spots and buried pain. Yet as people tend to do, we’ve also grown up over the last fifty-some years, learned a thing or two about forgiveness, gratitude, and love.

When I reached the wise old age of twenty, my eyes opened to the idea that parents weren’t perfect. That new perspective loosened some of the emotional chains of expectation. I could view their opinions and reactions within the context of their generation and upbringings. This altered understanding gave me permission to travel my own journey without my inner critic’s disapproval hanging over my head.

dad and me 2In my thirties, I experienced another “duh” moment when I realized that parents continue to grow and learn throughout their lives. I am now their age, and the silly, narrow-mindedness of my previous level of understanding is downright embarrassing. Yet there you have it.

In my forties, I learned that there’s no going back to unsay old words and unhurt old wounds. What I most wanted was a trip back in time, a redo, a gift impossible for him to give me.  To wrestle our relationship from the muddy past required compassion, and forgiveness for mistakes neither of us can change, no matter how hard we may wish to.

As I worked in my garden this Father’s Day, I found myself reflecting on the many things I learned from my father that have enriched my life. Despite our struggles, there were hidden blossoms among the weeds that occasionally crowded our paths. I thought I’d share a few:

A love of the outdoors
Respect for diversity
Kindness toward all living things
A passion for reading
A lifelong fondness for power tools
To work with integrity
To grow vegetables
That money isn’t important
That I can do anything I put my mind to
That it’s possible to change
And never too late to say I love you.

Love you, dad.

Write and Change the World

JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…