Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Today ends our month of focusing on Step 5–Make haste to be kind. I’ll close the month by thanking two wonderful bloggers for kindly giving me awards. Katy at Superman Sammy and Beliza at a series of random thoughts have honored me by giving me the Good Bloggers Pay It Forward award.

Accepting the award only requires linking back to the givers, and passing the award on to five other bloggers. Katy added a nice touch which made me all the more pleased to accept the award and pass it on. She asked her recipients to “include a link to an organization, individual, group, or anyone who might benefit from others knowing about their needs.”

So I’ll start with that. Edwards Center is a wonderful organization providing services to adults with developmental disabilities. I hope you will check out their website and see what all they do. There is a short video on the site as well as other descriptions of the services they provide. Out of every dollar donated, ninety cents goes directly to services for clients. Whether you donate or not, I hope you will enjoy learning about this amazing organization.

And now I’m delighted to pass this award on to five blogs I know you will enjoy, if you aren’t already.

From Mountain Tops
My Life for a Year
Getting Unstuck
Crystal Jigsaw
My Grama’s Soul

I hope you have had a good month developing habits of kindness. Here is one of my favorite quotations, and the obvious inspiration for Step 5.

Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. –Henri Frederic Amiel

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kindness Memories

The month is coming to a close, so this might be a good time to reflect on kindness. At our discussion group earlier this month, we shared memories of kindness, either kind things that someone had done for us, or kind things we had done for someone else. There was no time period specified for the memories, so it was interesting that many of us remembered things from childhood.

For example, I remembered Mr. and Mrs. Lubrani, our next door neighbors, an elderly couple who had no kids. Mr. Lubrani had a compost pile, something not common in those days. In the fall, he would rake leaves not only from his own yard, but from other yards as well. He composted the leaves and used the mulch to enhance his gorgeous garden. He would let me hang out with him. I helped him rake leaves and haul them to the compost bin. He taught me about the science of composting. I remember digging my hand into the middle of the pile and feeling the heat generated by the decaying leaves as he explained it to me.

Mrs. Lubrani would invite me in for tea and cookies. I remember sitting on the couch and talking with her. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember feeling good about my time with her. I felt calm and happy. I remember how interested she was in whatever I had to say.

All these decades later, their kindness still warms my heart.

What about you? What memories of kindness do you treasure? The memories can be recent or from long ago. Something you did, or something someone did for you. I hope you will enjoy remembering your stories. I know all of us will enjoy reading them.

I will be away for the weekend, so I will have limited computer access for the next few days. I will publish your comments as I am able, and will respond when I get back. Please know that all your comments are important, so please excuse any delay in posting them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

If you fly often, you can probably recite the flight attendant’s instructions in your sleep.

“In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, a mask will drop down from your over-head compartment. Secure the mask around your head, and breathe normally. If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance, secure your own oxygen mask first, and then offer assistance to your companion.”

When we first heard these instructions, we might have thought that in such a crisis we would help our loved ones first. However, on further reflection, we understood that we could help our loved ones better if we weren’t passing out from lack of oxygen ourselves!

Several people have commented this month on the need for us to be kind to ourselves. This is not selfish. It’s not a me first attitude. It is a wise recognition that being gentle with ourselves is the model for how we treat others.

Although there are many contexts in which we might fail to be kind to ourselves, parenting is the one that comes to mind for me. As a single parent raising kids with a variety of issues, I was running on empty a lot of the time. I had my shortcomings as a parent, to be sure, but I think I did a good job of taking time for myself when I needed to. I took lots of bubble baths. I did not feel bad about leaving my kids with trusted childcare providers, so that I could have dinner with a friend, or have some time by myself at the cabin, or take an occasional short vacation.

When the energetic oxygen in our home was depleted, I put my mask on first. Not only was I a much better mom, but my kids saw me taking care of myself. When they become parents, I hope they will remember.

In the last post, I outlined three kinds of kindness. The second was planned kindness, and I suggested that we could plan specific acts of kindness toward identified individuals. Let’s go back to that idea, and make a plan to do something nice for ourselves.

Hmm, I see a bubble bath in my near future. What will you plan?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Kinds of Kindness

At our group discussion on kindness earlier this month (I lead a monthly discussion group on the 10 Steps), we identified three kinds of kindness to focus on as we develop the habit of kindness. I thought I would share this part of the discussion with you.

1. Spontaneous Kindness

This is the sort of kindness that is in response to a perceived need or opportunity. You might see a colleague looking sad and ask if everything is all right. You might offer a helping hand to a neighbor. You might greet a person passing by with a smile and hello.

While driving a few months ago, I noticed a woman in a wheelchair on the sidewalk next to a van parked at the curb. The van had a ramp that was partially unfolded, but seemed to be stuck. The woman held something in her hand – I couldn’t tell if it was a control for the van or perhaps a cell phone. As I passed by, I looked for a driver or someone nearby who might be helping her, but I saw no one.

I continued another block or two wondering whether an offer of help would be appropriate or an unwelcome intrusion, but decided to circle back and see. I pulled over behind her van, got out, and asked her if she needed some help. Yes, she said. If I could just pull the bottom section of the ramp out, it would flatten out. It was easy enough to do, requiring only a gentle tug. It took me less than a minute from the time I stopped till I was back on my way.

As we go through our day, there are many opportunities we have to lighten someone’s burden or to brighten someone’s day. See how many you can find.

2. Planned Kindness

There are many ways to plan kindness. You can plan for a certain time period – a day, a week, a month. You can identify any number of acts of kindness during that period. The point is to plan in advance specific acts of kindness you will do for identified recipients.

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher called me one afternoon to tell me that she had been part of a group of children who were cruelly teasing a classmate about his severe allergies and the accommodations that were necessary to keep him safe. I couldn’t believe that MY child would act like that. (Can anyone relate?)

I sat her down in her time out chair and laid out her consequences. “Peter is now your new best friend. If anyone teases him, you will defend him. For the next two weeks, you will sit in this chair for five minutes every morning before you go to school, and you will plan three nice things to do for him that day. Then you will come home after school and tell me about doing them.” Amazingly, she did as told and, even more amazingly, did become Peter’s best friend. I saw that she felt good about being kind and by the end of the two weeks was looking forward to planning her nice gestures. It was a great way to start her day.

Hopefully, we haven’t been teasing anyone and don’t need to make amends. But what I learned from that is that we can plan to be kind. It’s fun to plan and it’s fun to carry out our plans. So pick a time period and make a list!

3. Fake It Till You Make It Kindness

Sometimes, we don’t feel kind. We don’t even want to feel kind. It’s possible that this is the best time to be kind. Kindness is a great thing because we don’t always have to feel it to get the benefit of it. A kind act can generate a subsequent feeling of kindness.

I had a supervisor years ago who was, as the saying goes, a child of God cleverly disguised as a total jerk. He made all our lives miserable. His method of management was to criticize and humiliate. I dreaded having to talk to him. Finally, one day I just decided to be nice. I don’t know why I did that. I wasn’t making a strategic or an enlightened decision. I just did it. I thanked him for helping me with a project (even though his “help” was to tell me I was doing it all wrong). I asked his opinion on another matter. That threw him off balance so much he actually gave me a compliment!

I would like to tell you that our department was transformed into one big happy family, but it wasn’t. What did change was my attitude. I no longer saw myself as a victim. I went about my business and wasn’t so churned up. I began to see why he might act the way he did, and even felt compassion for him. The kindness became genuine. No, we were never buddies, but we developed a more positive working relationship.

I’m not suggesting that we use kindness as a way to manipulate someone, or that we use kindness when we are in danger, or that we use it as an assault of our own (as in “Take that!”) What I am suggesting is that sometimes a kind gesture can break through our own feelings of judgment or defensiveness, and soften our own hearts. And that can lead to a feeling of well being and a capacity for genuine kindness.

“Do something wonderful for someone else today...and you will make two people happy.” Thanks to Jo who shared that quote in a comment on the last post.

Related posts: The Kindness Game, Kindness Pays, A Few Leaves

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Not About You

All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself. –Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva

I just retired from teaching in a professional school. On the first day of class every year, I would tell my students, “Until now, your education has been about you, enriching your life, broadening your horizons. Beginning today, it is not about you anymore. It is about the people you will serve with the knowledge you gain here. Everything you learn here is learned for the purpose of helping someone else. Your responsibility to them begins today and requires you to do your best now, because someone someday will be depending on you.”

In spite of this hopefully motivating wisdom I imparted to my students, I have often lived my own life as if it is all about me. Those are not my happiest times. I’m thinking back now to a very difficult time I was going through years ago. A significant relationship was ending badly, very badly. Naturally, this was entirely the other person’s fault. I was consumed by hurt and vengeance, and furiously self-righteous as the victim I perceived myself to be. As the rancorous disentanglement proceeded, I obsessed about each detail, going over everything again and again, fueling my soul’s turmoil. Worse, I made all my friends listen to every detail, yes, again and again.

Finally, one day I realized that I was stuck. I was not moving on or healing or processing or anything. I was saying the same things over and over. I was so bored with myself. Goodness knows, my patient friends must have been bored for ages. I knew I needed to get unstuck, but my grip on my misery was so rigid I could not pry my claws out of it.

About that time I saw an announcement about a volunteer opportunity which involved helping other people by becoming a trained spiritual companion. Not a therapist or a minister, but a person trained to “walk beside” a person who was having difficulty. I signed up and went through the training. I learned that the care relationship was not about me, but about the person needing my attention. I learned to put myself aside and listen to someone else. Really listen. After the training was complete, I had care receivers. The time I spent helping someone else was time I was not spending thinking about my own problems. What a relief! Amazingly, the more I helped other people, the smaller my own problems became. I was happier both because I wasn’t wallowing in self pity, and also because I was being of service to others.

It doesn’t require a time investment as large as the training I underwent. All it takes is a willingness to put yourself aside just long enough to do something nice for someone else. You will both be happier–double benefit!

If you want to make others happy, practice compassion. If you want to make yourself happy, practice compassion. –The Dalai Lama

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heart Hospitality

I like welcome mats. When you walk up to someone’s door, the mat tells you something about the people who live there. Is it a functional mat or a fancy one? Perhaps it has a sports logo or birds or flowers on it, or a funny message from the dog or cat. It might say “No one is a stranger here,” or “Come back with a warrant.”

Hospitality. So many stories and customs. We’ve heard about families who always had an extra seat at the table for someone stopping by, or extra food handed out the back door to the hungry. We’ve heard about the legendary hospitality of the Bedouins. And Southern hospitality. And the story of the loaves and fishes in the Bible.

And of course my daughter, who used to stand on the front porch when she was little and call down to people passing by – “Hello! Where are you going? Where do you live? Do you have any kids? What’s your name?” – until I could race outside and scoop her up.

What about our heart hospitality? Is there room at the table for one more? Do we turn away strangers? Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, give clothes to the needy, visit the sick or imprisoned, or welcome a stranger, when we do it to the “least of these,” we do it to him. Notice, he didn’t say it’s “like” doing it to him. We do it “to him.”

A Course in Miracles teaches that when we separate ourselves from others not only through actions, but even by our thoughts, then we separate ourselves from God. Thoughts of anger, unforgiveness, criticism, envy, fear, block our ability to see the divine in everyone.

We have busy lives and good reason to exercise caution for our safety, but in our hearts, can we put the welcome mat out? Can we greet each person with a silent Namaste (I honor that place in you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us)?

I just went to my front door and looked at the welcome mat. It is dirty and faded and frayed. I’m going to toss it in the trash and go buy a new one.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. –Hebrews 13:2

Related post That Man Might Be Jesus

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

When I was a young hippie wannabe, I hitchhiked with a friend through Mexico and Central America to South America, where we planned to spend the winter and then go back up to Alaska to work again on the salmon fishing boats. Along the way, we stayed in modest (read dirt cheap) accommodations, sometimes in a home that rented rooms. These homes were in the shape of a square, with all the rooms opening onto a small, central courtyard.

I remember one place in particular. It was a hot afternoon in southern Mexico, and over in one corner of the courtyard there were several comfortable chairs in the shade. I went over and sat down with a book. A child came out of the nearest door and stared at me. I tried out some high school Spanish, and soon we were pointing at things and naming them in Spanish and English. A little later, some people who appeared to be his family came out and sat down, drinking some cool beverages, offering some to me. I stayed on for awhile, pleased to be mingling with the locals.

Let me make sure you have an accurate picture here. I was, at least at that moment, an unwashed, immodestly dressed, in full bloom flower child, hanging with this rather elegant, proper Mexican family, who did their best to make me feel welcome as they passed the heat of the day in this pleasant corner of the hacienda, while I pestered them with my tedious attempts to communicate.

Later that evening, one of the other guests, a more experienced traveler than I, took me aside and told me that I had been sitting with the owners of the home on their private patio. That trip was long ago and I have many memories of it, but none that taught me as much as that family, who, instead of shooing me away so that they could enjoy their afternoon siesta, graciously treated me as an honored guest.

reposted from archives

Friday, May 13, 2011

Did I Break Blogger?

Right on the heels of removing word verificaion for comments on my blog, Blogger broke down for almost 24 hours. They say it was something that happened during maintenance, but I can't help but wonder!

I can now sign on, but my last two posts have disappeared. Blogger says lost posts will be restored, so I will hold off on reposting to see if this happens.

Meanwhile, I am headed up to my cabin for the weekend, so I will be away from the computer till I get back on Sunday.

If the lost posts are restored, and if you would like to comment, please do so and I will happily publish your comments as soon as I get back. If the lost posts are indeed lost, then I will repost them on Sunday.

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Speak Wisely -- PS

Someone just reminded me of the quotation I should have added at the end of the last post. This bit of wisdom comes from Thumper, the little bunny in the movie Bambi. "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Speak Wisely

Lily and Jamie grew up together in an orphanage in China and were both adopted as teens. I adopted Lily. I took Lily to visit Jamie not long after they were settled in their new homes. Both were still getting adjusted to their new lives and learning a new language. Jamie’s mom and I took the girls to a mall. We moms decided to sit and relax in the food court while the girls went shopping. Jamie smiled and admonished us to “speak wisely” before running off to join Lily. I have no idea what she thought we were going to say, but I cherish this phrase and the memory of her delivery of it.

“Speak wisely” reminds me of Buddhism’s Eightfold Noble Path, which includes Right Speech. It teaches us to ask three questions before we speak. 1) Is it true? 2) Is it necessary? 3) Is it kind? If we can answer all three questions yes, then we are assured that we are speaking wisely.

I don’t always speak wisely. I used to love gossip. I am a Southern girl, after all. It’s in my blood. Gossip is a way to connect to others, to fit in, to belong, to be popular. When I lived in Paris, I was the only American in my building. I would often practice my french by chatting about the other tenants with the concierge, who spoke no English. I became a bilingual gossiper. And even though she was not too keen on Americans, she liked me. So much so that when I moved out, she gave me the nicest compliment she could think of. “You’re not really very American,” she nodded with approval.

Gossip often seems fun and harmless, but we all know it has a dark side. Gossip can ruin lives, cost people jobs, drive teens to suicide, destroy friendships, and, at the very least, hurt people’s feelings. Even if it meets the first criteria and is true, it is rarely necessary or kind.

Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project cautions against gossip. The thrill of sharing gossip is short lived. We have to promise and exact promises from others not to tell. We don’t really feel good about what we did. We’re anxious that the story will get out and be traced back to us. We might feel guilty that we betrayed a confidence or that we spoke ill of someone just to have a moment’s pleasure.

I have reformed. As a person who appreciates the power of words, I value Jamie’s advice to speak wisely. I honor the trust of someone who shares private information with me. I try to change the topic or excuse myself from gossipy conversations. I don’t justify gossip by thinking that I’m not saying anything I wouldn’t say directly to the person. If it is something I would say directly to the person, then that is the only place I should say it.

And I try to remember to ask myself, “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. –Psalm 19:14

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blog Comments Update

Well, wasn't I the pot calling the kettle black?! I get impatient sometimes with the word verification process when I'm trying to leave a comment on someone's blog. This is because my ancient computer is already slow as molasses. I never realized that I had that on my blog. I know, I am still learning basic stuff even after a year. It's embarrassing. Anyway, I just figured out first that I did have a word verification requirement, and second, how to remove it. So now you won't have to go through that step. I hope that makes you "happier" about leaving comments!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kindness Pays

When Mia was in middle school, my foster daughter Grace joined the family. Grace got along with the boys, but she and Mia enjoyed only a brief honeymoon period before the fur started flying. Over time, their animosity became so entrenched that their attacks were automatic. They seemed incapable of seeing, let alone respecting, the other person’s perspective. Each saw herself as the victim of the other, on the receiving end of unwarranted meanness, self-righteous in retaliation.

I did everything I knew to do. We processed ourselves silly, went to counseling, discussed to exhaustion. Consequences were shrugged off.

I kept them separated as much as possible, knowing that if they entered the same space, it would only be seconds before the air ignited with hostility. Finally, I realized that getting them to really understand the situation was a futile endeavor. Each was dug in too deeply. I decided I didn’t really care anymore if they “got it.” I needed the behavior to change, regardless of their understanding.

So I sat them down at the table and made a proposal based on the only thing I thought might motivate them – money. I promised to pay each of them $1 a day to get along. They had to be affirmatively nice to each other – ignoring each other was not enough. Only I got to decide at the end of the day if they earned the money. And either they both earned it or neither did. They would make money or not as a team. Grace observed that this idea might cost me a lot of money. I thought to myself it would be a bargain at twice the price.

It was a bargain indeed. The next day was a pleasure. They said please and thank you to each other. They offered to help each other with chores. They complimented each other. They were totally insincere, you understand. I didn’t care. Peace was restored.

By the time the novelty wore off after a few weeks, they had broken their habit. Over time I saw that they changed at a deeper level. Breaking the cycle gave them room to breathe. Their defenses relaxed. Being kind, even if it was to get money, felt good. It felt good to the person being kind, and it felt good to the recipient of the kindness. They began to form new behavior habits. And after awhile I didn’t need to pay them anymore.

Today Mia and Grace are good friends, even sisters. They laugh at all the things they said and did to each other. (I’m a little slower in seeing the humor.) They apologize and forgive. The wisdom of the slogan “Fake it till you make it” is proven again. Fake kindness leads to genuine kindness. And genuine kindness leads to our happy place.

Are you in a rut of negative interaction with someone? What would happen if you started being kind? I told the story last month of the Weissers, who overcame hateful attacks by kindly offering to help their attacker. That is an extreme example, but perhaps you can think of someone who rubs you the wrong way, someone who might respond to a kind gesture. Even if the other person does not respond, you might feel better. Give it a try and see what happens.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Kindness Game

When my daughter was in high school, she was, like many high school kids, focused on herself. I thought it might do her some good to think outside of her own life. So I came up with a game. Each day we would compete to see who could do the most nice things for other people. It could be something as simple as smiling at someone as you pass by, or saying something encouraging. If you did something nice for someone in your family, you got double points (because we often overlook those closest to us). At the end of the day we would compare notes and see who won.

Playing the game was fun. You go through your day a little differently when you are actively seeking opportunities to be kind. I caught myself smiling more, greeting people, listening more attentively, offering to help a little more quickly, finding something nice to say. I wrote out a compliment card for someone who helped me at the store. Mia ate lunch with a student from another country who was often isolated.

One day, Mia called me as she walked home from school and asked me for directions to a certain address. When she got home, she explained that she had seen a young woman looking distressed. Mia crossed the street to ask if she needed help. The young woman was developmentally disabled and had gotten off at the wrong bus stop on her way home. She was disoriented and couldn’t figure out how to get home. After I gave Mia directions over the phone, she walked the young woman all the way home, even though it was quite a bit out of her way. When she told me the story, I readily conceded the game for that day, for the whole week. I could see that Mia felt compassion for this young woman and was pleased to be able to help her. (Because I have two sons with autism, Mia’s brothers, this kindness on Mia’s part was especially meaningful. I would like to believe that someone would do the same for them if they were lost.)

Playing the kindness game helps us develop the habit of kindness. The point isn’t to “win” or to brag about what a nice person you are. After all, kindness done in secret is often the most delicious. The point of sharing is to help others be more aware of all the opportunities we have as we go through our day to brighten someone’s life, to lift someone’s spirit. By sharing our examples, we can inspire each other to see those chances we might otherwise overlook.

So I hope you will join me in playing the kindness game this month. Let’s try to be aware of opportunities to be kind. These could be spontaneous opportunities, or we could create our own opportunities by giving it some thought as we start our day. Is there someone at work or at home who could use an encouraging word? Is there someone you could say thank you to? Is there a parent or friend who would appreciate a phone call or email?

You can play the game with your family or with friends. It can be a game of solitaire--try for your personal best! Or we can play with each other. You could share in the comments some opportunity you discovered to be kind. For example, here is a great idea from a comment Lisa just left on my last post.

I have been pondering upcoming Mother's Day. Perhaps we might call on those who are Mother-less. I am fortunate to still have my parents, but so many do not. Call a cousin, a friend, or a co-worker who has no Mom anymore and take them for tea. Or make them lunch. Mother them for a few hours. Love them as we are loved.

Lisa's comment made me think of a good friend I have not been in contact with for awhile. Her parents were like second parents to me. I will call her tomorrow and we can share some wonderful memories of her mom. Thank you, Lisa, for this great idea.

We worked hard with some challenging issues in March and April with Steps 3 and 4, regarding letting go of control and feeling our feelings. At least, those were challenging issues for me. Let’s relax this month and have some fun being kind. And remember – fun is good!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

That Man Might Be Jesus!

I was walking my dog in our neighborhood. As I strolled by one house, a woman working in her yard stopped me to admire Sadie. As she was bent over rubbing Sadie’s ears and talking doggie talk to her, a homeless man walked by pushing his rickety grocery cart piled full of who knows what. The woman jerked up suddenly and bolted for her door, calling back over her shoulder to me, “That man might be Jesus! I have to go fix him a sandwich!”

I was dumbfounded. I waited a moment for the candid camera folks to leap out of the bushes. Then I moved off in the opposite direction, marveling at the bizarre kookiness of people. But before I turned the corner, I paused and looked back at the hunched shoulders of the man shuffling off down the street, oblivious to the commotion his passing had provoked.

I guess the joke was on me after all, because I have never looked at people the same way since. Or maybe I should say I have never overlooked people the same way since. Everybody became real to me that day, imbued with divine identity. I notice people – in the grocery store, in other cars, on the street, in the news. They all have lives. Just like me. They want the same things I want – to be happy and free from suffering. I’m quicker to smile, to nod a greeting, to send a silent blessing.

People in certain parts of the world greet each other with the word “Namaste,” which has been roughly translated as “I honor the place in you, where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”

Maybe that woman was Jesus. Maybe we all are. Namaste.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What is Your Religion?

My religion is kindness. –The Dalai Lama

We begin a new month and a new topic, Step 5 – Make haste to be kind. The irony of this timing was not lost on me last night as I watched the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. No, I’m not going to dive into a discussion on national security or politics. I’ll leave that to others. Instead, I want to share my reaction to the news. I felt, I admit, some relief, but mostly I felt a deep sadness, not necessarily because he was dead, but because of all the senseless violence in the world, too often committed in the name of God.

I watched the spontaneous celebrations erupting in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in New York. I understood the emotions behind them, but I was uncomfortable at such jubilation over his death.

Today I read the responses of world leaders. Many expressed congratulations, but the response from the Vatican impressed me the most. I quote it here as it appeared on the CNN website.

Osama bin Laden, as we all know, had the very grave responsibility of spreading division and hatred amongst the people, causing the death of countless of people, and of instrumentalizing religion for this end. In front of the death of man, a Christian never rejoices but rather reflects on the grave responsibility of each one in front of God and men, and hopes and commits himself so that every moment not be an occasion for hatred to grow but for peace.

Reflection rather than rejoicing seems an appropriate response to this event. Will this news further divide us as people of different faiths and different cultures, in spite of the president’s assurance that we are not at war with Islam? I wondered if Muslims in our country would have felt safe joining in the raucous crowds, even if they shared the relief, as many do, that the man who had caused so much suffering was finally dead.

If there was ever a need for hasty kindness, now seems like a good time to reach out to those who might be the targets of thoughtless and even cruel words and actions. I emailed my two Muslim students this morning to wish them well and to caution them to be safe.

I hope that at this turning point in the story that began almost a decade ago, on September 11, 2001, we can show ourselves and the world what is best about our country. I believe it starts with kindness...to all.

Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. –Henri Frederic Amiel