Tag Archives: kindness

Generosity Wrap Up

I’m wrapping up my generosity project, but I wish I wasn’t. Going from living around my friends and family and working at PBS Kids on a show I felt really made a difference in the community, to living in Florida, has left me feeling a little lost. Trying to really contribute to the world in a positive way has made me stop moving through it like limbo, biding my time.

An amazing part of really paying attention to how I treat people, is that I pay more attention to the people that do this really well: the person at the deli who always remembers peoples’ names, orders, kids, etc.; the woman in the office who sends the elevator back to the first floor in the morning, so others don’t need to wait for it; my dad who made a big batch of gluten-free waffles so I could have the stereotypical waffles and ice cream breakfast; the people who come over and help clean up before they leave; my mom getting me pretty cut-out mason jar toppers (i use mason jars as votive holders obsessively); etc.

On the other hand, I notice people that aren’t very kind. I’m not saying I did a great job of being generous. It’s especially hard to not be sarcastic at work, reclusive in the mornings and at night and un-selfish when I’m with my close friends and family. I have this awful Napoleon complex I developed in middle school when I was a lot shorter than everyone. It’s like this character that talks over people, but I can’t stop it until it’s too late. Even if people laugh at my jokes, I still feel bad. If you’re really concentrating on it, it feels like negative and self-involved people suck the air from around you, even when it’s you.

Next on the agenda is money management. Probably not going to be the most interesting project, but I need to watch what I spend in order to accomplish other things I want to do (like go to Norway next summer). There’s too many things I allow myself to spend too much money on, like: flying somewhere about once a month, getting massages and my nails done, oh, and a dozen other little obsessions, like my devotion to creating the perfect bed. Whereas most people my age are content with a set from Target, I have 4 sets of sheets (including nice egyptian cotton ones for queen and king size beds), a cloud like duvet cover with special hypo-allergenic filling, 2 duvet covers, and my new addition, a $200 quilt.

I’m sick. I need help.

Carried over from other projects:

  • Gluten-free diet.
  • More fresh veggies and fruits.
  • More hobbies and activities, less TV.
  • Avoid things that insult my soul
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Be more charitable and generous
  • Make my friends/family know they’re important to me

Featured: Anne Heun

Anne and I met the first day in college. Her room was next to mine, and within a month, I was sleeping in her room more than my own. The next year we lived together again, and then later we moved into the stereotypical, (slightly) shady, post-college neighborhood in Minneapolis. What amazed me about her, is that she’s always keeping others in mind. The perfect ying, to my over-bearing yang. In college she dealt with my home-sickness, gave blood at every drive, remembered every birthday and volunteered for the local woman’s abuse organization. Luckily, she’s as smart as she is generous, because now she’s going to grad school to provide support to families coping with the possibility of genetic disorders in their babies.

EF: Is generosity a nature or nurture trait?

AH: Both.  I would say that it is mostly cultural.  Going to other parts of the country than the Midwest, I feel that growing up it always mattered to be nice and friendly, whereas in other parts of the country keeping to yourself is a matter of safety.  I think that generosity stems from the safety of the Midwest and our corresponding belief system – that everyone deserves respect and kindness.

EF: What are the downfalls of being considerate to others?

AH: Consideration is not always returned, and generosity can be abused.  But, I don’t know that there truly is a downfall to being considerate. I absolutely hate laying awake at night and knowing that I treated someone badly.  My biggest regrets in life come from being inconsiderate of the feelings and mindset of others.

EF: The most frustrated I’ve ever seen you was after continuously trying to donate, but being denied because you’re iron was too low. Why is it so important to give blood?

AH: Part of that was pride – I hate failing.  I also feel that it’s my duty to give blood because it’s something I can give freely that may actually make a difference.

EF: Do you have someone you look to for inspiration?

AH: When I think about my friends, and I’m sure it’s the same for you, you know how angry you get when they are mistreated.  I think that’s an inspiration.  Everyone is loved by or loves someone.  I also think of my grandma.  She is the sweetest, most selfless person that I know, and she really does make the world a better place and always puts others first.

EF: What is the place of compassion in your philosophical ideals?
AH: At the forefront.  I can’t believe how fortunate I am, and who my parents are and who I was allowed to become.  I seriously feel that something crappy has to be coming along because of how lucky I have been in my life.  Why isn’t everyone as lucky?  Why do some people lose everyone they love, have horrible diseases, or become physically disabled?  People get dealt a lot of crap, and compassion is central to my notion of humanity.

EF: If you had extra money for charity, how would you donate?

AH: To EVERYTHING!  It would be hard to choose.  The animal cruelty commericals with the sad Sarah McLaughlan song playing make me want to rip my eyeballs out.  A lot of money would go there.  I also feel like as a country we need to treat our elders far better.  They deserve to live their final years in peace, comfort, and love, and should have as much independence as possible.  I would want to build places where age is celebrated and people could live out their final years happily, instead of horrible nursing homes (although there are nice ones, too).  Losing my grandpa was hard because I saw what hospice was like, and it can be awful.  It needs to change.
EF: My family dealt with that this year too, and I saw how it took a toll on everyone. The hospice was like a breathe of fresh air compared to the nursing homes down here.
What are some things we can do on a daily basis to live a compassionate life?
AH: Small things.  When someone smiles at me in a hallway, I feel better.  When a door is held for me, I smile.  People just need to cut the crap and act decently to each other.  If you see someone who needs a hand, give it.  I saw a man on the sidewalk today who asked me a question, and I didn’t realize that he was asking for money until I was down the street.  It would be easier if we didn’t care what people think, and I wish I would have been brave enough to have gone back and given him a couple bucks.

EF: What is the biggest injustice you’ve ever seen?

AH: I see tons of injustice because it’s the nature of our world.  I hate it.  I think of my grandma.  She took care of my grandpa for the last 5 years of her life and sacrificed herself and her loves for him.  It’s not that she didn’t love him with her whole heart and didn’t want to help him – it’s just that she lost a piece of herself.  After he died, she was able to reclaim her life…until her cancer returned.  She had been diagnosed about two months before he died, but they surgically removed it and told her that it was all gone.  Then, she wasn’t feeling well, and it turns out the cancer had spread throughout her abdomen and lungs.  She wants so badly to live, and now she knows that her time left is pretty limited.  I absolutely can’t bear the thought of losing anyone I love, and it kills me.  I’m angry at the doctors, but mostly I’m angry for her.  She’s been through enough.
EF: You seem to have a knack for being there for your friends, most especially for me when I was going to go to my uncle’s funeral and you surprised me with a care package of all my favorite foods. Perfect, since I had barely eaten all week. What are other ways you’re mindful of your friends and their needs?

AH: I try to remember that everyone has deep feelings, hopes, and dreams, and I try to attend to those.  I think small things matter.  Listening is powerful.

EF: What activity makes you most happy?

AH: Spending time with my family and friends.  I miss everyone all the time.

EF: Who do you admire most in the area of music?

AH:Dave Grohl!

EF: Who do you admire the most in the area of design?

AH: EVERYONE.  I can’t design worth a crap, and anyone who makes the world a more beautiful place is truly appreciated.

EF: Where do you want to be right now?

AH: In Ames, as a 17 year old girl.

EF: If you could give someone advice, what would it be?

AH: Be kind.


Little Flower

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their virtues.”–St Thérèse de Lisieux

I have not been doing very good with my generosity since the weekend ended. My cat (MauMau) started crying by my bed 10 minutes before my alarm went off yesterday and today, and instead of waking up ready and willing to start my day, I carried the situation out for 20 more minutes, then exploded at the cat making him run out of the room. Not very considerate to both the cat and Logan trying to sleep. After half-haphazardly getting ready, I start my 45 minute drive to work on a single lane highway. Yesterday me and about 15 other cars were stuck behind a slow-moving old woman driving a Buick, so my commute suddenly turned into an hour and 15 minutes long. Then came chain of events that were clearly a results of the irritated and exhausted mood the morning put me in.

I know everyone has irritations, so I wont document all of mine, but I will say that today I let my selfishness be my downfall. When an old man got lost in our building, I barely mustered the energy to help him. Even then, all I did was put a forced smile on my face and direct him to the right floor. The constant aimlessness of the senior citizens in Florida is starting to make me jaded.  I need to remember the good-will I felt coming down here to help my grandparents, and my morals to respect my elders. Instead, I’m usually left only remembering the times I got stuck behind a senior-citizen going 20 mph under the speed limit, who probably shouldn’t have their license anymore; or I remember the times I was next in line after an elderly couple at lunch, who couldn’t seem to remember what they like.

This reminded me of St Thérèse de Lisieux (or Little Flower) who was famous for killing with kindness. The story goes that there was one nun at Thérèse’s convent that she didn’t like, describing her in a memoir as, “a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything, in her ways, her words, her character.” Instead of getting outwardly angry with her, she treated her as if she “loved her best of all”. She managed to do this so well that when Thérèse died, the nun that displeased her so much said, “At least I can say this much for myself: during her life I made [Thérèse] really happy.” It wasn’t until 30 years later that someone admitted to her that she was the “disagreeable Sister” from Thérèse’s book Story of the Soul.

In another story she describes how irritated she was with one of her Sisters for playing with her rosary noisily during prayers. Once again, instead of snapping at her she said, “I set myself to listen as though it had been some delightful music, and my meditation, which was not the ‘prayer of quiet,’ passed in offering this music to our Lord.”

I need to channel St Thérèse de Lisieux this week.