Monday, November 7, 2011

Kindness and Generosity


I've gone through a series of ideas for writing this morning. The first was about failure and how it is a transitory state, just a step in a long walk. Then I was reading Runner's World this morning and got to thinking about how it's past time to stop listening to "experts", but I worried that I was going to come off like a Republican Presidential candidate denying obvious fact to pander to fools. (I know, stop holding back and let people know how you really feel about conservative Republicanism.) This thought and the opening of my email led to the idea that I want to discuss today: kindness and generosity.

Yesterday, I received notification that two of my poems were being published and now appear on the website of the publication The Prose Poem Project. Needless to say, I was excited. These are the first things that I have ever had accepted for publication and while I agree that being published doesn't change everything, for me it has changed one thing: I feel as though my work has been given a stamp of approval from someone I don't know, someone who reads this sort of thing all the time and has to be discerning. It gives me the reason to keep going.

As soon as I heard that the poems were up on the site, I sent an email to almost everyone I know. I have known for a week and a half that the poems were going to be published, but I was hesitant to mention it. I felt weird about it, as though no one would be interested (though I knew logically that they would be). Even hitting "send" yesterday on that email was a challenge for me, but I did it and I'm glad I did, because it reintroduced me to kindness and generosity.

Almost everyone to whom I have written, has written back with more than just a "congratulations." The notes have been effusive, personal, and written with care. One friend passed the link onto his father who sent back a link about a historical figure who appears in one of the poems. A friend from long ago wrote first to say that she was thrilled about the publication, then wrote a second note specifically about one of the poems. People I haven't heard from in ages wrote personal notes of kindness and this to me is the ultimate in generosity.

It occurs to me that my sharing it with them is also an act of generosity and that my fear about it is common with such acts. Generosity is the giving of a gift and that process can lead to rejection. The generous person knows this and pushes forward anyway assured that giving is all that matters in the process. Kindness rules over everything.

Above, I mentioned the Conservatives in passing. I was cracking a joke, but as with nearly every joke, it was built on truth and firm conviction. My problem with the Conservatives is with their lack of generosity. I can't follow people like that and I have a hard time even allowing for them to have their opinions. At one of the Republican debates this year, a question was posed to Ron Paul about a 30-year-old who opts out of insurance but then gets a catastrophic illness or injury. The point of the question is that Dr. Paul's rhetoric states plainly that we should let that 30-year-old wither and die.  He failed to buy insurance, he knew the risks, let him die. Dr. Paul, of course, ducked the question, but the audience cheered and someone even yelled out that he should die. I know that this represents the extremes of the party and I don't base all of my conclusions on this one episode, but there seems to me a strong sense that theirs is not a platform of kindness and generosity.

I often hear the story of Cain and Abel being misread. The end result, for many, is the phrase, "I am not my brother's keeper." Well, that's fine, but it's not in the story anywhere and it doesn't represent what I think is the story being told. Cain slays Abel and then God asks him, "where is your brother?" As if God doesn't know. Cain asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  God's unspoken but implicit answer is yes. We are all our brother's and our sister's keepers.

I'll say right now that I'm not a believer in God or in religion. It's just not for me. But I do like the stories and I like them in part because they require careful reading and discussion. The lesson of Cain and Abel isn't to abandon your brother for your own sake. It's not about looking out for number one. It is all about looking after our fellow man and woman. It is about kindness and generosity.

I am blessed with kind and generous friends and family who shower me with their love and who believe that they are indeed my keepers. I feel them watching over me and, in turn, I keep them. It makes the world a beautiful place, almost like some kind of Garden of Eden which, it seems to me, is a perfect place from which to write on.