Archive for the ‘compassion’ Category

When I learned Wednesday a former neighbor had died, I sent an e-mail to my sisters.  One of them asked if we wanted to send flowers for the service.  My older sister questioned why when we had lost touch with them.

Why?  I used to babysit their children (and they were the best kids I ever watched), but that’s not the reason.  Yes, they were our neighborhood children (we used to call Lynette “Lynetti Spaghetti”–hope that didn’t cause any problems for her later).

It’s because I know where the family is–in that cold, dark place where the grief comes in waves so strong you feel you are going to drown.  But first you have to get through the numbing shock that makes you think you must be dreaming; this can’t be real.

Yes, we had lost touch.  But they came to both our parents’ funerals.  And they had stopped by our parents’ house here a few times when they made trips to Scottsdale to buy Southwestern turquoise jewelry.

We were just up in Wisconsin over a week ago.  We drove by our old house but didn’t stop in to see them.  And now I was feeling the pain again of losing your father through those kids.  The oldest is five or more years younger than me.  Living 75 years might seem a lot to some, but losing your father at any age is devastating unless you had a horrible relationship.  Even then, the closure would probably never come.

That is part of the reason we made the journey north.  We had not been there in 5 years, for my father’s funeral.  I wanted to see my hometown again and attend to their graves, hoping it had been long enough to get some kind of closure.

I had forgotten how truly beautiful the northwoods are.  We stayed in a cabin, and except for the noisy neighbors it was so peaceful and and restorative.  I made a vow to get out in nature more now that the cooler weather is finally coming.

We also attended a family reunion with some relatives we had never met.  Our grandmother and her brother had a falling out over an issue no one knew anything about.  My grandmother was a proud person, and when she had a falling out with someone she never talked about the person again.  They were truly nice people, and we agreed it was a shame we had not been a part of each others’ lives for all those years.

We visited my dad’s second cousin and his wife on the lake and were joined by some other old friends of my parents.  The next day we had lunch with one of my mother’s dearest friends and her husband.  There was a lot of talk about the past and how things used to be.

We drove around to all the lakes and places we used to go to.  A lot had changed, of course, and my overall impression was the one most commonly noticed when visiting the past, that everything used to look a lot bigger.

We did clean the graves and put silk flowers on them.  We had not seen the headstone from the Veterans Administration, since it was placed after we left.  We also visited our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ graves.  A rosebush my grandmother had planted on her parents’ graves was blooming but needed a lot of trimming.  My uncle, whose family we are estranged from, had been buried the week before.  But we did not have to look for his grave, as he was buried right next to his parents.

I’m glad I made the journey back.  It’s nice to remember it as our childhood playground for a while, and not the place where we buried our parents.  I probably wouldn’t have sent the plant if we hadn’t just been back there, but I hope seeing it at the service this morning made his wife and children understand there were old friends who appreciated their father and felt their loss, knowing that their lives are forever changed.


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But for the Grace of God


This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, which may seem off topic, but since I’m studying Buddhism I will tag it under compassion.   But it really came to a head today.

I don’t know why, but I was thinking again about homeless people as I was driving to the gas station from work.  It really bothers me that we have homeless people in my town now.  And it bothers me that it doesn’t seem to bother other people. 

I’ve been told one of them, who has been here for years, is homeless by choice, and his parents live here.  I call him the “Can Man” because he pushes a big cart around and does dumpster diving.  He apparently has a routine, because I’ve seen him several mornings in the dumpster behind a motel or crossing the main street in front of it.  His hair is gray now, but what concerns me is he appears to be dressed  in shorts and/or pajamas.  We just had several days and nights with the coldest temperatures on record.

But for a while now we have had apparently homeless people standing at the end of one of our shopping centers.  And more often than not, they have dogs with them.  It isn’t easy for me to confess that I have wondered if they have dogs because they get more money with them, and that I have asked myself if I am more concerned for the dogs than the people.

We do have homeless shelters; there’s one down the street from me.  But I’m sure it doesn’t take dogs, even though it is in a former veterinary clinic.  I don’t mind giving people money, but I do worry about my safety. 

Tonight as I was at the stoplight before the gas station, I saw two police cars there.  I decided not to go there, although I’m sure there might just have been a car scraping another.  But when I went to the other gas station, a man came up to me and said “Sorry for startling you.  Do you have $3 to help me out?”  I said, “Sorry, no,” and he said  “Thank you” and walked across the street, past the McDonalds, probably to stand on the corner of the shopping center.

I thought about him when I got home.  Would he go hungry?  It’s supposed to be 31 degrees tonight.  I hate that my fear may have caused another human being to suffer.

The cynical probably say that every homeless person is by choice.  But I remember reading about President Lyndon Johnson making a comment to one of his staff or aides about a homeless person.  The associate said something like, all it takes is one thing to go wrong, and that person could be you or me.  It could be loss of a job, a car accident, or a serious illness.

I’m going to call the homeless shelter down the street and ask if they do take pets.    If they do, maybe I’ll make some little sheets with directions to the shelter.  I’m going to ask what I can do to help.

When we used to go down to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, we passed through the city of Hermosilla.  At the stoplights, children would ask if they could clean your windshield for a dollar.  My brother-in-law said not to give it to them because that was only making them continue to beg.  But a dollar to them meant a whole lot more than it did to me.

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“Ask of the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth.” ~St. Francis of Assisi

This morning on our weekly walk we saw a little girl and her mother we have seen at least twice before.  They remembered us, too.  The little girl told her mother she loved puppies and kittens, too.  Then she said she loved animals.  She told her mother there was a show on Nickleodean that showed all the dogs and cats who didn’t have homes.

Her mother told her some people couldn’t have dogs or cats because they lived in an apartment or couldn’t afford them.  I wondered if that was true in their case, which made me sad.  But it was good to hear children’s programming isn’t all noise and flash.

Although I usually prefer solitude on our walks, Cubbie is the opposite.  He has taught me to be more open to people because he loves everyone, especially children.

 A few weeks ago an elderly couple came walking toward us, and the man’s eyes lit up when he saw Cubbie.  He came over to pet him.  His wife, who walked with a cane, was reluctant but petted him also.  Cubbie was so gentle, as if he sensed he needed to be.

I  also think he was brought into my life to teach me patience (I wasn’t looking for another dog at the time).  That is something I have been trying to learn my whole life.  Nature is a great teacher of patience, too.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.”  Job 12:7-8

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