Brian Wilcox. 'Winter from the Park'.
Bath, Maine; Kennebec River
All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.
*Tahereh Mafi. Shatter Me.
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"Kindness" is related to a Proto-Germanic word meaning "to treat another as a relative, or family." "Kindness" is related to the word "kin, kinfolk, relatives." Hence, to treat another kindly is to treat another as of equal worth, of the same status, and of innate oneness with yourself.
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To arouse the spirit of kindness, we put ourselves into and through what we give. We do not just give something, we give ourselves through that something. If you wash dishes, express yourself through the washing; express kindness through the act. Then, each dish communicates your heart.
The same kindness is in the other person. Physical means, such as our hands touching, our body hugging, a meal we prepare, a gift or smile we give, and a letter we write, can arouse the heart of kindness in the other. Likewise, through these means, we cultivate the heart of kindness in ourselves.
We have many opportunities to engage in this skillful means. We only need to be willing and aware. We can make a difference in our world in this apparently small but significant way.
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Four years ago, I - his chaplain - sitting beside his bed, sharing with this thin, worn-out-looking man. He was about my age in time, much older in body. His lover was there. This was the last stage of his life, before the death of the body others knew him by. He adored the Tibetan Buddhist mala, or rosary beads, around my neck. It was my favorite to wear; in fact, I had given the first one like this away as a gift and bought this one, I liked it so much. He liked it as well. He did not request to be given the mala. Yet, how could I not offer the mala to him? I was able to, not out of duty, but from compassion. We may begin giving from duty; we grow into a spontaneous giving, not needing a reason.
He was delighted to receive the gift, putting on a big smile and placing it around his neck. He bragged about it to his lover while looking joyfully into her eyes and holding beads of the mala.
His partner liked the Greek Orthodox komboskini, or prayer rope, I had worn into the room. I explained what it signified. I offered it to her, seeing she had liked it so much and also that I had given him the Tibetan Buddhist mala. She did not want to receive it, not wanting to leave me without something around my neck. Instead, she said she would welcome my bringing some of my Buddhist prayer malas the following week for her to choose one.
We three talked about meditation and prayer. She likes to kneel in prayer, her beloved said. I told her that after many years of running earlier in life, I had trouble getting up if I knelt.
She left the room without saying a word. I wondered why. Shortly, she returned with a walking stick, insisting I take it. I did not need it, but I needed to allow her to give it to me. I smiled and took it in hand, expressing gratitude.
After talking with some family members in another room, I began walking out of the home, and I heard a voice from the bedroom. The voice joyfully exclaimed, "God bless you!" The voice was that of the patient. He left the body soon after, with mala nearby. When I arrived at his sister's home, where he had been moved later to spend his last days, she gave me the mala.
A beautiful sharing had occurred. Love had moved among us and blessed us in blessing one another. Love is like that, you know.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2024. Permission is given to use photographs and writings with credit given to the copyright owner.
*Brian's book is An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love. The book is a collection of poems Brian wrote based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.