Yesterday there was a confluence of events that has helped to open my eyes to the Practices of Kindness and Generosity. Three different things pointed that way and when multiple fingers point the same direction, it’s at least worth a look. So here’s the look…
The first act of generosity and kindness came from my friend Alexandria who is a gifted healer. She suggested that I come by and spend some time on her massage table. I’ve had cellulitis in my right elbow for about 5 days now and in some ways my entire body has been in reaction to that, leading to aches and a slower more sluggish energy. After the massage, when I asked her what I owed her she told me it was free, even though she does this professionally. Alexandria is one of my new favorite people as she is very alive and spontaneous and constantly dancing/singing/creating. The generosity of her spirit pours forth and spills onto whoever is around. The other day I told her that although her energy is so expansive and expressive that I can see that at her core there is a deep stillness. She was glad that I saw that. It’s so true – others would see her as flighty on first blush, but her capacity for expression comes from something deeply contented within. It’s beautiful to see.
The second act was not one I witnessed first hand. It was a gift that my friends Terry and James had given to Alexandria. While at her home she showed me a walkway that they had built for her to the front door of her 150 year old home (which is about as old as they get in California). It was a truly generous gift. They too are always generous with their resources and spirits.
The third part has to do with two young men Josh (21) and Connor (25), who are staying this evening at my house while on a bicycle tour across America for peace. They are both Iraq War Vets, one of whom became a conscientious objector in the midst of his service and the other chose a new direction after his 4 years of service were through. I brought them to my Monday night Buddhist Sangha last night and the group asked them to give the “dharma” talk. They agreed and spoke of their experiences and their mission of teaching to choose love over fear and hatred. Connor told a powerful story of being on random door-to-door search for weapons in Ramallah when they came to a small home with a wall around it and an amazing garden that you would never imagine finding in the desert. While the other soldiers were busily ransacking the house and Connor was digging holes in the man’s beautiful garden, the man served him tea and asked him about his life and family, with genuine generosity, interest and love. Connor was deeply touched how this man, whose home was being violated, could be so open, interested, generous and loving. The hearing of this story also touched me. Perhaps the only way that violence/hatred/aggression can be transmuted is with Love. This Iraqi man’s love changed Connor deeply, and he in turn is passing that energy and intention to others he meets along the path of their Peace tour, including myself and the others in my Sangha last night. Josh coined their efforts the Contagious Love Experiment. I think that is such a beautiful intention.
As I look back in my life, I can see more and more times when people were generous to me. I’ve tended to be a little more of a squirrel nut in my life when it comes to generosity, but I’m starting to truly see the beauty in it, the true glory of giving. These two brave and sensitive men have helped that come more closely to the surface for me and it’s time to practice a little more.
I just want to mention one other thing, because it reflects how strongly I believe in their mission of meeting fear and hate with love. A few weeks back, a person tried to scam me with my house rental. He sent me a check for about $2,000 more than he should have and asked me to deposit the check and please return the difference. It was an obvious scam, but rather than threaten him with the FBI or anything of that nature, I was simply clear yet generous in my response. My first response canceled our arrangement and closed with the salutation: “Wishing you peace and kindness on your journey.” When he persisted in his attempt, I wrote to him, “I’m trying to be nice to you, but I do realize that this is a scam. I will not be depositing the check and refunding the difference so there is no need to ask me to do so again. I am wishing that wonderful things come to you in your life.” I believe that the best way to stop cycles of violence (and scamming is a form of violence) is to meet it with Love and Generosity. He may not change, but perhaps he’ll sit up in the middle of some night, remembering one man’s kindness and become another Alexandria or Terry or James or Josh or Connor freely spreading Love and Generosity. Seeds of Love can extend far, like the one which came from an Iraqi garden, to the garden of an American Marine, to the gardens of many others along the way of these soldier’s journeys, to my garden, where the seed is already taking root and is nascent with further propagation.
Safe, germinating travels….