Apr 24, 2015

Compassion Through Grief

One friend who understands your tears is more valuable than many who only see your smile. -Unknown

Is there any more devastating human experience than the loss of a loved one? It doesn't matter what our personal beliefs are as to what happens to those we lose once they pass from this world. Whether we believe they are gone forever and death is the end or have deep abiding faith that they're reunited with others who will welcome them home, there still remains in our hearts an empty place where their companionship lived and breathed meaning into our world. That emptiness hurts - and it will for as long as it takes to stop.

The only people who believe there is a time limit on grief are the ones who have never lost a piece of their heart. - Unknown

These times are among the most challenging we'll ever face. They're made less so by the loving compassion of others. As societies we know the universality of loss. We know that we'll all face it at some point if we haven't yet. We build rituals around loss to support the grieving and buoy each other up at such times. These rituals are just as important to those who come to support as for the bereaved. They remind us of our own mortality and the fragility of it - it's fleeting temporary nature. They shine a bright light on the importance of nurturing the relationships we're blessed to have and they give us a chance to dig deep into ourselves and willingly feel the pain of another.

 When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. - Fred Rogers

As I attended two separate funerals this week, I was able to see this principle in action. I saw sharing of tears, hugs, and just the quiet holding of each other. I heard stories shared and laughter ringing through the darkness bringing beams of light. I heard a loving vocal performance sung from a soul - not from a throat. I saw cards, and flowers, and photo-memories - but most of all I saw compassion, because all of these things are the face of compassion.

Compassion was in the tearful eyes of those waiting to speak with the family of a lost loved one. I saw it in the ritual gathering itself - people putting their regularly scheduled lives on hold to be present to help shoulder the pain - to make it lighter even if only for that moment. It's been said that God loves us through other people - living angels who minister his love and tenderness. I've seen such angels. At times in our lives we will be called upon to be such angels.
When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity, when your love touches someone’s pain, it become compassion. - Stephen Levine
We must never underestimate the value of a sympathetic word or gesture. It may seem small to us - almost worthless, and there are those who feel that they have nothing to offer at such times that could be of any consequence. Instead they choose to stay away in fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Any loving thing is the right thing. No one kind word, hug, or expression of empathy will heal a broken heart - like no one thread will bind, but woven together many threads become a strong rope that's hard to break and it's the same with loving expressions of kindness. They layer upon each other and form a thick blanket - a soft place for those who are grieving to fall. Those gestures reaffirm life and show the grieving that there is enough love left for which to carry on.
  A feeling of pleasure or solace can be so hard to find when you are in the depths of your grief. Sometimes it's the little things that help get you through the day. You may think your comforts sound ridiculous to others, but there is nothing ridiculous about finding one little thing to help you feel good in the midst of pain and sorrow!
- Elizabeth Berrien
May we each strive to be those ministering angels - those who just show up with a layer big or small to add to the blanket. Let's say the loving things that come to our hearts. Even our presence speaks volumes if we utter not a word. We all have it in us to lend healing balm in times of need. Let's also strive to be receivers of that balm from others. Don't turn away, out of discomfort or pride, the love being offered. It's a gift - given by someone who cares.
 If I can see pain in your eyes then share with me your tears. If I can see joy in your eyes then share with me your smile. 
- Santosh Kalwar
Let's also have compassion on those who try. Don't make them offenders for a word that might feel misplaced to us at the time. We all have different abilities and there are those among us who just choke in situations like that. Appreciate their efforts. Love them anyway for their concern. Understand that our sensitivities are at their peak in grief and the same words spoken at a different time might not have felt the same.
Loss is a common experience that we will all share. It's the bitter pill that comes with the sweet one in the "love package." It's just the much harder one to swallow. Let compassion see us through. Help others swallow their pill by offering them compassion too. I love the saying: "We're all just here to walk each other home." When is that more evident or important than in times of loss? 

Apr 15, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.  - Lao Tzu

One of the things I miss most about being young is being cluelessly fearless. Having not yet had the opportunity to learn so many brilliant lessons the "hard way" made that easy. I'm not sure that times were simpler, but I sure was - and it was during one such simpler time that I learned a profound lesson about kindness.

I was in my late teens and as I shared earlier , I owned an old Ford LTD held together by rust and hope. The hope was that it would actually start when I needed it most.

The schooling started one winter as I was traveling quite a distance from home through snowy woods to and from work. As I drove, from time to time, I'd hear a loud clunk from under the car and the steering would temporarily go haywire. "That can't be good." I remember thinking - but not having the money to do anything about it left no option but to carry on, so I did - for several weeks - hoping for the best.

One night I left work later than usual. It had been snowing heavily all day and was already dark. It didn't occur to me to be worried about traveling on the snowy roads through the woods at night alone (blissfully clueless) - but I did at least think "Maybe I should have that noise checked out " before starting the journey. 

Back in those days, most gas stations were also repair shops so I pulled into the first one that I found open. I parked the car and went inside to speak with the older gentleman who was the only one there. When I explained to him what had been happening, his face contorted into that puzzled "It's doing what?" look. He scratched his head and suggested that the only way to know for sure what was happening was to take a look underneath. He opened the service door and told me to "Pull 'er in." 

As I was "pulling 'er in" the familiar clunk sounded and the steering went out - heading me straight for the other door. Seeing what was happening, he suggested that maybe I should let him pull 'er in. Once inside, he put the old LTD on the lift and up she went. After surveying for just a few minutes, he asked me how long it had been acting this way. "A few weeks" I admitted. He was quiet for a time then said, "You need to go sit in the office there and thank God you're still alive. You've been driving around with a broken tie rod end." Having no idea what that meant, but seeing that he did and it indeed wasn't good, I did as I was told.

As I offered my prayer of gratitude for my safety, I also worried. I was supposed to have picked up my son from the babysitter an hour earlier and didn't have the sitter's phone number with me,(no cellphones with contact lists back then.) I had no idea how long the repair would take but knew I had another 45 minutes to add to that for drive time on good roads. Considering the extra time the snow would add poured anxiety gravy onto the mound of worry.

I also knew that I didn't have the money the repair was going to cost no matter how little or much it might end up being. I didn't have a credit card. Not many people did back then and if I wrote a check for the repair I'd have to also pray he didn't drop it because it would have bounced like a Super-ball.

A few minutes later he joined me in the office and asked if I thought I could watch the shop and pump gas while he went to the hardware store to find the bolt he needed to repair the trouble. I assured him I could and off he went. Before long, he was back and working feverishly under the LTD. About an hour later, he came in and told me that it was fixed but suggested that I try to have a better job done on it as soon as I could.

I thanked him profusely and asked him how much I owed him and if I could possibly pay him in installments each time I got paid. He smiled and said. "Just forget about it. You don't owe me a dime."

I couldn't believe what I'd just heard! This man, a complete stranger had not only just fixed my car, but had put himself out to do it - and wasn't going to charge me a dime?!" My heart was filled with more gratitude for him and his kindness than it had even been for my own safety an hour before!

That was decades ago and I'm sure that if he's still alive, that gentleman has no idea that something that he did for a clueless young woman would so profoundly touch her, that she would share the story of his kindness time and time again and would eventually even write about it.

I can't be sure that I don't owe that man my life. How can I know what would have happened if I'd continued on that night without stopping? How can I be sure I'd ever have picked up my son or would even be here to share this? How can we ever know how important an act of kindness on our behalf really is? How can we measure the value of a kind act that we offer another?

Could there be someone out there today telling others of a kind deed that we performed maybe decades ago? Is there somewhere a heart filled with gratitude because we cared enough to help?
If we can't answer yes or at least maybe to those two questions, then maybe the bigger question is WHY NOT?

If life depended on the kindness of a stranger, could we be that stranger?

Photo Credit: Vladimir Pavlovic

Apr 6, 2015

This Has To Stop!

 I was obsessed with being perfect and beautiful, like a porcelain doll, forgetting that the purpose of life is to live fully, not to die perfect. - Kimber Simpkins

As a blogger, I love to read other blogs and get to know my fellow bloggers. It's a great way to see the world from the introverted comfort of my own home.

While so engaged, I came across a post that struck such a chord in me that I felt a need to share with all of you. The post was written by J.G. Lucas and titled What If and I'm sharing it in it's entirety below:

There’s a possibility that drifts past me, not quite making contact, not quite settling on me. It causes a slight lightening of the spirit but feels dangerous, like hope.“What if I’m OK?”

If I could say to myself, “You are.” What a relief that would be. How much extra energy and time I would have. How much unconditional joy I would have. The thing is, if you were to come to me and say, “What if I’m OK?” I would say, promptly, “You are.”
But you are. The hang-ups and insecurities you have, I don’t understand. You are beautiful and kind, you are brave and smart. You are a survivor. Every day you make it. You are still standing, smiling, laughing, studying, thinking, loving.

I’m not letting you off the hook. There just is no hook. Don’t be mean, that’s all I expect from other people. If you can stand up in this harsh and difficult world and not be mean, you are more than OK in my book. You are a marvel of humanity.

But from me, oh the expectations. The list is long and growing. The constant lengthening of the list is a promise to myself. “You will never be OK.”

If I was smart, I would ask myself, “Self, when I do all this, what can I have?” Cornered, my self will be forced to laugh a little slyly, and respond, “Have? Well nothing. There are other pages under that one, silly.”

This isn’t self-loathing or even self-pity. It is just something I don’t know how to release. It’s not like I’m interested in perfection. It’s not like I don’t know how little success with my list means to other people. It just is. It’s my hook. I’m not OK. Or Not OK enough for myself. I should work on that.  I’ll add it to my list.

What struck me about the post above is that in one form or another, I see this theme repeated continuously. I live this theme continuously. A large number of us seem to be completely disconnected from our OK-ness. I'm not sure where that comes from for you and often I'm not certain where it began for me.  Is it other imposed or self imposed and if self imposed why not self exiled?

Why can we find compassion and understanding for others but so little for ourselves? Why do we punish ourselves for our imperfections. Do we forget the human element that is a part of us all?

Are we arrogant in believing we need to be better than those we show mercy to or do we feel relegated by some outside force to always feel less than?

WE HAVE TO STOP THIS! Our lives are precious gifts. They are daily slipping away at increasing speed and too much has already been squandered by giving energy to the belief that we somehow don't measure up. 

We are all unique. There is no one anywhere to whom we can fairly compare ourselves because there isn't a duplicate to be found.

The question then is WHAT ARE WE CHASING? I believe it's an illusion. Perfection doesn't exist in human form. There is no amount of anything that will ever fill the "if only - then" void. We can't be pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, popular enough, successful enough or any enough to compensate for our refusal to be self compassionate and self accepting.

Here is the challenge then. Will we CHOOSE to accept that we are already enough as we are striving to become more? It all starts and ends with that question. What will your answer be? Mine is a resounding YES!

About Anita Stout


I'm a Blogger, Writer, Mother, Grandmother, Business Owner, Entrepreneur, Life Student, Lover of Life and People. I have 2 blogs to keep me out of trouble, and one to get me fit. You can visit my other blogs at:



About J.G. Lucas

I’m a mom and a writer with an accidental cat infestation (three), and a house that is attacking my spirit. I enjoy mangling words to make them do things they’re not supposed to do, and I’m currently using that proclivity to write a fiction series in the genre of Magical Realism-ish.

The above article What If was shared with permission and originally appeared at: