I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Good medicine

Someone's collection of hearts
One day, while on a walk in the park, I discovered someone's collection of heart-shaped rocks, with a "good medicine" message in the middle. What does it mean, good medicine? A quick search on the internet gave me the source:
“A cheerful heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” –Proverbs 17:22
Laughter and a happy attitude does indeed go a long way towards making me feel better about myself, and gives me hope for the world, too. Being depressed and sorrowful doesn't help anybody, especially me. So today I'm going to look at ways to lift my heart and share a bit of the joy we can all feel for simply being alive.

Yes, I know that as I age, aches and pains are normal, and I have grown accustomed to feeling my familiar aches when I first step out of bed and start my day, but I also know that as I move around and stretch a little, I'll feel better and before long, they will diminish to more manageable levels. When I was younger, I'd leap out of bed feeling nothing more than delight in the workings of my body. But these days, I no longer leap with confidence into much of anything, but instead take it easy in situations where leaping is required.

Last Thursday my hiking group had to cross several roaring streams, and we needed to leap from rock to rock, and I must say that my confidence waned as I eyed one rock to another, trying to figure out how to get across. And then I found myself unable to move, unable to go forward or backward without falling, so Jim, one of my fellow hikers, came over to help me get across. And sure enough, I was able to make it across with his help, without getting my boots submerged in the rushing water. It is always a good idea to ask for help when you need it.

Kindness and caring comes naturally to some people. My friend Jim is one of them, and although I only know of one aspect of his life, his joy in hiking and travel, I know he will be available to help me if I ask. He recently traveled to Peru and hiked the entire length of the Inca Trail, which I also did way back in 1981. It surprised me to see his pictures and hear of his adventures, because it's changed so much since then. Now it's practically an industry, with hordes of people on the trail all at once. When I was there, I saw only a handful of others during the three-day backpacking trip from Km 88 (where the train left us to begin our journey) through the ancient ruins to our destination of Machu Picchu. Now you can hire a guide, or (in Jim's case) a sherpa, who carried his gear for him. In all his pictures, I saw so many other people that I hardly recognized the trail I covered almost forty years ago.

Forty years! It boggles my mind how quickly those years passed, but if I recall the memories carefully, I realize how much I still remember of those days, those moments in my long life, and am grateful that I got a chance to see those ruins for myself. I would not go back; it would make me sorrowful to see how much it's changed. That is true for many of my previous excursions. When I spent those six weeks in Peru, my first international trip, I had no idea that I would travel many more times to places in the world that would astound me: the Forbidden City in Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, to name a few. I've traveled more than my share, and now that I'm retired, I have little desire to go very far from home. Visiting my sister in Florida during the winter is far enough for me these days.

There was a time when I truly wanted to travel the world. Little did I know back in 1981 that I would have the chance, but it happened and now I have a plethora of memories, photographs, and stories that will always be with me. One thing that emerges in my mind's eye as I think back over those years are little vignettes of the people who, at one time or another, showed me a kindness, for no reason other than that they are good people. We need the good medicine of kindness now, as much as we needed it then. It's like a benign virus: showing someone a kindness causes them to want to do something nice for another.

This morning, as I venture out into my little corner of the world, I'm going to take my own cheerful heart out there and spread a little of that virus around. First the coffee shop, giving me a chance to share a bagel with my friend John, having a few laughs together before perhaps taking a short walk down the boulevard in the early morning before it begins to get hot, and noticing how often a stranger will smile at me if I smile first.

Something that will warm your heart, if you are an animal lover like I am, that is, is a video that I discovered about a retired couple who created a wonderful haven for elderly cats. It just happened without their planning it, and this should help to spread that virus around from me to you:

I must warn you that it's 12 minutes long, and I have to admit I cried several times during the video, but they were tears of happiness, and gratitude for people like this couple, who spend their retirement years creating something like a Cat Heaven.

Now it's time for me to start my day, having finished my first and most important task, writing this post. Interestingly, I feel quite a bit of happiness already, just now, and I'd like to share it with the others. My partner still sleeps next to me, so I'll just send him a virtual hug rather than waking him with a kiss. Thank you for being with me in this electronic life we share, and I do hope you will leave me a comment, if you want, to help spread the benign virus of love. I wish you well until we meet again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

It's now 10:00 as I read this and you are well on your way to spreading kindness. I have watched a World Cup final, petted and gave treats to my borrowed cat, started the laundry, and I have a cake in the oven, my birthday cake, to take to Whidbey Island tomorrow. Yes, I am kind to my family when they are on vacation and bring my own cake.
I have recently become aware of how much I smile at strangers and how often they then smile back. It's a little thing, but even little things make a difference. Making a positive difference is what it's all about.
Two people called me yesterday to thank me for being kind. That makes me want to try harder.

Terra said...

I love the video about the cat haven and recommend it to all your readers. The heart stone display is sweet, isn't it? Like you said, let's spread love. My church is sending out a group to Haiti this week and I bought a goat for them to give while there. We can each do our part.

Arkansas Patti said...

Often just a warm smile from a stranger or a special post from a friend can put a little spring in our step. Thanks for my spring.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Kindness is a good thing! I am grateful for your friend Jim who helped you when you needed it! We all need more friends like that. I am not leaping much either...:)

Elephant's Child said...

Kindness should be thrown around like confetti. And smiles. I can change very little in the world but I CAN change my attitude. Which benefits me, and those I come into contact with.
Have a great kindess filled week.

Galen Pearl said...

What a sweet post. It's so easy to be kind. It doesn't take a grand gesture, but just seeing an opportunity and offering a helping hand, like your friend Jim. I was the recipient of a kind gesture like that recently, and I was aware of how deeply it touched me. What we might think of as an insignificant gesture might be something that is deeply heartfelt and appreciated by the other person.

Gigi said...

Generally, it doesn't take much to be kind and share a smile. I'm sure you've spent your day brightening others.

Have a wonderful week, DJan.

Susan C. said...

The cure for depression according to a Chinese proverb...is to go out and greet 100 people without any expectations.....it works! Kindness sent out into the world does lift someone’s spirits and thank you for the reminder.

Marie Smith said...

I stress kindness to my grandchildren. You can always be kind to people, share a smile or a kind word if nothing else. If each of us was kind, many problems would be solved.

Have a wonderful week Jan.

Red said...

Being kind to others, smiling at people does as much for us as it does to the other person. We have to work hard at keeping up beat and reaching out to others.

Rita said...

The entire world needs more love virus!!
The video was touching and I admire that couple for taking in the older cats like that. Funny Cats Cradle is the name of the place here (no kill) and is where McFamily got Blink. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for sharing the video. It warmed my heart and brought back to me so many memories of all the cats with whom I have lived. You know, I hope, that your kindness comes through every one of your Sunday postings . They touch our lives and help us realize just how blessed/fortunate we are. Peace.

Jackie said...

Your heart is tender. Your heart is kind.
That is what drew me to your blog years ago.
I’ve never met you, but I am blessed to know you through your writings.

Glenda Beall said...

My friends and I have been talking about the random acts of kindness toward us lately. I think our country is doing its best to overcome the meanness and hate we see on TV and social media. We are a kind people and I am so happy to live where I never see the kind of terrible things that are on television. One of my friends said she had someone come to her door recently bringing a huge bouquet of flowers from his garden. He just wanted to give them to her. Another friend had a total stranger pay for her food at a fast food place. The gifter was in a car ahead of her at the drive through. I find that many people are being friendly and doing nice things for me with a kind smile. I try to do what I can for others as well, even if it is only a phone call or thinking of you card. I think we feel we must step up and make up for all the bad news and pain we see everyday. Thanks for this post today. Kindness is contagious I think.

Sally Wessely said...

A cheerful heart is good medicine, and it seems that even when your heart may be a bit heavy as you consider how life changes us all and the places where we travel, it is still a cheerful heart that scatters cheer to the rest of us. I never thought of it before, but when we share that a helping hand was needed, we are sending cheer. I say this because I see that you rejoiced over the need for that hand to help as you navigated waters by going from one rock to the next even as you lamented that you could no longer just skip from one rock to the next. See. All you needed was provided. The youthful jumping from one rock to the next when you were younger is now replaced by a friend to help you from one rock to the next. I think in many ways, I’d rather have the friend. You are blessed with many of those. Hugs.

Laurie Larson-Doornbos said...

I think I say this every time I comment, Djan--but you are my Guide as I start the adventure of my older years. Seeing that 6-0 on the calendar this year, retiring from years of teaching, stepping into the role of 'grandma'--it's all made me become very contemplative. Your weekly blog post is enlightens my week and informs my life: "Ahhhh--now THIS is how to live into 'old'(er!) age ... THIS is the attitude to cultivate." Thank you thank you thank you :)