"What I regret most in my life
are failures of kindness."
2013 Commencement Address, Syracuse University
The musing for this post began some weeks ago. I think it started with the above line I saw on Twitter, and it went from there. You know how it is, you notice one thing and then you suddenly see more of the same.
I would have say, upon reflection, that I feel the same as Mr. Saunders. Of all the regrets I have had in my life, this is one I truly regret the most. Days later I came across a post on Facebook of a fellow sharing his recent experience. As I recall he mentioned walking on a busy Canadian city street, minding his own business, when he noticed an elderly black woman trying to get somebody's help with directions. People hurried past, ignoring her. But my FB friend stopped and pointed her in the right direction. He carried on to wherever he was headed but a moment later he felt a real regret—why hadn't he offered to take her there himself? She was elderly and unsure where to go.
Oh my... I felt the pang of that, having experienced similar regrets for not having followed the impulse. Either because I didn't think of it soon enough, or I wanted to just get on with my own stuff. There are moments that linger even years later, and I still wish I'd had the fortitude to follow my heart instead of being stuck in that niggardly position. The fear, the fear, the fear... in all its shapes and sizes and reasons. I don't think well on my feet. When spontaneous things come out of the blue, I don't always know how to respond or I think of it too late. So I often miss those mercurial moments to respond generously without self consciousness, selfishness, or awkwardness. Over the years, I have worked on myself to be more prepared in situations - I try to keep cash in spare pockets for people on the streets. But it's not always money that's needed. Perhaps that's why this little story really resonated with me. These days it's easy to forget to reach out, especially after we've had two years being in pandemic mode where we isolated and kept our social distance.
I flex my kindness muscles as we merge back into society. And I yearn to be disentangled from the fear: the fear of what my friend will think if I say I have to stop; the fear of suddenly adapting my plans especially when it affects others who're waiting for me; the fear of not wanting to get too involved in the life of a complete stranger. All of it pushes me out of my comfort zone. I'm reminded of the line in the New Testament about perfect love casting out all fear. Yes, I long for that freedom. When Divine Love so fills my heart that kindness is the first impulse, not fear.
One morning some lines—I'd hardly call them a poem—bubbled up from my heart as I thought about it all. Although in its raw mostly unedited state, I hope you don't mind that I've shared them here today.
Groaning for Love
to beat in my heart
to love others without restraint
reaching out when I see the need
before the impulse strangles and dies
in the net of my soul's hesitancy
Should I? Should I?
Because fear throbs the moment dries up
I'm left holding an empty thought—unfulfilled
groaning for Love to reach out without fear
Perfect love casts out all fear
O LORD, let me carry Love like that
'the impulse to kindness'
On that note, I'm wishing you grace and kindness
on this beautiful September Labour Day weekend.
Top Image by Annette Meyer from Pixabay
The line 'the impulse to kindness'
comes from Donna Leon's new Brunetti mystery Give Unto Others.