Friday, September 12, 2008

The Joys of Cancer

#5. Kindness

If you ever had a moment’s despair at the spiritual trajectory of humans in general and Americans in particular, I’d like to tell you that this surly cynic has been transformed: I have experienced overwhelming kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit.

It’s easy to fall into despondence. There’s a lot of tragedy in this world. There is heartbreak on a small scale: everything from schoolyard bullies to drug dealers terrorizing neighborhoods; from embezzlers stealing pensions to animal cruelty. On a national scale, our economy is in a downward spiral that is devastating individual families and whole communities. We are war-weary and heartbroken over the losses of the Iraq war; not just the lives lost and the lives altered by those losses, but also by the wounded and their families, who will never be made “whole” again.

On an international level, it’s even harder to feel a glimmer of optimism. Pollution and climate change have the planet in a sorry state and time is running out for instituting policies that will not only put on the brakes, but begin to reverse some of the damage. In spite of some enlightenment over the last decade or two, poverty and disease still exist on a scale that should frighten and shame us all.

And yet... and yet, every single day on the cancer carousel, has filled my heart with gratitude. The outpouring of support has come from everyone in my immediate orbit and far beyond: from family and friends, the medical team and my support group to the internet community, long-lost acquaintances and complete strangers. I can feel their compassion and warmth, rallying all my good cells for the challenge ahead. It has easily triumphed any lingering doubts about personkind.

Whether or not you have money, education or even simple mobility, you still have the capacity, and the opportunities to commit acts of kindness.

And if you think you lack opportunities, you’re just not looking hard enough.
More Joys of Cancer
#4 Accepting Help
#3 Asking for Help
#2 New Priorities
#1 We Share


Tanuj Solanki said...

do u believe in God?

La Cootina said...

I believe in gods, goddesses, pixie dust and kindness. Mostly kindness.

Tanuj Solanki said...

then i am pretty sure God will bless you...

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don't think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!

-- Rumi

Meeta Banerjee said...

Thanks Cootina...I needed that today. I need to remember things I am grateful for.

La Cootina said...

Hey, tanuj
So you're "pretty sure" god will bless me? You remind me of a bumper sticker we used to see: "Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're an a**hole."

Rush toward emptiness yourself,

P.S. Stop asking people if they believe in god. It's none of your beeswax.

Tanuj Solanki said...

I am sorry for the comment.
I got swayed. I should not have.

But you can excuse me I guess...may be delete the comments that I gave.

I am not even half as intelligent as you are. So if you think I am a prick, I guess I am.

God Bless :)

La Cootina said...

SuperC, thanks for your kind thoughts. I wish I weren't experiencing "the joys of cancer," but I'm grateful that it has brought a fresh perspective to my life.

Anonymous said...


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

La Cootina said...

Thanks for sharing that, John. I don't know if you have to lose everything; I think if you have empathy, you can imagine the loss, and still appreciate kindness. At any rate, it's a lovely, moving poem.