There he was, my younger brother Peter, who I hadn’t seen in two years. Approaching each other, we both started to walk faster until we connected with a heartfelt, gentle bear hug that lasted several minutes. We whispered to each other how glad we were for this time together. I was no longer contagious, but still feeling drained from an intense four weeks of respiratory flu (now you know why I haven’t blogged for a while). It had hit my husband and me hard, and left me feeling totally depleted and fragile.
My sister, also sick with the same flu, had offered my brother and his wife an apartment of their own for the week, so they wouldn’t be exposed to major time in our germy homes. For me there was disappointment in knowing we would not be able to do our usual outdoor activities together.
However, once my brother and his wife had a good look at me (I had been hit the hardest), the usual sibling teasing was put on hold. One look at my grey face, bloodshot eyes, and purple eye bags had them exchanging worried looks. Peter, using great restraint, lovingly looked past all the material for poking fun at his sister, and moved into the healing power of gentleness. With encouraging words and gentle actions, he and Naomi suggested ways they could be helpful during their stay while I took the hours of rest I still needed each day.
This time we did not play together, but the quiet conversations went deep; soft, calm energy encouraged recovery; gentle touches produced serenity; and thoughtful meals nourished on all levels. My spirits were given a major boost! The words “There is nothing as strong as gentleness” ring true. My disappointment at not being able to play together was replaced by deep gratitude for the week-long healing gift of gentle caring. The following is another story about the power of gentleness:
An elderly woman and her little grandson, whose face was sprinkled with bright freckles, spent the day at the zoo. Lots of children were waiting in line to get their cheeks painted by a local artist who was decorating them with tiger paws. “You’ve got so many freckles, there’s no place to paint!” a girl in the line said to the little fella. Embarrassed, the little boy dropped his head. His grandmother knelt down next to him. “I love your freckles. When I was a little girl I always wanted freckles,” she said, while tracing her finger across the child’s cheek. “Freckles are beautiful.” The boy looked up, “Really?” “Of course,” said the grandmother. “Why just name me one thing that’s prettier than freckles.” The little boy thought for a moment, peered intensely into his grandma’s face and softly whispered, “Wrinkles.” (Author Unknown)
What a beautiful story about taking the sting out of a hurt, redirecting focus, honoring the wisdom of both child and grandparent, and creating positive energy. The grandmother in the story treated both the little girl who made the remark, and the grandson, with exquisite tenderness. If we can look past the face we present to the world, which is hard to do in our culture, we discover amazing inner beauty and strength. That is one of the gifts gentleness offers.
Freckles and wrinkles come in many forms. Sometimes they look like pale skin, tired eyes, bald heads, scars, raw skin, swollen places, IV lines, bandages, or drain tubes. They are the outer evidence of inner transformation and beauty. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes this: “The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep loving concern.” We have all met people with these qualities and just being in their presence is a pleasure.
However, gentleness doesn’t always need a major event – it can also happen through calm, quiet, daily experiences. Giving ourselves gentle transitions throughout the day promotes peace and clarity. If the first five minutes of our day is spent quietly reviewing what we are grateful for, we step into each day with increased positive energy. By avoiding overstuffed calendars, we free ourselves from rushing through activities, and that creates the difference between gentleness and self-abuse. Preparing the night before for a morning activity creates another gentle transition. A quiet drink of water and a few deep breaths gently restore our focus on what needs our attention next.
Daily gentle lessons are found in the kindness of a friend, laughing at our foibles, listening to our intuition, watching our pet live in the moment, accepting our frailties with love, or discovering the healing power of spontaneity. Serendipity can lead us into gentleness, just as much as struggle. Tenderly caring for ourselves each day enhances our quality of life, no matter what the day brings. And doesn’t the world we live in need a gentle touch right now?
The following was published by Wisdom Commons but the author is unknown:
Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. When we are gentle we touch the world in ways that protect and preserve it. Being gentle doesn’t mean being weak; gentleness can be firm, even powerful. To have a gentle manner requires that we stay centered in our own values and strength — that we are active rather than reactive. Coming from this center, a gentle word or touch can channel our energy into healing or making peace.
Whatever the form our freckles or wrinkles, may we each practice gentleness with ourselves and each other. Friends After Diagnosis is a safe and gentle place that welcomes us with kindness and compassion, wherever we are in our healing journey. Together let’s delight in finding what is prettier than freckles.
Until Next Time – Sylvia