Beginning A New Year

Not only are we beginning a new year, we’re beginning a new decade. As we accept the invitation of this threshold, I would like to suggest that what we need most after this crazy year is to give and receive the gift of kindness. It is one of the most powerful forces on this planet. Gloria Vanderbilt said, “We were not put on this earth to see through one another. We are part of this earth to see one another through.” After what we have all experienced in 2020, let’s see ourselves and each other through 2021 with an extra dose of kindness.

We can start by being kind to ourselves. This means monitoring ourself for balance between rest and activity, work and play, and personal quiet time and group Zoom time. It means asking for what we need, which might be someone to take us to the doctor or help us with grocery shopping. We’re kind to ourselves when we say no to commitments, friendships, or jobs that aren’t right for us, and yes to what aligns with our values and nurtures us.

Kindness is loving ourself through difficult changes and treating ourself with respect. And for those days when we’re struggling, we can say this prayer inspired by Eleanor Brown: “Please grant me the serenity to stop beating myself up for not doing things perfectly, the courage to forgive myself because I always try my best, and the wisdom to know that I am a good person with a kind heart.”

The month of December has been full of inspiring stories of kindness. The Press Journal recently ran an article about a group of 350 moms in Martin County who have come together to feed the night shifts of hospital employees, police officers, and other essential workers. Local restaurants donated to their endeavor, and because moms were including their children in this process, they, too, are learning the value of community support and the power of kindness.

Another Press Journal article introduced us to Sparks of Kindness, founded by Debbie McFarland in Georgia. It began with one small act of kindness by an individual and has grown to involve 5,500 others active in 40 countries. It’s as simple as a bowl of soup for a shut-in neighbor, a tin of cookies on the running board of an ambulance, or a thank you note to a teacher, but it is intentional kindness. This is an illustration of what Coretta Scott King meant when she said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

The New York Times featured an article this month about a man named Mike Esmond who knew what it was like to be broke. When he did achieve financial security, he began giving back here in Florida. In different Florida communities he will walk into city hall and pay the overdue gas, water, and heating bills for people who are at risk of losing service. Remembering earlier years when utilities had been shut off in his home during the holidays, he continues to compassionately meet the needs of those struggling financially.

In Biddeford, Maine, Elizabeth Leavitt works cleaning rooms in the COVID and ICU ward of Southern Maine Health Care. The patients, struggling for life, know they will receive encouraging, caring words when she arrives. She listens when they need to talk and treats them like the family they’re missing. She takes time to find out what hymns they like and will softly sing them as she cleans. Sometimes the patients sing along. Her kindness is a lifeline in their isolation.

Also in Maine, Chef Jordan Benissan was about to close his restaurant featuring recipes from his childhood in West Africa. Neighboring restaurants, also struggling, came together to pay his back rent and set up a GoFundMe account so he could continue to do takeout orders. His neighbors wanted to make sure that one of their few black chefs could continue to offer his savory dishes. Chef Jordon responded by saying his hope had been restored.

Every Christmas my husband and I write each other a love letter of appreciation for the thoughtful things we do for each other throughout the year. This is kindness remembered and enjoyed a second time. Giving and receiving is a beautiful circle enriching everyone involved. Let’s take everything we know about kindness with us as we move into 2021, so we add to the wellbeing of ourselves and others. As a support group, Friends After Diagnosis is especially good at kindness. It’s rewarding to do kind surprises where the receiver doesn’t know the source, but just knows they have been blessed. May we all feel blessed as we welcome this new year, and kindly walk side by side to see each other through 2021.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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