Friday, March 18, 2011

Showing Up

The images from Japan are soul crushing. Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to describe the immensity of the loss and the work ahead to peel away the levels of devastation.

So here I sit in my Oklahoma kitchen as the redbuds bloom outside the window and life gracefully putts along with coveted normalcy. I feel simultaneously grateful and guilty for my good fortune, and at a loss for what I can do to help the people of Japan. Yes, money and prayers will be sent. But there is another sense of urgency – a need to make a personal investment that can begin to tip the worn scales of humanity toward light and healing.

The very ground we walk on is hurting. It is up to us to soften our steps, to lighten the load.

I once attended a funeral where the officiating pastor shared some wisdom that stuck with me. He said when someone experiences a loss, we immediately ask “What can we do? How can we help?” because the reality is, we can’t imagine what we have to offer in the face of such sadness and grief. He reminded those of us at the funeral that “Just by showing up, by being here today, you are helping. Your presence matters more than you will ever know.”  We don't have to have all the answers because most of the time, there aren't any.

If we work on showing up – if we embody the best of the spirit of those lost, we make a difference.

So, here are some intentions I humbly toss into cyberspace, from my heart to yours, and hopefully all the way to Japan.

Feed a child, always mindful of the words of Mother Teresa: “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

Turn a stray into a pet.

Choose compassion when judgment is so much easier and delicious.

Really, really, really listen to the person sitting across from you. That means make eye and heart contact.

Leave a $10 tip when $2 would have been enough. Pick up your own towels in your hotel room. People in the service industry work harder than most of us will ever know. They deserve a break.

Give to a person who asks for money without worrying about how they will spend it.

When someone speaks to you in anger or frustration, such as “Why can’t you ever ...fill in the blank here," take a breath and try to interpret what they really mean.  For me, let’s insert “be on time”  in the blank. (Wink, wink).  Maybe what the other person is really saying is: "I love you so much I want to spend time with you and when you are late, it worries me.” Who cares if that’s what they really mean. All that matters is how it makes you feel and the action you return to them.

For at least one day, don’t honk (unless it's for safety, not to reprimand), say or think the word “stupid,” or gossip.

 Don’t just tell someone you love them, tell them why.

All those reasons you have compiled to dislike another person – they don’t matter. Really. Just move on.

 See the beauty in old things, especially people.

 Hug when a handshake would do.

Be quiet. Stillness is underrated, yet its power is felt around the world.

Be kind whenever possible. And borrowing the words from the Dalai Lama, it’s always possible.