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Entries in spiritual door (1)

Monday
Nov262012

Small Kindnesses

One day in the past year or so, I was walking one of my dogs in a neighborhood near my home. Two dogs escaped their yard and began following us, barking and growling. I wasn’t concerned that the lab and its small terrier companion would bite me, but I did think they were picking a fight with my dog, Roxy, who barked back and tugged at her harness. I hollered at the dogs to go home. I stomped my feet, but they only inched back to advance again.

A black Mercedes SUV pulled out of a driveway and the woman peering from the driver’s window asked if she could help me.

“Would you distract these dogs so I can get to the corner?” I asked. “I think if I’m out of their sight we’ll be OK.”

She hopped out and tried hustling the dogs away from me, but they wouldn’t be dissuaded, even when the woman and I yelled at them in concert. She was wearing dressy sandals and colorful Capri pants, and her pixie hair was stylishly groomed. A couple of gift bags sat on her car’s back seat. Obviously en route to an afternoon party, she was now delayed by trying to help me. Finally, she popped open the back of her SUV and said, “I’m just going to take you home.”

She might have stood five-foot-three in her kitten heels. Yet, before I could say another word she bent her slight frame over Roxy, a 60-pound lab mix, and hoisted her in the back of the vehicle and commanded me to ride shotgun.

I remembered this woman when I saw a tweet from Fiona Robyn, author of a novel titled Small Kindnesses. She wanted to know what small kindnesses others had experienced, and asked if we would blog about them today. This request felt timely because it seems that in the Christmas rush of consumerism we tend to forget that what is most relevant to the human spirit is often a small gift of kindness.

At this time of year, I loathe setting foot in a store. Sure, I like the holiday lights and I’m a sucker for some of the old Christmas movies. But arguments over parking spaces at malls and town squares, and news stories about people fighting over a last sale item or being crushed in Black Friday stampedes gives me a stomachache. These incidents sometimes make me despair for the human race. Do material things really mean so much to us? Is it really impossible to walk a little bit further because we couldn’t get the spot right in front of the store?

I’m grateful to Fiona for reminding me about this instance. The woman in the SUV didn't have to put my dog into her luxury car. She didn't even have to stop to help me. Hers was an unexpected kindness given at a moment when I really needed it. The truth is that if I choose to focus on the kindnesses, I can think of many others – a man who picked my mother up off the ground when she tripped and fell, a couple who gave my husband and me free hotel breakfast tickets they weren’t going to use, friends who keep our dogs when we travel, a friend in Arizona who offered to meet me in El Paso and help me when it's my turn to care for my sick mother. Another truth: acknowledging these small kindnesses encourages me to pay them forward.

A few days after Roxy got a ride home in a luxury SUV, I spotted a neighbor’s border collies running loose down the street. I caught them as they were entering a national hiking trail by the lake a mile from their house. The two dogs were smelly and drooly. They barely fit in the back seat of my Cooper, but I delivered them home safe and sound, if a little disappointed that their adventure had been cut short.

Perhaps if I continue to focus on the kindnesses, not only those given to me but those I can give to others, it will open a spiritual door to something beyond the material trappings of the season. No telling what doors may open if, as Fiona suggests, we do this collectively.

And if you need a little inspiration, you can download Fiona's book free of charge today by clicking here: http://tinyurl.com/Small-Kindnesses.