– Being at Home with Compassion, Generosity
and Joy- March, 2014
In his book “LITTLE BOOK of INNER PEACE” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is very simple: my key motivation is love. My religion is kindness.”
In looking into the basic tenets of all the major religions, compassion and generosity can be found as key components. Why? I suppose because altruism – an unselfish concern for the welfare of others – is ingrained within us and is thus a positive human quality to nourish and promote. As His Holiness puts it elsewhere in his book, “Without the basic human qualities of love, compassion and kindness we cannot survive. They are essential to our own peace and mental stability. Having a heart, and a kind and warm disposition is an enormous advantage. Not only does it bring us joy, but we can share that joy with others.” So where do we first notice this basic human quality?
I have seen it many times in small children. Have you ever stopped for just a second to savor the moment, when a little child, sitting in its high chair - usually with food all over its tray and face - simply puts out their hand and offers you some of their food? Sharing! Yes, spontaneous generosity! I just love being there in that moment. Or how about when without prompting, an older child befriends a classmate who is being isolated by others. I love that too! Ever get a spontaneous hug when you needed one? Just what the doctor ordered eh!
As someone who has spent considerable time on the ball field and in the community at large, I have witnessed many acts of spontaneous generosity and compassion in group settings too; like the time a teammate unselfishly sacrificed his place in the lineup to give another the opportunity to play or when we built a playground for a Day Care Center. Always a good feel.
I was brought up in a time when common courtesy was in vogue; like standing up for a senior on the bus, opening the door for someone or going to someone’s funeral,; courtesy was synonymous with kindness and it was an in thing to do. Was this merely a duty, a learned family and community behavior? Whatever it was, it was of benefit to others, so we did it!
Could these acts of kindness, compassion (and courtesy) be lost in the busyness of being a young adult? Absolutely! It certainly was for me. As a Warrior (Wayne Dyers view of the second stage of life) it was all about me. Was that mindset culturally natural for me, given our western society – perhaps! Though I retained a soft spot for family and friends my needs and desires were ‘numero uno.’ As Anita Day would say, “That’s just the way it went down, man.”
Happily things changed for me as I got a little older. I somehow ended up in a career in the helping profession. Of course that made it quite normal to provide for others. Truth be known, I was ‘others focused’ at the time so it was an easy fit. But once I differentiated between people pleasing and genuine generosity, giving to others began to become more and more a part of me. Either by osmosis, grace or both, it began to take shape deep within me.
I received a boost of inspiration in the late 1980’s, when I accepted employment in a faith community. Somehow, teaching ‘Education for Generosity’ became my primary responsibility and focus. ‘The Lord loves a cheerful giver’ was gospel. Following this idea instead of giving out of duty began to produce inner joy. Generosity simply began to become the new ‘numero uno’ in my life. (A good read on ‘types of giving’ is a little book called Rambams Ladder. It’s a good measuring stick on where you are coming from and why.)
Truth be told, I am quite in love with altruism today. Compassion and generosity are now intrinsic to my purpose for being on this planet. Of course becoming an organ transplant recipient in 2009 has boosted my battery life and this reasoning. The compassion and generosity shown to me by not one, but two donor families, and many others during their own trying circumstances has instilled a gratitude within me that is beyond words. It has also prompted a desire in me to give back even more.
While in recovery from my ordeal I learned that in addition to the profound joy found in giving, there exists an equally profound joy in learning to graciously receive – both are gifts. By receiving with gratitude (Thank you!) we bless the connection to one another. We celebrate the oneness of being human together. Paying it forward or paying it back can be an act of joyful appreciation to both parties. This includes stewardship of all life on our planet.
Subsequently, I have found that in giving and receiving, something wonderfully mysterious can also manifest. It can stem from suffering, the flip side of joy. Some would call it grace. This grace is an opportunity to grow spiritually in the face of adversity, to get closer to the spiritual being that I believe resides in our human form. The Source of this grace comes from within. It produces a holy relationship – one of reciprocal healing.
My take on compassion, means not only feeling kinship with the person or situation but also doing something positive about it - that’s where generosity comes in. We all are given opportunities to practice the priceless gift of compassion. From our intention to become organ and tissue donors to calling someone who just needs to hear a friendly voice, helping others also makes us happy. It’s where happiness dwells. It feels right. It feels good. Is it self-serving one might ask? You betcha, but in a good way. Its self-care and care for others all in one. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Altruism, a growing force for positive change. Together, one act of kindness at a time, we help make our world a better place. Dare I say, let’s all pick it up a notch? Here’s to Joy! Namaste!
Machine- November 2013
The Heart Machine- November 2013
I have been richly blessed with grandchildren, each one unique, each with his or her own gifts. One granddaughter appears to be gifted with matters of the heart. Following my discharge from hospital in the summer of 2009 my daughter told me what her 4 year old daughter had just said to her. This little child said, “I know who God is mummy. God is a big, big heart and we are all little hearts inside God’s.” Her revelation quite astounded me as I had visualized something similar in a dream some months before (and I had not told anyone).
Back in June of that year I was in an induced coma in an intensive care unit. Following my return to full consciousness I recalled a number of dreams I had had. In one dream I clearly saw all these little hearts. Their number was countless and all seemed to be held together by the boundless capacity of a beautiful heart shaped cloud surrounding them. Intuitively I felt safe inside. I was one of them. It was like being inside love itself, bathed in its joy. With hearts being central to life and symbolizing love, it reaffirmed my take on the Divine. The dream remains vivid to this day and has deepened my conviction, that God is Love.
Although the seeds of love continue to blossom in our world, a lack of love appears to be rearing its head higher and higher. Perhaps it’s partially the onslaught of media attention, but corporate greed, political corruption, atrocities committed against fellow human beings, the extinction of animals and the pollution of our planet have the attention of most of us. Its collective name is Fear! Many of us are engaged on the front lines against it politically and socially and many are praying for healing. Many are doing little; because as yet, it’s not in their back yard. No judgement here just an observation. So how do we help others to get involved? How to we come to love each other more and reduce the Fear facing us all?
My granddaughter (the same one) now 8, has an answer. She recently told her mother that she had invented a love machine (another unsolicited concept). The other day I asked her to show it to me. It was an interesting looking ‘device,’ with a feeder cone on top, a hopper at its base, and a long pipe extending outward from it with little flanges and gears here and there. Into the hopper went clay, and out the other end came a line of little hearts. I loved it! A lesson in life! We begin as the clay. The pipe is our spiritual voyage, moulding and transforming us in the process of becoming - a beautiful, loving, fearless heart.
As this process continues, my hope is that our collective compassion, generosity and service will demonstrate the power of this Love to such a degree, that others will see the joyful fruits that comes with it and join in. Together then, through community involvement and our Heart Machine, we can (and perhaps must) help build a kinder, cleaner, healthier world for all our children and grandchildren to live in. The voyage is free and is happening near you now!
Shared Reflection- September 2013
The Beat Goes On
“The beat goes on. The beat goes on. Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain. La de da de de, la de da de da.” So goes the classic 60’s song by Sonny & Cher. So goes the happy/sad song of efforts by a few to educate Albertans on the urgent need for organ and tissue donors. What’s the urgency? Besides the bulging, Baby Boom generations rapidly approaching health concerns…………. Approximately: - 700 Albertans awaiting lifesaving organ transplants - An average of 1 in 4 dying while waiting for an organ transplant (I every 4 days) - 4000 Albertans on kidney dialysis (usually 3 times a week, 4 hours a day) - 700 Albertans awaiting cornea transplants (some waiting over a year)
These numbers may appear small to some folks compared to other serious health care issues but most of this waiting is preventable through transplantation - a cost effective and caring way to reduce needless suffering and death. The facilities, technology and staff are in place. If only we had more donors.
So why don’t we have more donors? For one thing we are one of the few provinces currently without a donor registry. Though some estimates have only about 20% of us signing our health care cards (indicating a willingness to donate), we really have no way of actually knowing. One thing we do know is that our donor rates have been falling. Alberta has the dubious distinction of having one of the lowest donor rates in the country. On the flip side donor education advocates from the ‘because I can project’ (www.becauseicanproject.com) estimate 95% of us would accept a transplant if needed. Go figure?
Another factor could be our individual and societal fear of even discussing death. How many of us have spoken to our families about end of life wishes? Have you? The fact is we are all going to die one day so why not prepare for the inevitable. We watch TV and online news, movies and video games filled with suffering and death. Could it be we surmise death only coming to strangers or are we simply desensitized? “That couldn’t happen to me/us!” Steven Lloyd Garret’s new book “WHEN DEATH SPEAKS” is a creative and informative look at our societal take of death with numerous interesting details. I encourage you to check it out.
What other current initiatives are out there besides the becauseIcan project? - The HOPE program, Alberta Health Services continues to provide educational opportunities to health care professionals and the community on a limited basis. -The University of Alberta Hospital Tissue & Organ Donation Advisory Committee is providing a May – October donor education display at TELUS World of Science during Body World. - The Kidney Foundation, Liver Foundation, Lung Association and Canadian Transplant Association continue their individually targeted efforts. – Other groups and individual advocates continue to do what they can when they can, to include special events and public speaking.
Though commendable, these resources do not reach the hundreds of thousands of Albertans who need donor education. Coordinated, sustained, provincial donor education appears to remain a pipe dream until we have our own provincial Transplant Agency.
FYI - The 2nd reading of (now government) Bill 207, to establish a Transplant Agency in Alberta was supported by the attendance of the fledgling Alberta Donates Life Coalition back in May at the legislature (see more on the Bill at www.AlbertaDonateslife.com ). It is hoped the Bill will receive 3rd reading in the fall of 2013 and Royal Ascent shortly thereafter. It remains to be seen how long it will take to get the agency up and running, especially considering the cost of recent flooding in southern Alberta. We are probably talking one to two years from now. And yes, you can probably take that to the bank.
In the meantime, the beat goes on, Albertans continue to suffer and die needlessly. Numerous one - off education events continues to be the order of the day. The urgent and in many cases desperate need of transplant patients goes unheeded by the general public as patients and families pray for a miracle - today. There is no “La de da de de, la de da de da”, for them – or for me! I know what it’s like. I was graced to beat the transplant odds. I know what urgent really means and am ready to do whatever it takes to reduce waiting lists!
URGENT = VERY IMPORTANT AND NEEDING IMMEDIATE ATTENTION