Posts Tagged ‘strength’

Kindness and the presence of strength

December 11, 2011

Some weeks ago, I was walking to a function in downtown Washington, DC. The directions I had been given were not entirely accurate, and it was 8:00 a.m. on a very chilly morning. I had not worn the warmest of jackets and was grumbling to myself about how inconvenient this journey was for me. While circling around to find my destination, I walked past the entrance to a store. The entrance was recessed within a short flight of stairs and at the bottom of the stairs were two men in sleeping bags.

They were not there for an early bird special.

It was an obvious fact that they were homeless and the sleeping bags were gifts (voluntary or otherwise). One or both of them might have been dead. One had his head buried deep within the bag. The other had his eyes open staring blankly past me.

The coldness I felt suddenly had nothing to do with temperature.

My perspective changed in that instant along with my knowledge of how totally helpless I was to change their situation. The kind thing to do would be to give them some money so that they could eat (I was presuming they would use the money for food, not drugs, but who knows?). Another kind action would have been to sit with them and talk about their situation, and I could offer them ideas about how to find shelter, food, jobs . . . but I can’t even write about that without seeing how totally inappropriate it is when I can’t provide any of those. It would be like driving past someone with a flat tire, stopping, getting out of my car, going to stand next to the person, and saying “Wow. You should change that tire.” And, then getting back into my car and driving away. The kind thing to do would be to help that person change the bleeping tire.

I do not have the personal resources to rescue or change those two men or the hundreds of thousands just like them. The best I can offer them is my kindness and prayers. I can support the shelters who support them . . . but then I think, are those shelters really kind to their situation or are the shelters simply an appeasement – a way for us to say “See? We ARE doing something about the homeless!” We are . . . but not really. I don’t know that we are being kind to the homeless in perpetuating a solution that simply makes life a little bit more endurable on the street.

I think true kindness requires strength — a strong sense of being one’s own person, a strong sense of boundaries, and a very strong sense of being One with the world. It is knowing when it is appropriate to be kind (i.e., is someone being harmed?) As children, we don’t always have this type of strength. We develop it through flexing those muscles in becoming our own person, recognizing boundaries, and knowing that the homeless person is a part of us. Kind acts are often invisible to others and not necessarily an outward display. Just taking good care of ourselves and accepting responsibility for our own well-being is an act of kindness. My real tests in the seeing world come with whether or not I can respond with kindness to someone who appears to be SO very undeserving of kindness. Kindness for me is a state of being and acting that respects all people, moves our relationship towards one of wholeness, and makes it easy for me to sleep at night. It is also a kindness to accept that people have the right to make decisions for themselves and it might not be the decision I would have chosen for them.

Kindness is not a solution to life’s troubles . . . it just makes the landing a little softer.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

A little bit uphill

July 3, 2011

Back in July 2010, almost to the day, I wrote about how I sometimes only run downhill when I go jogging. I am perfectly content to use gravity to speed me along and then walk up the next incline to catch my breath.

Here it is a year later and I’ve begun to test my legs and lungs more on the uphills. It is only against resistance that a body grows stronger. If it weren’t for gravity, we would all be sloppy globs of flesh dangling from our bones. Gravity is required for muscle development. Astronauts lose muscle strength during space flights despite weight training exercises.

So, taking the gravity of life’s situations into account, I want to be strong enough to sprint uphill if required. Does that mean, though, that I get to walk the downhills if I choose?

I’ve always run the downhills even if I’ve run the uphills. I take advantage of the chance to move faster, accomplish more in less time when there is less resistance. I’ve not stopped to consider that my body and mind might need the slow, complete resting period of a few blocks of downhill living.

It is silly for me to give 110 percent when life is tough and, when life has its easier moments, still demand a 110 (or more) percent production. Taking the path of least resistance is often exactly what I need. I can be a slacker.


I know life is short and there is SO little time to do what I need and want to do. There are deadlines hovering in the distance like heat waves rising in the desert. My lists of accomplishments do not end. I cannot rest on the bounty of yesterday for it is finite and will not last. I have many, many reasons to keep running.

Except, I feel some days that I am running right past my life.

There might not be any rose bushes for me to stop and smell on the downhills, but how will I know if I don’t walk once in a while?

There will always be uphills to run.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

Some days I only run downhill

July 5, 2010

Three or four days a week, I take a jog through my neighborhood. It is a winding, hilly route of about two and a half miles. The homes are red brick and vinyl siding, with a few white stucco renegades quietly at ease with their originality. At the upper end financial scale of middle class, all of the yards are trimmed with tidy gardens and close-cropped grass. Not too many cars zip through those twisting streets, plus there are lots of trees for shade, and friendly people walking their dogs – a pleasant place to live and run.

I don’t particularly care for jogging for it’s own sake. I run because my body and mind require it to stay healthy and sane. Running increases my strength and endurance, keeps my lungs in working order, helps raise that good HDL cholesterol (the one that takes LDL cholesterol back to your liver for reprocessing), and supports my tennis game. Running also helps free my mind to process . . . stuff. I don’t know what I am going to think about when I go to run. I just let whatever “stuff” that is ready to process bubble up and percolate for a while. Everything is better after I have gone for a run.

But I confess, some days I only run on the down hills and walk on the up hills. I don’t always know what days those might be. Sometimes, I think on a 92-degree day or if I feel tired and worn out, that I will be running only on the down hills, but then I find out after the first quarter mile that my body is in sync, my mind is free, and I run the entire way.

Other days, I fully intend to run all the way only to find out that, nope . . . my body and mind want the slower pace. Perhaps they need the time to take better care of themselves. I trust their wisdom and, since I am not training for the Olympics, I let them have their way.

I am beginning to look at life much the same way. Some days, I am rushing around, fighting uphill battles, pushing my body and mind to their limits (and sometimes beyond), and I have to stop and wonder: why? Exactly where am I going?

Beyond the age of fifty, life has become a marathon. Why am I in such a hurry to finish the daily race? My personal internal neighborhood is as stable and clean as the one I run through. It will keep me solidly safe should I choose to stroll through my day taking frequent breaks if I want. My mind likes to take its time wandering through the twisting avenues of my thoughts and ideas as if it wants to get to know each one intimately and become their best friend. Both my body and my mind want the down time to just do nothing. It is a real treat for them when I relax and slowly work my way through learning new knowledge, or a task or skill.

Downhill living.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass