I offered this kindness “mission” in a prior kindness class and received in response to it a thank you note from one of the participants, Lisa. Lisa’s comments so summed up my intention for this mission, that I want to share them with you:
“Andy, thank you for this week’s mission and for your midweek inspiration. I find this week’s mission especially important, because I believe it gets to the source where everything starts, within us. To find an answer to the question ‘What is it I wish to experience in my life and in the world?’ I need to reflect by listening inwardly. The answer will come from the heart and not from the ego. I pondered this question after 9/11 and the answer I received then is still true for me today. I want to experience peace. But then it took me some time to understand that in order to experience or receive peace, I had to create it within me first. In other words if I wasn’t peaceful inside I could not give peace. This took and still takes a lot of honest inner work. I’m always amazed at how many opportunities arise once I know what I want to give. And the saying is true that what you give comes back to you ten-fold. Now I give my peace away by loving my family unconditionally. I listen deeply to others to empower them to find their own answers, and I’m grateful for my life every day. The quote that sums up this week’s mission best for me is ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ from Mahatma Gandhi.”
There are a couple of things in Lisa’s message to which I want to give highlighted attention, beginning with her comment about the need to listen inwardly. I think this is extremely important, but in our society that puts so many external pressures on us to behave certain ways is difficult to do. In his book “A Hidden Wholeness,” author Parker Palmer explains the importance of learning how to listen inwardly. Doing so, he says, allows one’s inner and outer lives to come into alignment. Lisa describes the answers one gets in doing this as coming from the heart and not the ego. Palmer refers to these answers as coming from the soul, but I have no doubt they are referring to the same source.
Lisa also commented that what one gives comes back ten-fold. In this statement I think she has tapped into a natural law. The more loving we are to others, the more love we experience. We also become “love magnets.” We start seeing more of the every day beauty that surrounds us, including the fresh scent of a flower or the kindness extended when a young person on the bus gives up his seat to someone older, tuned in as we are to the positive. By exercising the loving side of ourselves, this side becomes stronger and more aware. Any tendencies we have to focus on negativity are weakened. The logical result of this is exactly what Lisa describes, one becomes grateful for one’s life. Try to recall the children’s song “Magic Penny” by Malvina Reynolds, the one with the chorus, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.” That pretty much sums it up. In fact, go take a listen now as a way to wrap up this week’s mission.