slow, sad kindness


Dearest Friends,

I’m feeling blue and rather courageous about sharing this act of kindness. It’s not your typical feel good story about choosing to do something kind for someone, but I’ll tell you anyway, in honor of the fact that sometimes it hurts deeply to open our hearts and extend kindness with the intention of alleviating another person’s suffering.

This past weekend I was in grocery store when a woman asked me for 50 cents towards buying some chicken . She said she was hungry. I didn’t have any cash but I offered to buy her chicken if she didn’t mind sticking around with me until I finished shopping. She didn’t say anything but started walking beside with me.

She had a very sad demeanor and I noticed she had a black eye. She shuffled her feet as she walked. She slurred her speech.

(I noticed many judgments rise up within me.)

I kept shopping and began talking to her, asking her if she was ok, as I noticed her eye.

She said she’d had a seizure and hit her head, but that her temporary roommate didn’t call 911 because she woke up. She didn’t know what caused the seizure.

(I noticed my internal reasoning and retelling of her story.)

She watched me place more items in my basket.

(I became aware of where my purse was.)

I asked her if she’d like to get more groceries to go with her chicken. I said I’d buy up to $10 of groceries for her. She just stared–vacantly, walked off, coming back with an armful of raw chicken.

She stood there, holding the chicken, looking at me.

I told her I was happy to help her and to put the chicken in my basket.

I picked up some yogurt drinks for my three children.

(I felt aware and almost uneasy about being able to buy the groceries I needed for my own family. I noticed my internal story.)

I asked her if she had children.

Three girls, she said, children that had been taken from her because her mother called Child Protective Services.

(I noticed other shoppers giving her edgy/distrusting looks.)

She asked me if I could imagine my own mother having my children taken away from me, and then asked me why would her mother have done that?

I told her I couldn’t imagine that. I told her that perhaps her mother was worried about her kids’ safety. I asked her if her children were safe with her… She shrugged and shifted her eyes down.

(Again–inside my head–I heard my own version of her story.)

Her speech slurred. She seemed in a slow-motion haze.

We finally got to the checkout. I asked her what needed to change for her situation to improve? She said getting her own place would be good. I told her I hoped it worked out for her.

I paid for her chicken and all of my other groceries.

She didn’t say anything as I handed it to her.

(I found myself waiting for her to thank me, but then redirected my thoughts to the reason I was doing this in the first place… it certainly was NOT to be thanked, but to show compassion and to do what I could in this moment, to help her.)

I wished her well and left the shop with my grocery cart full, as she used her cell phone to call a friend, perhaps to get a ride.

I got to my car and felt terribly uneasy–quite dreadful–about the whole experience. Deep down I knew the best–and perhaps the only–thing I could have done right now, was to buy her food.

I said a prayer for her and her daughters.

I cried. It didn’t feel good to do this for her, but it truly feels like the only thing I could have done.

It’s interesting to me to consider my inner dialog and judgments, and my hesitancy to share this story with you, dear reader. I didn’t let my negative and judgmental inner thoughts change anything except to find a way to more deeply open to her, be a witness to her, to hear her, be beside her when so many others in the store seemed to run from her, and to give her what she said she needed in the moment.

What more could I have done? I wonder.

I wish I could have done more… I wish … I wish …. many blessings for her life.

❤ becky


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14 thoughts on “slow, sad kindness

  1. Lisa says:

    Bravery. It is extremely hard to be in the moment and do what the universe asks. You don’t know, and you are not supposed to know. To live in the flow and “let go” means not questioning and acceptance. There is nothing scarier or braver.
    Congratulations, Becky. You are on the pathway. Thank you! Thank you for sharing your surrender story. You don’t know the miracles that were initiated by your actions.

  2. jennifermerlich says:

    Oh, sweet friend! I suspect you did much more for her than you’ll ever realize. Thank you for sharing this story.

  3. Chris Sinha says:

    I think this is one of the most profound pieces you have written. Your self-awareness, your despair, and your recognition that this was the best you could do for her speak volumes. And you don’t back away, you follow through and do what you can while doing no harm. I think many of us have had these kinds of moments of sadness that someone is too far gone, but yours is one of the most simply and beautifully written that I have read.

  4. It is a beautiful story, Becky Jaine. Not because you did what you could and I often do similar things myself as well. They don’t demand all that much of us.

    What is beautiful are the inquiries and awareness about what was going on inside of YOU as the story unfolds. By considering our own beliefs, prejudices and bias in the midst of what might be a fairly uncomfortable experience for any person not struggling with the circumstances the woman was living (of course, those circumstances are horrendous – it matters not whatever the truth of her state of being was caused by !!), we begin to realize how little we honestly KNOW about another person’s circumstances.

    I remember an important shift that occurred for me personally when I was communicating with my youngest sister who was homeless at the time (and to this day, even having re-emerged out of homelessness into some more conventional lifestyle, remains quite likely in the throes of some degree of mental illness that resembles paranoid schizophrenia in expression).

    Rather than argue with her because I found her “stories” hard to actually “believe”, I began to allow that I really didn’t know anything about the “truth” of her and so, I was able to listen without expressing verbal judgments to her about what I was hearing.

    Repeatedly, then as continues to be the case now, I am often inquiring into what I am thinking INSIDE of my own self, as I interact with her. It is the only “useful” practice available to each and every one of us – regardless of the circumstances of our own life.

    Fondest regards !!

    • Thank you dear Deb, for sharing your story and your inspiring wisdom! I can imagine a world where we all hold such open heartedness and space in our minds for inquiry and expansiveness… and ultimately to be greater supporters and medicine to each other. Oh, I shall come back and revisit your words … and deepen such practices. Beautiful ❤

  5. S Dubon says:

    Dear Becky,

    I read your story with great interest. It reminds me of something that happened to me years ago when I was visiting Texas. It was a very hot summer day of 107–and had been this hot for over a week. I was in a line of cars waiting to get onto the interstate when I spotted a bearded middle-aged homeless man holding a sign. When the light changed, I passed him, but immediately wished I had paused to give him $5. He looked dehydrated and ready to pass out. Yet, there were many people behind me, wanting to go about their business. So I drove home–a few minutes away, and decided to make him a sandwich and bring him some bottles of water.

    By the time I got back to where he’d been standing, he was gone. I wondered if he had gotten a ride, or else taken shade somewhere. So I drove around looking for him for several minutes. But I never found him.

    While driving around, I wondered how best to help him. Would I be willing to take him to the house and let him clean up? Would I be endangering myself? Maybe he was just a drunk or addict, not deserving of my help (there I was, passing judgment.) Would I at least sit him down at the table, feed him, and find out if there was someone I could contact on his behalf? One thing’s for sure– I felt awful that I hadn’t stopped in the first place.

    Later that evening on the news they reported that a homeless man had died. It was the very same guy I’d seen nine hours earlier. It turned out he was a Vietnam veteran who had lost everything–his wife, his home, his sense of belonging.

    Although this event happened nearly 20 years ago, it haunts me still.

    I know I could have done more if I’d only been less concerned about the others who were safe in their air conditioned cars, and just focused a few seconds of my time on this person. Even if he would have died later on, at least he would have enjoyed some kindness in his final hours.

    Is that too much to give?

    On Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 11:10 PM, “☼ becky jaine creativity + acts of kindness = JOY ☼” wrote:

    > becky jaine posted: ” Dearest Friends, I’m feeling blue and rather > courageous about sharing this act of kindness. It’s not your typical feel > good story about choosing to do something kind for someone, but I’ll tell > you anyway, in honor of the fact that sometimes it hurts de” >

    • Dear Kind Heart,

      Thank you for sharing your tender story and for your candor. Your conscious acts of going back out and looking for the man in need touched my heart.

      I hope you don’t mind my sharing some thoughts about what you have shared: I can’t help but wonder–as that was 20 years ago–if your lonely man on the corner was an angel for YOU somehow. Perhaps the very fact that you have carried him in caring contemplation these years, I wonder if how what you regard as not doing enough actually has led to your sensitive heightened awareness of others’ needs and suffering, and ultimately more actions.

      Nearly a day now after writing and sharing this, I feel that She was MY angel. Even though She appeared to me as the one in need, She gave me the greatest gift by allowing me to fully–and in slow motion–live in the flow of presence and grace, to experience the duality between my inner AND outer worlds, and to acknowledge her dualities as well.

      You ask such a powerful rhetorical question at the end of your share: Is that too much to give? Indeed. For me I always feel I can do more, not comparing myself to any other standard or expectation but my own. (And please know I don’t share that to appear noble or self-significant, only to share that I strive to challenge myself to give more of me–my time, full presence, energy and things–give MORE than feels comfortable, as long as it feels safe.

      Perhaps it is our connections–deeply looking into each other’s eyes and witnessing–as another friend recently wrote to me–that She could be me, and I could be Her. Honoring our inter-connectedness in action, not judgment, may serve our humanity and our world. Perhaps. (I believe.)

      Thank you again for your deep and thoughtful share, and for taking the time to explore such meaningful feelings more deeply together.

      Blessings to You and to all who are opening their hearts and sharing this conversation. And blessings to our angels… ❤

  6. Catherine McG-K says:

    Dear Becky,

    Thank you for sharing your tender and emotionally vulnerable story of love and compassion. Your writing about this wonderful child of God touched me deeply.
    What touched me the most? Your honest, all-so human reactions, thoughts, observations of your surroundings (people looks, etc), acknowledgment of your own actions-turmoils-fears. We all have them…do we not? What some of us do not have (I include myself here), but what you profoundly showed, was ACTION.

    You said “yes” multiples times. You walked with her as a friend. As a friend you offered her trust by allowing her to pick out her own amount of chicken she needed, and place it in your cart. As a friend you asked her compassionate questions, held conversation and gave her an honest answer to her question.
    As a friend, you did not expect a “thank you” only the opportunity to Give.

    Above all of this kindness you gave this woman’s soul that day in the grocery store, what moves my heart the most is that you WEPT for her. Is there a greater prayer than to weep for one of our sisters or brothers who are in deep despair?

    She is in God’s hands…..only God knows what she needs at each moment in time, and at that moment, she needed a friend to walk beside her. You went beyond that. You wept for her…..that is Amazing Grace!!

    By sharing your experience of love, kindness and friendship you have allowed each of us the opportunity to lift this wonderful lady up in prayer.

    I am grateful…..
    Thank you!!

  7. Paula Marston says:

    We never know what effect our actions will have on another person. I truly believe that all we can do is our best in any situation that arises. This is one of my favorite quotes…” An act of love that fails is just as much a part of the divine life as an act of love that succeeds. For love is measured by its fullness and not by its reception.” Harold Loucks

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