“You can only attract success for yourself if you want every single one of your competitors to be good and strong. When you wish good things for others, this comes back to you. The strength to be kind is not often asked for, but this is perhaps the most important strength to have.” – advice to Clara Hughes by an elder, as told in her memoir, Open Heart, Open Mind.
I walked along White Rock Beach this past summer with a very grateful heart to explore the ocean at low tide. I was alone and at peace. I met a family and the son held out his hand to me to show me his find, pictured above. As often happens on vacation, strangers connect with open hearts and minds. The interactions are usually kind and sweet. I do believe in the line from Hebrews that we can entertain angels unaware so I try to be welcoming to those who come across my path. I walked away happy to have encountered them, although a little worried about the wisdom of picking up the sea creature.
I began to read Clara Hughes’ autobiography last night and was immediately drawn into her story. I first saw Clara compete in Atlanta in 1996 and something about her leapt out of the television and into my heart. I have always had a fondness for her since that moment. She launched her book recently in my city and I was there amongst the hundreds of other fans. She did not speak long but whatever it was that caught my heart at first sight almost 20 years ago still resonated.
The advice given to her prior to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 by an Aboriginal Elder hinted at a secret to life that she has seemingly embraced. I think perhaps we have seen it too in Justin Trudeau in these weeks on the campaign trail and as he awaits office. He has chosen to run a clean race, without mudslinging and it was refreshing. We must have the strength to be kind.
In my illness, I have asked for grace, courage, and strength. Today as I went for my walk, I asked for the grace to be kind. I have mostly been kind–at least outwardly to people. The physical demands of the surgery, the recovery, and the chemo have been challenging. The emotional demands of feeling overwhelmed, of trying to remember to be gracious and grateful, of the sudden hairpin turns on this wild ride, and trying to be open to what comes can leave me exhausted. In Ignatian spirituality, the person praying often asks for a specific grace. This one–the strength to be kind–might be a new one added to my repertoire.
Our world can be highly competitive and individualistic. This grace changes that, blessing both people, because it does away with the scarcity factor. If we wish good things for others, we believe there is enough to go around. I do not need to get it all; we can share what there is and all have enough. What a difference this makes!
I do not like to compete and I am learning that I must just do my best and be at peace. When I watched Clara beat the record in Vancouver, her exuberance was magnificent. She slipped out of the gold medal standing but still, she knew that she had done her very best. What a lesson! When I graduated from university five years ago, I had not believed I was a smart person due to childhood wounds. I set out to do my very best and ended up placing as the gold medalist in my major area. I was shocked. I had not even known such a thing existed. I wept when I received the notice in the mail and many times after as I shared the news.
The strength to be kind is a valuable lesson for each of us. I have been blessed with amazing kind angels in these many months of my illness. While I have had a few unkind people cross my path, I have managed for the most part not to dwell on these interactions. The truth is I have had very few unfulfilled needs–needs I did not always know were there until something was done to alleviate them. Some might say it is because I have attracted this from something of my own volition. I suspect that I have planted a good garden of friendship and love and that my harvest is plentiful but I also know that many kind strangers have offered me support who expect nothing in return. The Holy Spirit has placed them on my path. I think especially of the nurses and other staff at CancerCare who have provided me with phenomenal care with an upbeat attitude. I know they care and so many of them are remarkably kind. I often marvel at one or two in particular who are precious to me. I wish them all good things. They make me want to be a kinder stranger to people.
What does the strength to be kind look like to you?
Can you let go of competition and wish people all the best?
You showed us what it is
to have the strength of kindness.
Place your love into my heart
and let it spill out to everyone I meet.
May I wish only goodness to those I encounter.