Kindness – random or otherwise

images

I was a girl guide once. For about 3 months. A moment of feeling utterly embarrassed and completely crushed saw me leaving a meeting never to return.

I remember it vividly.

We had made a little cardboard mouse cutout with a tail of string. During the following week we were to complete at least 3 acts of service, tying a knot in the mousetail for each act. My neighbourhood was full of young families so I couldn’t find any old ladies to help across a road. I kept asking my mother earnestly what I could do to be helpful…..   “brush your teeth and get ready for bed without me having to ask you”, she said (probably not paying 100% attention at the time!). So I did. The following week I carried my little cardboard mouse to the meeting, I had several knots and was feeling pretty happy until the others started sharing their grand deeds of carrying shopping, minding siblings and rescuing cats out of trees. My turn came and I was asked what I had done to be helpful. I replied “I brushed my teeth without being asked”. Cue loud laughter from peers and leaders alike resulting in one very humiliated little 8 year old. I never went back. I laugh about it now….. but it may be a reason why my daughter is in a co-ed scout group and not in Guides….

I still remember this story when I think of service or helping. Does it always have to be such grand gestures? For my 8 year old self to give my mother a break would be helpful. She didn’t need me to cook and clean, she just wanted a break from nagging me. It was probably what she needed that evening.

My brain has been mulling over this article from BBC News today http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24548023.

Movements such as Random Acts Of Kindness have been springing up and I think they are a wonderful idea. A lot of us aren’t living in close-knit communities or extended families anymore. We live in large urban areas where we may move around quite detached from each other. It is easy to become insular and to just move about our own business from day to day, not truly noticing others. Big crisis situations tend to pull people together, but day to day?

Kindness movements are hoping to inspire a more outward-looking attitude. Helping us to think of ways to lift/cheer/help someone else. That can never be a bad thing, can it?

The article quotes a professor from Oakland University, Barbara Oakley (author of “Pathological Altruism”). Dr Oakley states that often a desire to help springs from narcissism. This statement has been percolating in my head on and off today. It is true that sometimes public policy, even with the best intentions, don’t have the desired effect and that sometimes the motivation behind a program is more about making an organisation or a government look good. Can the same thing be said about our individual acts of kindness?

I started thinking about my own motivations. Do I help out of duty? Do I help in order to look good? Do I only help people I like? Am I selective in the help I give? Do I give what is needed or what I perceive to be needed (are these the same?). All very “natural man”. Not what I am aiming for.

Kindness is “Charity 101”. I believe in kindness and in the principle expressed so beautifully in the Primary song:

“I want to be kind to ev’ryone,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, “Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.”

I believe in John 13:34…  we are to “Love one another”. Ultimately I aim to be able to feel a Christlike love towards everyone I meet. Sadly, not yet. But as Stephen R Covey said:

“Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions.” 

I think that it doesn’t really matter what our motivation is to start with…. being kind makes you feel good and I think that even the most self serving individual would experience a change of heart with continued acts of kindness. Acts of kindness will become a feeling of kindness. Even if I have to start out looking for knots for a mousetail.

Advertisements

Gratitude

Little Possum made me a cartoon once…. I don’t know where it went to, maybe in one of my journals? It featured a superhero called “Gratidude”. Said ‘Thank you’ a lot….. awesome. Gratitude would be a great superpower. Although……. when I think of ‘gratitude’ I think of other words like
‘humility’, ‘faith’, ‘submissive’, ‘meek’….   not words that seem to fit with the image of a superhero.

A little over a year ago, in preparation for a lesson on Gratitude to the Young Women (12-17 year old girls at church), the YW presidency started keeping gratitude journals. The challenge was to write down at least 3 things each day that we were grateful for, blessings that we had noticed, ways that we had noticed the Lord’s hand in our day.

This has been such a blessing to me. I have missed a few days, and there were a couple of days where all I could think of was how grateful the day was at an end.  (I’m sure on those days I could have found something had I looked harder!). There are many times when I have expressed gratitude for the challenge of keeping this journal because it made me sit down and review my day, and it made me more aware during the day because I was looking more actively for things that I could write about in the evening.

When I’ve read back in the journal I noticed patterns emerging. I noticed that the periods where I had missed days were also days I could recognise as a spiritual trough, a period where I had not studied the scriptures daily or prayed as earnestly (some days, not at all) as I should. Humility and faith bring gratitude which brings humility and faith.

I noticed that the periods where I had been diligent in noticing blessings and had given thanks for them were times where I had been blessed with an increased awareness of the promptings of the Spirit in general. These were also days when I was generally more patient, more kind and contented. (My kids like those days!)

Lastly I noticed that the things I expressed gratitude for ranged widely…. from ‘chocolate’ to eternal principles and blessings. I figured I should give thanks for all things! But lately I have thought a little more about the phrase “all things”.

D&C 59:7 “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things“,
D&C 78:19 “And he who receiveth  all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious”

I have thought about the pioneers. I have thought about the blessings that come from adversity. I have thought about the ability to find things to be grateful for in times of adversity and the importance of being grateful for the adversity itself. It is in our extremities we come to know God. Although my recent injury affects my extremity (har-de-ha), the challenging days I have now can hardly be described as an extremity…….. but I am still grateful for the time for reflection it has given me! A blessing indeed.

My goal is to be able to always be grateful in the midst of a trial, and not just after it is over

 “To express gratitude is gracious and honourable,
To enact gratitude is generous and noble,
but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven”
President Thomas S Monson
For our FHE tonight everyone was given 5 minutes to write down a blessing or something they are grateful for…. one for every letter of the alphabet. (Q, X and Z were tricky…..)
Psalms 118:24
“This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”



 

Time

We have a wonderful Relief Society presidency in our ward, their love and concern for the sisters is amazing. The latest emphasis is to help us in our Visiting Teaching. The principle is simple – We need to love our sisters more, and we develop that love by getting to know each other. As we come to know each other we will care for each other more. To help us, they will issue us a challenge every month. For October the challenge is to ask our sisters
 “If you had an afternoon to yourself, how would you spend it?”
I love this question. Our sisters are at different stages in their lives, but they are all busy women. I am sure that an afternoon all to themselves would be lovely! But there is a deeper question there which I have pondered myself.
5 weeks ago I injured my ankle, and then developed a blood clot in my calf which set recovery back a little. I have spent a lot of time confined to the sofa which (as per the kids) became “Mummy Command Centre” or “Mummy HQ”. I had my phone, iPad, laptop, scriptures, journal, stationery, books, woolbasket and more all around me. I have to admit I spent a lot of time floating aimlessly between email, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media until one day I sat pondering the issue of “time“. I had been thinking about adversity and trials, reflecting on Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail and the Lord’s admonition to “endure well” (D&C 121:7-8).
Enduring vs enduring well. 
The thought struck me that I was not enduring well. I was certainly cheerful and filled with faith in my recovery, but I was not enduring well. I was passing time. I was not actively seeking to learn from my time of relative adversity.

I realised that trials or tests of faith can come in many forms, and that one of the biggest tests I was facing was simply in how I spend my time during this period where I had no specific demands for it/me. I couldn’t do cooking, cleaning, school run, work, shopping or any of the other many tasks that would normally occupy my day. My time was completely unstructured and at my disposal during the day. So, how was I choosing to spend it? The question went right to the core, to my priorities. I saw that there were still lessons for me to learn and truths to ponder. There were things that I could do to serve, to lift, to love even from my sofa. There is nothing inherently wrong with spending time on social media, but if I am reaching out for entertainment before reaching out to the Lord or to others, then my priorities could do with a little tweaking. 

We are responsible for our own actions and accountable to God for what we choose to do with our lives. Life is God’s gift to us, and what we do with it is our gift to Him“. – Elaine Cannon “Agency and Accountability” GC Oct 1983

Better late than never

As a convert to the church I only had a year and a bit in the YW programme and never finished my “Personal Progress”.
When I was called to serve in YW a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to complete it both for my own benefit but also so that I could help the YW with their PP.

The programme had changed since I was a YW and I am so impressed with the current way. It is truly inspired.

Last week I received my medallion having completed 44 value experiences and 8 value projects.

Happy Grommet Day

We discovered in the holidays that Turtle wasn’t just being selectively hard of hearing, but actually couldn’t hear very well at all. We decided to investigate. Having the GP look in his ears and go “hmmm, I haven’t actually ever seen anything like that before” was not reassuring and sent us hot-footing it to an ENT surgeon.
Thankfully it seems that having another set of grommets and possibly some adenoid-shaving might solve the problem.
Today was the day.
He was very well looked after by my colleagues – I must say it is useful to be on the receiving end sometimes!
Slightly apprehensive, watching “A Bug’s Life” in the pre-op holding area.
Highlight: The blanket from the warming cabinet!
Slightly sleepy in recovery…
Highlight: the lemonade iceblock….

 

Sleeping it off on the Children’s ward
Highlight: cannula removed
Finally some food…..! Although what he really, really wanted was a bacon sandwich.
(The minute we arrived home, Chef went to work on the sandwich)

"Organise yourself…" – an answer to a prayer

I had been wondering, pondering and praying about how I could help foster a certain atmosphere in our home, our MTC. I want to make our home more of a holy ground, a haven. For example, work was and is still needed to make sure our home can be a bicker and sarcasm free zone. As the “Guardian of my hearth” I feel the responsibility keenly to help my children grow in the gospel, to ensure they have spiritual experiences.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and the answer came quietly to my mind. The answer was a scripture from D & C  – 88:119 ..  Organise yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

I knew then what I needed to focus on, both personally and as a family. I also knew that I would like and need a visual reminder on the wall. Thankfully I know a wonderful artist – Eleanor McComb who takes commissions. In my mind I had a vague image of our house and the temple along with the words from the scripture. Eleanor came up with this wonderful design painted on a canvas and even made the house look exactly like ours 🙂 I love the trees. Our front yard has tall gumtrees, and the temple also has trees around it. Perfect.

(This is an Instagram photo of the canvas on our wall, hence the black frame…)

On that note, I just re-discovered a talk by elder Gary E. Stevenson from the April 2009 titled “Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples”   Here’s an excerpt:
“Recently, in a stake conference, all present were invited by the visiting authority, Elder Glen Jenson, an Area Seventy, to take a virtual tour of their homes using their spiritual eyes. I would like to invite each of you to do this also. Wherever your home may be and whatever its configuration, the application of eternal gospel principles within its walls is universal. Let’s begin. Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention? That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some “home improvement”—hopefully not an “extreme home makeover.”
Whether our living space is large or small, humble or extravagant, there is a place for each of these gospel priorities in each of our homes.
In order to keep the temple and those who attend it sacred and worthy, the Lord has established standards through His servants, the prophets. We may be well-advised to consider together, in family council, standards for our homes to keep them sacred and to allow them to be a “house of the Lord.” The admonition to “establish … a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” 9 provides divine insight into the type of home the Lord would have us build. Doing such begins the construction of a “spiritual mansion” in which we all may reside regardless of our worldly circumstance—a home filled with treasure that “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.” 10
There exists a righteous unity between the temple and the home. Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you to the temple. President Howard W. Hunter stated, “In the ordinances of the temple, the foundations of the eternal family are sealed in place.” 11