Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day Eighteen - TSA & Zagnut

Today was a travel day for me.  As much as I love to go to different cities and satiate my wanderlust, I find the travel process tedious and angst-filled.  But I guess like all good things, we have to endure a little of the bitter first.  I was pushing my time limit by getting to the airport a little late and I didn't anticipate the longer than usual lines at security.  This is a stressful process even when you aren't running late but today the air in the security arena was charged with irritability. I felt myself getting stressed and anxious but took a few deep breaths and resolved myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do but wait.  I inched through the line and finally made my way to the screening area and dutifully removed my belt, jewelry, shoes, and laptop and set them on the conveyor belt.  Feeling confident that I was almost at the end of the process, I proceeded through the metal detector and "BEEP."  Darn it - I almost got through.  The TSA officer asked me to step aside into a glass holding room for a full body screening.  Just great.  Boarding for my flight had already started and I was still stuck in security.  Again, I took a deep breath and tried to relax; knowing that getting frustrated was not going to help anything.  Minutes passed and an officer finally came to check me for traces of explosive powder and rifle through my bags.  Three officers were checking me and they all were gruff and defensive.  I patiently waited and didn't say anything.  When they were finished, one of the officers shoved my things toward me and said I was 'free' to go.  For some reason, this statement bothered me but I swallowed hard and tried to put myself in his position.  These officers work in a thankless job with angry and frustrated travelers all day.  It is mundane work but unfortunately has to be done.  It was not these officers' fault that I was running late--it was my own.  As I gathered my things, I looked directly at the officer and he seemed braced for me to blast him with ingratitude.  Instead, I said, "I appreciate the job that you do."  The officer looked stunned.  There was an awkward few moments of silence while he absorbed what I just said and then he told me, "We don't hear that very often."  "Well, you should, " I said.  "I appreciate you."  I rushed away feeling elated.  I might miss my flight, but I knew that I made that officer feel good for a brief moment.  After all, they are working to save our lives and protect our airlines; keeping them free from all the hazards that unfortunately have become obstacles to all air travelers.
     Thankfully when I made it to my gate, the flight was delayed and I could take a few minutes to grab a  magazine and compose myself.  I was still on a "kindness high" as I got in line at a little kiosk and found what I was looking for and got in line to pay.
Behind me was an older gentlemen eyeing the candy bars.  He said to me, "I don't need a candy bar, do I?"  I smiled, turned and answered, "Of course you do!"  He chuckled at me and said, "No I don't" and at that moment he spied a Zagnut bar lined up neatly with the large assortment of other candies.  "Oh my gosh" he said, "a Zagnut bar!  I haven't seen one of those in years!  I thought they quit making them."  I replied, "well then, that settles it.  You need a candy bar!" He went on to nostalgically tell me that Zagnuts were originally made by the Clark company in Pittsburgh where he grew up.  As a boy, he rode his bike by the factory every day.  He was so sweet and I could tell the Zagnut brought back pleasant memories for him.  When it was my turn to pay, the gentleman turned to the woman behind me and began explaining about his Zagnut bar.  The cashier overheard the whole conversation and both of us were tickled by his excitement.  As I paid for my magazine, I quietly told the cashier to include his candy bar.  He seemed a little surprised, but then I could tell that he really liked the idea.  After I paid, I turned around to the gentleman who was still telling his story and said, "enjoy the Zagnut."  He smiled and waved as I ran off into the crowd at the gate.  I glanced back for a moment and saw him trying to pay for his candy bar and the cashier must have just told him I bought it for him because he glanced around, looking a little bewildered.  My heart felt full as I watched the puzzled look on his face turn into a giant smile and he turned to look for me in the crowd.  I ducked away to my gate, smiling broadly and knowing I had made someone happy for the second time today.  I guess he will be telling the story later, but more importantly, I hope he passes the kindness forward.  Judging by my brief encounter with him, I'm sure he will!
"Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day Seventeen - Abbracci Gratis

I received this video today and almost deleted it before I took the time to watch it.  I'm so glad I didn't.  Take a moment to watch it now . . . .

Okay, do you have tears welling up in your eyes like I did when I watched it (all three times)?  I realized this was the ultimate ARK.  I googled the YouTube video and found dozens of similar videos in many different countries.  What better way to express what I have been trying spread?  It is amazing to watch how people almost avoid the 'free huggers' at first, but eventually that first person gives in and then there is a ground swelling of love and friendship that slowly starts and then crescendos with so much intensity that it made me want to get out my markers and make a "free hugs" sign!  It is so RANDOM!  That's what I love about it.

The definition of a hug is:
     1. To clasp or hold closely, especially in the arms, as in affection; embrace.
     2.  To hold steadfastly; cherish
     3.  To stay close to

This video made me think of the human desire to be touched or held.  It reminded me of all the times that I hugged my children to make them feel better or safer or loved.  And all the times I ached for a hug myself so I could be reassured that everything was going to be all right.  Imagine how many lives were effected in that one day by strangers who just felt the world needed a {hug}.  Imagine being at your lowest point, and then someone is standing before you offering a free hug--no strings attached.  These people are my heroes - Acts of Random Kindness--it doesn't get any better than this!

"For one moment our lives met, our souls touched."  ~ Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day Sixteen - Tablecloth & Linen Napkins

A very wise group of women at a recent retreat I attended taught me the importance of making things special for the people you love.  Your family and friends are worth the extra effort of laying down a tablecloth and using your "good" dishes and glasses.  Light some candles.  Use cloth napkins.  Put some flowers in a vase.

We have become a world filled with very busy people.  Everything is designed around instant gratification, multi-tasking, routinely rushing through our day as quickly and easily as possible so we save valuable minutes in order to do God knows what else.  It's exhausting.  Why do we do it--so we can find ways to cram even more activity into our busy lives?  At the end of the day are we every really satisfied at what we've done or are we constantly stressed because we haven't truly accomplished a thing?  And so our hectic lives become a series of blurry and inconsequential events that never really matter in the long run.

Tonight, I set the table for my family.  No paper plates, no standing around the food spread out buffet style and wolfing it down before we even sit.  I used my good dishes.  I lit some candles.  We ate together and talked and shared our day.  We used to do that when my children were younger.  It was the most precious time of day for me.  Somehow we got so busy that our family time got squeezed out of the daily schedule to make room for some other insignificant event.  But tonight was wonderful!  No one really noticed the linens or the candles (at least they didn't say anything) but the entire mood around our dinner table changed and in fact, everyone lingered tonight--staying longer than usual to enjoy the experience that had become a scarcity in our home.

My friends at the retreat were right.  My extra effort made a difference to our family this night and it all started as I lovingly got out my tablecloth and spread it across the table . . . and perhaps I brought them all back to a place of peace, security, happiness and love.  A place that we seemed to have left behind but thankfully we have found once again.

"Go home and love your family."  ~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day Fifteen - Food For Thought

We have all seen the panhandlers on the side of the road--you know the ones I'm talking about.  Those same ones you try not to make eye contact with when you pull up beside them at a stop light holding up their cardboard signs begging for food or work.  I'm guilty of avoiding them too.  I try to justify it to myself . . . I think, "if I give them money, they are just going to go get drunk."  I've even heard the argument that the beggars with their cardboard signs and filthy clothes make immense amounts of money (tax free) each year and it is more advantageous for them to beg than to work. This way of thinking is crap and deep down, I think we all know it.  Who are we to judge and decide who is worthy of our generosity and charity?  Who does not have a spare handful of change--tiny amounts that you will never miss?  How can we turn a blind eye to a sad and lonely HUMAN being on the side of the road who must resort to the humiliating act of begging?  I can't do it.  Even if they do go buy a six-pack with the money, what difference does that make in my life?  The other important question is what unspeakable thing could have happened to that person to reduce them to live and scrounge on the streets?  I know some of you may be thinking, "well, they chose that life through the choices they've made."  Again, I ask you . . . who are we to judge?

Many days, I drive by a street corner downtown where the same man stands in the same spot with a tattered sign and filthy clothes.  He always wears the same clothes and his hair and beard are long, grey and unkempt.  He looks like a dirty version of God to me.  You know--the image of God in long white robes with flowing white hair, standing on the top of a mountain surveying his people.  At least that's the image I have.  Sometimes I give him a few bucks, sometimes the light is green and I can get by without having to stop.  Either way, I feel sorrow, pity and guilt.  The guilt comes from the fact that I am driving my Lexus SUV in my designer duds while this man clearly lives at or below poverty level and I'm guessing by the looks of him, he sleeps in an area where a large community of homeless people congregate below one of the highway underpasses in the area.

But today was different . . . today I had a car full of groceries and a beautiful, warm, whole roasted chicken in a bag on the front seat of my car.  It was going to be dinner for my family tonight - something easy so I wouldn't have to cook.  As I was approaching the corner and saw the man in the distance, I first starting thinking of digging in my wallet but the smell of the chicken wafting through the car gave me an idea.  When I pulled up to the corner, I reached over and grabbed the chicken and handed it to the man's waiting outstretched hands.  At first he looked a little surprised--I mean, it is a bit comical if you visualize it, but after a second he realized that he had a hot meal.  Our eyes met and he was filled with gratitude.  The light changed to green and as I drove off, he said, "God bless you."  I will never forget the cloudy blue eyes as they smiled in genuine thankfulness.  "No, I whispered to myself . . . God bless YOU."

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."  ~ Mother Teresa