Between 20th and 31st December, I have chosen a Quiet Disruptor post from each of the months of 2019. I hope this walking reflection on the year helps prepare us for 2020…
December – the last chapter of our story for 2019 – full of grace, stillness and presence, remembering that we are part of something far bigger than ourselves.
Kindness and generosity
At the beginning of each year, I select a word.
Something that captures a sense of significance for the year ahead. Acting as a kind of Northstar, that would characterise my attention and way of being in the world.
During the week I went back to remind myself what the word was for 2019. Because it’s been a very long year…
Usually, when this happens, I rediscover the word and it will make sense. Not so this time.
The word was thrive. And it wasn’t landing well.
So rather than labour over the misfit, I walked up the valley and chose words to guide the remainder of the year.
Generosity and kindness.
I needed an alternative frame to view what was happening in the world and around me.
Kindness and generosity.
This summed up the choices I wanted to make.
Rather than measure what was not, I want eyes to see with kindness. And to listen generously.
This isn’t some kind of soppy whitewash. A gooey feeling to make everything alright.
No, this is choosing a different nature of being, not shaped by my hurt but hope. Whilst also walking on ground earthed in reality.
Why kindness and generosity?
Sometimes we have to face up to being intentionally countercultural. Not as an act of rejection, but of embracing reality and offering an alternative way to walk.
Generosity is so powerful.
In our world, it’s not what is expected. There isn’t a contract on offer. It doesn’t emerge from a mindset of scarcity.
Indeed, generosity is an act of abundance. Of believing that giving multiplies.
And it does.
Remember the occasions when you received generosity and when you gave generously. What was the fruit? For you and the others?
Kindness sees the person and offers gentle thoughtfulness. It isn’t the scale that counts. It’s our attitude.
Again, I look back on those small acts of kindness that had such a big impact at the time. And remember them vividly, with fondness that lights me up inside.
Gifts of words – kindness and generosity
John O’Donohue put it beautifully in Structures of Kindness in Benedictus: a Book of Blessings. Here are some excerpts to feed your soul:
There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative; but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves…
The word ‘kindness’ has a gentle sound which seems to echo the presence of compassionate goodness. When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen. There is no judgement or harsh perception directed towards you. Kindness has gracious eyes; it is not small-minded or competitive; it wants nothing back for itself. Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart; it also suggests that your vulnerability though somehow exposed is not taken advantage of; rather, it has become an occasion of dignity and empathy. Kindness casts a different light, an evening light that has the depth of colour and patience to illuminate what is complex and rich in difference.
Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing. To believe in blessing is to believe that our being here, our very presence in the world, is itself the first gift, the primal blessing…John O’Donohue, Benedictus – a Book of Blessings, Bantam Press, 2007
If kindness and generosity are feeling like alien words to you, then be gentle with yourself.
Step out into the fresh air and quiet your heart and soul. Listen to the words of kindness and generosity and reset your compass.
7th December 2019
Finishing the year with words that enrich and shape us: stillness (Still hope), space (The Space between extremes), and presence (Long shadows of waiting). This is not about giving up but being ready for all that tomorrow brings.