Kindness flows

‪Kindness flows,‬
‪Through the crevices of life,‬
‪Always seeking to salve,‬
‪The sorrow and the strife.‬
‪Goodness builds,‬
‪And does not tear down,‬
‪Breaking down the barriers,‬
‪Upon which we are bound.‬
‪So be good not great,‬
‪Kind but strong,‬
‪Seek for the truth,‬
‪Right the wrong!‬

Be A Good Neighbor: TM

This is the fourth blog of the Be Good, Not Great series.  The initial idea for the blog series came to me in a dream about my Grandpop and resulted in a poem and a blog in less then an hour.  Read it hear. https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/

The series focuses on people that strive for goodness over greatness; who eschew money, wealth and fame to care for other people.

I still remember the first day at the first home my wife and I owned as if it were yesterday.  We moved into an established community in our then sleepy, now rapidly growing town.  The house was 70’s vintage and we were excited but a little daunted. 

We got the home for a good price.  But it did come with some things that we needed to fix.  The most urgent being a large bump in the sidewalk that led to our door.  The bump was due to a tree root that grew under one of the sidewalk panels.  It was a hazard especially for my wife who was pregnant with our second child and our 4-year-old.   I was ready to fulfill my duties as a husband, father and new home owner.

I had managed to lift the sidewalk a bit and was trying my best to cut off a portion with a small axe I had.  I was not making any headway and was sweating buckets.  When out walks a wiry, 60ish year old man with silver hair, from next door.

I stopped my work for a moment and greeted him.  he introduced himself and said, “I am TM your neighbor and son you looked like you could use some help!”  I said, “Hi Tim.  I am doing ok, but it is sure good to meet you”.    Which was wrong on two accounts. 

First because of his Texas twang, I called him Tim instead of TM.  This part was ok because he thought he heard TM due to my Jersey roots. Second, I was not Ok.  I had worked for an hour and made hardly a dent on the root.

After 15 minutes, TM returned with his own axe and said “Don, please let me help you out.  I have been doing this for awhile and we can knock it out together.”  Even though I was embarrassed I relented.  And I was glad I did.  TM immediately made more headway in 10 minutes then I had done in the last hour and a half.  When it was my turn to spell him, he let me use his axe and technique.  We got the root out and sidewalk level in less than 40 minutes together.  It was the start of a great friendship and mentorship.

TM was the perfect example of seeking goodness over greatness.  Born and bred in Leander, he moved to Cedar Park during its infancy to run one of the Cedar Yards for which the city was named. He was a great mentor, devoted husband for 68 years, loving father and a devout church goer.  You can read more about TM here. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/austin-tx/thomas-pearson-7060600

There are four lessons from the life of TM to follow as we strive for goodness:

  1. Be a Good Neighbor.  The help with the tree root was just the first example of TM being neighborly. He was always there with a ready hand and a kind smile to help my wife and I with our expanding young family.  With both of us working, we did not always have time to keep the yard up.  When he saw us struggling, TM would take the time to mow the side of our yard closest to him or water some of plants when we did not get to it.  He also helped us with some ideas on landscaping and brought over some vegetables from his garden.  We in return tried to help him out, but never could match his generosity.
  2. Be a Good Family Man. TM was a devoted husband and father.  His only daughter was confined to a wheel chair after she was in an accident.   He and his wife helped care for her.  To make things easier, his daughter and her husband lived with TM.  TM had a specially outfitted van and helped with the medical visits and care.  He was always cheerful and willing to help. I also never saw a harsh word exchanged between the two couples despite the stress of living under the same roof. 
  3. Be a Good Mentor. TM was also always ready to pass the lessons of fatherhood to me.  One conversation stands out.  I was playing soccer with my son in our backyard and we were getting loud.  My son kicked the ball and it sailed into TM’s garden.  Instead of a harsh word, he handed over the soccer ball with a smile.  I told him I was sorry and asked him if we were bothering him by being too rowdy.  TM said, “You do get a bit loud, Don. but I know what you ae doing and you need to play with your son.  It is what they remember and how they learn so have at it!”  I try to remember that lesson when the two boys that are our new neighbors kick a soccer ball against our car.
  4. Take care of your community.  TM also reached out to the larger community.  His yard was an example to the whole community.  He also put on the best Christmas light show for many years.  Showing pride in your home and community inspires the same in your neighbors.   TM also sang and played guitar at his church.  He used his talents to the joy and betterment of those around him and the world is better for it.

We moved to a new home about a mile away in 2007.  Up to the end of our time next door, TM remained a good neighbor and friend.  Even helping us with fixing up the house for sale. Unfortunately, I did not follow his good example.  I got caught up with work and growing family and despite living only a mile or two away from him, we did not go to see him that often.  When he passed in 2016, I did not know until quite a bit later.  This is something I will always regret.

Robert Frost writes in his famous poem “Mending Wall” see full at this link https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44266/mending-wall:

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.”

I now know what does not love a wall.  It is not elves, it is God and his love.  Be like TM and not me!  Break down the walls of cell phones, work, and a busy life.  Take a sledgehammer to that wall, much like TM took an axe to that tree root and make time for your neighbor.  And above all, love your neighbor as yourself!

Feed your soul, heal your body

There is a definite connection between body and soul.  Be happy, feel better.  Share kindness, win friends, and feel good.  On the other hand, when you are stressed or miss your work out, it is not always easy to turn the other cheek.  Common sense confirms recent studies that caring for others improves both the wellbeing of those you helped and your own!

I have struggled to learn this lesson over my 50+ years.  I am naturally an intense person and a bit of a curmudgeon. A person that is sometimes not kind to others and in particular myself.  Driven to achieve, I sometimes drive other people out and beat myself up.  This often led to regret, guilt and more often then not an eating binge.  A happy person is a healthy person and visa versa.

That is why when I started on my weight loss journey two years ago, it was just as important to cleanse my soul as my body.  I took several measures to help me improve my disposition and correspondingly my health.  This is what I did.

  1. Write in my Kindness Journal – I journal six minutes a day in a Kindness Journal.  It sets my goals for the day on how to be a better person and helps me vision the person I want to become.  It also provides me a place to recognize those items the day before for which I was most pleased (being kind to myself) and reflect on those that were kind to me.   Lastly, I set my intention on one kind or beneficial act that I will do to make the world better for others.  I use this particular journal but you can use another Kindness Journal
  2. Record happy thoughts in HappyFeed – Besides writing in my Kindness Journal, I record three things each day that I am happy about.  I use the iOS application HappyFeed.  You do not always have to write something earth shattering.  Sometimes I write something like “I got 8 hours of sleep last night!”.  The key is to dwell on what makes you happy whether than what makes you stressed.
  3. Pray, Meditate and Give Thanks – When you are thankful, there is no room for worry.  You feel better about yourself and also those around you.  Also the Power of Thanksgiving can break through even the darkest hour.  I spoke to this in the following blog.  The Power of Thanksgiving
  4. Help Others – Helping others has benefits for those you help and others.  First, when you help others, you focus on them and not the issues that you are facing.  Also, you are so preoccupied with the task at hand whether it is building a house for Habitat for Humanity or walking to raise funds to combat cancer, that you often do not have time to overeat.
  5. Smile – The simple act of smiling lightens your mood and that of others.  Better yet laugh, it is the best medicine as they say.