“Strangers” : Reflection 3

03R-KofSKicking things off, let me explain that I may not post the typical “inspirational” message each week that some of my regular class participants have become accustomed to. The nature of my workload this fall is such that I’m not able to devote the time it takes to put together those messages each week. This is especially true when I can’t be sure how many people are actually participating in this class. In fact, on that note, it would help me to know who is engaged and participating. Send a message to andy@kindliving.net so I’ll know, okay?

I mentioned last week that 15 years ago I facilitated an in-person class using this book as focusing agent. The class actually met at a retirement home in Seattle and involved three teenage boys and ten residents of the retirement home, all women. We would sit in the main living room of the facility, form a circle of chairs and take turns reading the book out loud. The intergenerational perspectives were amazing! For instance, one woman told us about her experience hitch-hiking across several states during the Great Depression in order to find work!

That class talked regularly about the nature of kindness; in fact, some of the residents put forth the opinion that a lot of what McIntyre received on his trek was not “kindness” at all, but simply common human decency. They explained to the boys that they feel that daily “decency” was much more prevalent in their younger years.

About decency, I choose to believe that there isn’t less decency but with reality TV, so many news channels, etc, we do seem to be awfully drawn to promoting negative things over positive things. For me, I think it’s important to look for, and keeping looking until you find, the kind and decent things people are doing every day.

1 Comment

  1. Relevant to your Reflection comments this week Andy, I had a situation this week as a guest in the Kung Fu house (a student residence) where I stayed when I visited my granddaughter at college. I was very conscious of the messy, rather cluttered and not very clean shared living spaces. Either everyone was oblivious to it or everyone tolerated a lack of cleanliness that I would never tolerate in my own living space. I did not see most of the bedrooms so I don’t know how many of them were doing the same as I tried to do. Little did they know that I could never live in the conditions they accepted, particularily the kitchen which we all shared and the one shower/tub we shared. Everyone was very nice to me, making sure I was comfortable, and able to find things in the kitchen.

    However, I am a person who does NOT like to be fussed over and certainly do NOT want to impose on people. I also wanted to make a positive contribution if at all possible, especially as my presence could have made it less comfortable for everyone. Therefore I made a point of putting ditry dishes that had been rinsed but left in the sink into the dishwasher, and running the dishwasher when it got full, plus cleaning the sink and back splash as well. I also made sure I checked the dishwasher later and put the dishes away.

    Was that really just self serving? I personally do not tolerate clutter and especially dirt very well. Was it just common human decency? Because I did not want to be a burden on anyone while I was there, I made sure to clean up even more than my own mess? Or was it just kindness? Because I had no schedule and lots of free time it was easy for me to do the dishes for everyone while the kids were attending classes or doing their homework. I was repaying their kindness to me and being a “good guest.”

    I think what the older generation, who described “common human decency” to the young people in your class, were saying is that “We were raised to be helpful and not be a burden on others.” I also was raised that way. I know my granddaughter was too, but it appeared the other kids at the Kung Fun house might not have been. Setting a good example as a guest might well have given them an idea that they need to respect their housemates as much as a guest….

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