Friday, February 20, 2015

In Order to Be Kind to Others

Today, February, 20, 2015, is a day for bloggers to reflect on compassion through a dynamic online movement called #1000Speak for Compassion. I hadn't planned a post for Elmira Pond, although I thought about horses. But what, exactly about them? So I kept my posts to literature and stories over on Carrot Ranch.

Yet, I had a personal experience this morning that brought into focus the kind of compassion I have been reading about on other blogs. For the first time in two years, I dressed up in business black, hoping the worn seams and scuffed shoes wouldn't be noticeable. My wardrobe has languished as a writer; my clothes turn vintage in my own closet.

Recently I discovered that my community has a budding outreach organization called Sandpoint Community Resource Center. It seeks to compile the service providers available in northern Idaho to help those in need. It started with two guys and a cell phone and now is a tiny office in an old bank building run by a board of directors and volunteers.

By chance, I saw that they were seeking a marketing volunteer. Everything they were doing was familiar to me as I had long been a part of missions based marketing as a volunteer board director to community non-profits in Minnesota. So I contacted the volunteer coordinator. Today was my interview with the board director who is managing their marketing.

For a week I've been excited. It would be a chance to help, an opportunity to get grounded in the community and a door to the workshop I want to establish in Sandpoint. I need to meet people.

But it felt too familiar. I rarely drive anymore and as I dropped off the Hub at work, it was like a deja vu moment -- my old clothes, my old black trenchcoat, my briefcase, thoughts swirling about what marketing strategy might be needed. Suddenly, I craved a Starbucks breve dry. Wow, hadn't had one of those in, well years. Then it hit me -- tears began to well up in my made up eyes and I fought them back because I didn't want to smear my mascara.

What was wrong with me? So I let all those stories of compassion that I had been reading settle upon my shoulders. Self-care came to mind. And so did grief. The thought of grief made my eyes water again. Really. Get a handle on yourself, I spoke out loud in the car.

You never know when grief is going to hit. It occurred to me that avoidance of grief may be a roadblock to compassion. If we don't accept our grief, let it flow, and then carry on we risk becoming brittle. And as I drove I realized that I felt brittle. How could I be of service to my community if I was going to shatter?

I don't talk abut my grief to many. It upsets my husband and children. My friends feel helpless or don't understand. My grief is complicated. I can understand another's grief at the loss of a spouse, or parent or child. But I can't explain my own losses for I have not lost a child, parent or spouse. Yet I have lost enough to feel engulfed in grief at times.

This time I practiced self-love. I spoke out loud as if speaking to a friend I care about deeply. Yes, Anne Goodwin is right, this is a necessary step to be able to act upon compassion for others.

Once I arrived, I looked at the building and had no idea where to enter. I parked, retrieved my purse and briefcase and saw a tall man watching me from inside the building. As I crossed the street deciding which door I should try, he stepped out and in a booming deep voice, said "Good morning!" I knew this was my contact. I smiled, relaxed and followed him to the office smaller than a walk-in closet.

He told me about his rough day the day before -- a woman who fell through all the cracks. She had never been homeless before but now she was on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back. Sandpoint has two battered women's shelters, a mission gospel center for homeless men but nothing...nothing...for homeless women. This man and other volunteers found her a ride to Newport, WA (the nearest bus station) and paid for a ticket to get her on the bus to Spokane where she'd find shelter. In the meantime, the volunteers were working with agencies to get her into permanent housing.

After a few other stories I was convinced that the man before me was incredibly compassionate. He wants me on his marketing team to be their writer and to help organize a symposium. I said yes. His presence, his kindness to others, his consideration of my skills and time were all imbued with compassion. He even likes that I want to develop a writing workshop in Sandpoint. He said I'll meet lots of helpful people in the community.

He said I could be their voice.

What an honor. But I will remember the many voices I've heard today. I will open my heart, practice self-love, be observing, look, listen and act. When grief bubbles up, I won't kick it to the curb. I'll be kind to myself that day. So I can continue to be kind to others.

#1000Speak for Compassion and I have listened.


  1. Yours is the first #1000Speak For Compassion I've read today as I sit and sip my first cup of coffee.I'm sure you'll be great at this new job you've taken on. I can see you being the perfect voice for them through your writing and everything you do.

    1. Thank you, Susan! And honored to share your first sip of coffee this morning! :-)

  2. You have an observer's dispassion which is admirable in a writer and remarkable when the subject is self. Compelling post; I was watching the movie with you (long lens, far side of the car park, pulling in slowly, Meg Ryan playing Charli Mills...!) Good on you for taking the plunge and if you need advice on the best non-run mascara I'll ask the beautician... Go on, hug yourself and then Hub.

    1. Ha, ha! Love Meg Ryan! Yeah, I could probably use mascara advice...:-)

  3. Oh Charli, I know this grief. You have a beautiful, caring heart and soul, and how wonderful that others will know your voice too as you speak for them. So happy for you as I know you really felt strongly about this role. A new chapter in your 'book' of life my friend and I'm honoured to be here at the very start, cheering you on <3

    1. Thank you for your understanding and cheering! <3