Sometimes I actually listen. I snuck into the memorial for a good friend’s grandfather this weekend. She is very popular but I assumed that none of her regular friends would attend – there was no loud 1980’s music, no beer, no gossip to be had. Just sitting quietly and contemplating the measure of a life. I did not want her feel alone and friendless in the sea of grief she is swimming in. When my mother died, it mattered that my childhood best friend came just to give me a hug. (Thanks Jennyfur – Jennifer Balmot Sandberg).
What I got out of sitting through the service was a message I had heard but never understood before.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
I try hard to be a good person – and then I try even harder to pat myself on the back and reassure myself that my good deeds make me a decent human being.
But, when I spend $50 getting a haircut, I don’t tell myself how nice I am for cutting my hair and pat myself on the back for driving the 40 miles round trip to get Denny from The Yellow Balloon in Arcadia to cut it. (see, right there, I was telling myself how nice I am for the free and shameless plug to his business. ).
So, if I feel I need attention and notice and praise for feeding someone else, housing them, loaning them money – am I really loving my neighbor the way I love myself?
What I learned from the funeral is : “No”.
I still see “you“ and you and myself as a completely different person as I make valuations on kindness.
I am kind to myself because I love myself. I am kind to other people because I am supposed to be kind (Because face it, I am only getting into Heaven if Jesus can be bribed and somehow forgot to listen in on my thoughts – since, like, I could have thoughts).
Love your neighbor as yourself – the message is to be kind to other people as an extension of being kind to you and not think twice about it. Be kind as a way of living and not as a goal. Be kind to those who may never live long enough or be able to appreciate the kindness you do – because you don’t need recognition. You house the homeless because you do not want to be homeless. Feed the hungry because you feed yourself. Teach the illiterate because you like to read and find it useful. Make other people an extra arm on your body. Adopt them into you and live as if they did not matter as much as you do – but live as if they are you.
I don’t know why I never thought about this before – or at least, thought about selflessly thinking of others and doing for them just as if they were myself. I am a terrible person, I know. but I am working on it. ♥