Be Kind

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

–       Attributed to Philo of Alexandria

Flying home from Santa Barbara and the memorial for Barnett, and the rare time with Linda, and the sad, beautiful Kim, I read Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World.  I think about the memorial, what we made. We fumbled our way into a kind of grace after all, the tribute heartful and thick with connection and shared desire to honour.  The room taut with loss, with people rising up over it to speak.  With Linda, holding the space for people to talk about Barnett, telling my own story of what he meant to me, holding Kim tightly, holding Ilene’s hand in the final meditation, the astonishing benediction Frank wrote out of Barnett’s words, the punctuation of the profound Magnum Mysterium.  Sudden staccato sobs. Walking on the sunrise beach the next morning with the small knot of people wanting to make something together into the mystery.  Supporting Frank in his heartbreaking desire to make it right, make it perfect for Barnett, for Kim, to not miss anything.

At the event, Kim asked me what I was coming up for me about Barnett.  Slowly, I said that the grief comes for me in the moments of deep imperfection, when conversation and connection and harmony scrunch into pettiness or harping or collision of emotion, edgy outbursts.  When I bicker with Finch over tones of voice, or unleash impatience with cab drivers.  I feel ashamed, feeling I’ve abandoned the practice that makes me more of what Barnett made me believe was possible, made me yearn for.  Connection, grace, compassion, openness, generosity.

“He inspired big things in me,” I told Kim.  My commitment to the Uganda project, and insisting that the work I do matters. But that’s not anything, really.  Where I yearn to be more is in the small moments that make the world, where we live.  In every turn.  When I don’t live in grace, I miss him the most, miss the most profound example of striving for grace I’ve known.  That when grief engulfs.

She nodded.  “We live in the little things.”  She’s so wise. I see the sadness in her shoulders, the gentle sagging.

On the plane, as I read, I come across the line about being kind.  I’ve come across it before, but it’s plump with meaning now.  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  As the rickety commuter plane lands at SFO, I close my eyes, repeat it like a mantra.  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”


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