Friday, April 6, 2012

Acts of Kindness

During this time, my Jewish friends have reminded me that giving someone the opportunity to do a mitzvah, an act of kindness in the general sense, is itself a mitzvah, an act of kindness.

Another friend told me a story from the Buddhist tradition:
While Seietsu was the master of Engaku in Kamakura he required larger quarters, since those in which he was teaching were overcrowded. Umeza Seibei a merchant of Edo, decided to donate five hundred pieces of gold called ryo toward the construction of a more commodious school. This money he brought to the teacher.
Seisetsu said: "All right. I will take it."
Umezu gave Seisetsu the sack of gold, but he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the teacher. One might live a whole year on three ryo, and the merchant had not even been thanked for five hundred.
"In that sack are five hundred ryo," hinted Umeza.
"You told me that before," replied Seisetsu.
"Even if I am a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is a lot of money," said Umezu.
"Do you want me to thank you for it?" asked Seisetsi.
"You ought to," replied Umeza.
"Why should I?" inquired Seisetsu. "The giver should be thankful."
Both accounts were offered in response to the hangup I have felt in recent days about being the recipient of so much kindness, or more to the point, needing so much help. Literally hundreds of people have been engaged with helping me help Rahima—cleaning, organizing, moving (twice already!), singing, praying, giving rides, cooking—over the course of her cancer diagnosis and treatment, her recuperation from the broken hip, and right up to the present. The way the community rallied in her final days was breathtaking.

If I weigh the receipt of kindness as a future obligation, I feel that I am falling into debt that I will never be able to repay. But that's not what this is about, is it? So I pause and look at the expectations that mount up within me, about self-reliance and industry. I consider that music and its source, harsh and pressing. Then I reflect on the sweeter music of community, the glow that surrounds people who come together around a need, especially when life and death are in the balance. We are all changed and enriched.
62 Haywood Street

It seems that Rahima's service-learning career is not over. She knew all this. I am still learning.

With the help of a couple of coordinators, we are scheduling morning and afternoon work parties at 62 Haywood Street for the next week or so, to prepare the house for sale. If you are local to Greenfield, Massachusetts and want to help out, please sign up on Rahima's Wings. (Or if you prefer not to use the scheduling site, just call me.) Thank you. I need the help.

Smiling and with an grateful heart,


What is a lesson that you learned from Rahima about giving and receiving?

1 comment:

  1. Glad you will have help with this, stay strong, miss you