Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

You know what I think of when I think of the word “impeccable”? I see Felix Unger from The Odd Couple. Remember Felix? He was impeccable in his behavior. Tidy and organized, precise. Precision, yes, that’s what I think of.

But the way this first agreement flows, Be impeccable with your word, well, the word “word” modifies the word “impeccable.” Impeccable is the adjective, and yet the object is what seems to modify in this case. We’re not talking about washing a dirty dish the moment Oscar lays it on the table after eating a hot dog. We’re talking words, powerful, meaningful words. Words that we yield.

They can be swords, daggers, a pat on the back. I remember a note from a colleague, not too long ago, that made me cry, a note she sent me by email in response to a note I had sent to someone else. My note was just a short thing, three or four lines giving praise to a new person we’d hired. I wanted the manager of that person to know how impressed I was with the new person’s attitude and performance. The colleague whose note made me cry had seen my feedback and said something like, “Roma, in case no one has told you today, thank you for caring so deeply about the people you work with.”

Just that one line. She was impeccable with her word. It was a reverberation, me being impeccable with mine, then me getting it back from someone else.

Don Miguel Ruiz says that with this first agreement alone, we can transform our lives. It’s that powerful. Don’t criticize unduly. Don’t abuse others with your words. Importantly, say what you mean and mean what you say. Live up to your verbal commitments. Be impeccable with your word even as you use it on yourself. Don’t let your inner critic bring you down. Those are words, too, the ones inside your head.

Dad was impeccable with his word. Words were important to him. They still are. He still wants to be heard. When I was a teenager and unwilling to listen, he wrote his words down in two or three letters he then slipped under the closed door of my bedroom or left on the kitchen table for me to open after he left for work. He was like Felix Unger in some ways, a tidy man with small and precise handwriting. His handwriting is shaky now, but then his writing looked like a professional cursive font.

The letters he wrote on yellow legal pads, and so he fit a lot of words on them. He told me the things he had tried to say to me but that I would shut down. What was important to him, the things he wanted to pass on, the wisdom he wanted to impart. He worried about me, the friends I had chosen, my boyfriend. He acknowledged that even though I had many bad habits, I was still keeping up my grades, and for that he was grateful.

He did pass something on to me, didn’t he? His honesty with words. That’s a powerful gift. And Mom passed on her love of words, too, the gift of gab, the love of gossiping. And even though don Miguel Ruiz says that gossip is a form of not being impeccable — and what exactly is the opposite of “impeccable”? Peccable? — I don’t believe that gossip is always bad. Not when it binds a family, becomes part of the way they communicate. A network. Stories passed down.

No, I think the opposite of being impeccable with your word is being careless and messy, or being mean-spirited with your precision, using your words like a scalpel. We can cut out a piece of someone’s heart with our words. Or making a commitment and then not meeting it.

And when we’re not impeccable, like I can tend to be at times, that’s human. But for the most part people are good. We just make mistakes, all of us, at different times. Sometimes we go through many years making the same mistakes, and other times, maybe when we’re older, we start to see our patterns and try harder to not repeat them.


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Some topics draw me in right away, there’s no hesitation, no staring at the lines on my page. Not so Kindness. If the topic were Demanding or Disappointment, would it pull me into its loops and swirls, take me down with it, down to the grit behind my elbow?

Ah, elbows and grit and the dirt. The scoop. OK, here’s the scoop. I was lying on my bed after picking up the girls in carpool. I was remembering how compassionate the little Me was, the Me as a girl. How I’d cry when Larry stepped on ants. He did it to make me cry. How I couldn’t bear the thought of an animal dying.

Wondering where it went, how I got so hard. I’m hard-edged, straight-spined. Get over it. Words to live by, to tell others who are in pain to live by. And not that any of it is that cut and dried. I’m not horribly hard, but there is a veneer covering my soft parts.

I wonder if it’s Mom’s ranching sensibilities. Realism. Turkeys get slaughtered. Wooley and Wally, who I named the summer I turned 12, were hauled off to be butchered, but I lay my 63-pound body on the plank the sheep were to walk to get into the trailer. Lay there like those environmentalists who chain themselves to trees. Uncle Pat came and grabbed me, I stayed in repose, folded almost in a back-bend over his arms.

I sobbed, NO, NO, NO, you can’t take my sheep! Grandpa laughed. He wasn’t the kind of gentle white-haired man in a cardigan who would sit me down by a fireplace and tell me about the cycles of life, the food chain, where the meat goes, where the wool goes, how it is in the world. My grandpa wore a cowboy hat and a jean jacket and was missing a fingertip on either hand, lost slaughtering cows. My grandpa would have said, Getouttathere, you’re in the way. He’d have been embarrassed maybe, maybe mad for making him so. Life, this was life, this wasn’t meanness or anything slightly unkind. It just was.

Can ranching culture reside in your DNA, sleep in there like the cancer gene or a propensity to get rheumatoid arthritis? Lie in wait until you hit the age your mother was when you realized she wasn’t all buttons and bows either?

I always wondered, back when I was a teenager, how she could have taken my tom cat, Tiny Roy, to the pound and then claimed all along that he’d run away. How could she have left me crying night after night, praying for Tiny Roy’s return, her knowing all along that he wasn’t coming back?

It’s not just animals. It’s a way of moving forward, getting on with life. What is it, I have to ask myself now. Unkindness? A mean gene? A sense of reality?

Maybe none of the above. Just a moment frozen, like any other.


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By Marylin

Recently, my daughter, a friend and I were on our way to our Chiropractor, who lives and has his practice in a small town east of our homes in Cody, Wyoming. We arrange our appointments on the same morning, and enjoy our commute together. However, this particular morning was different. My daughter was the driver, and it was our first trip in her new car, “Crystal Blue,” a cute little car, so named because, as she drove it off the Dealer’s lot for the first time, the old tune “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was playing on the radio and Tracy took this as a sign to name her car, as it is a beautiful, bright blue with a sparkling undercoat that gives it a depth, like looking at fresh, unspoiled snow on the ground when the clouds have gone and the sun first shines on it.

There is nothing in between these two towns, threaded together by a two lane highway, taking infrequent travellers east and west across the high desert landscape. The land is mostly rough, sparse clumps of sage and some native grass, that in the fall of the year, is almost as brown as the rocky soil. There are a few small farms still in evidence, many already abandoned by the rugged homesteaders, who tired of waiting for the promise of success, touted by Buffalo Bill and his vision of an irrigated paradise. The only evidence of life we see that day is a herd of graceful antelope in the distance.

“I don’t understand why we’re not getting any heat,” Tracy commented. She had just returned from Billings the day before, having taken the car in for its first “check-up” (like a mother taking her new baby to the pediatrician after the first six weeks). She no sooner had spoken, when the car began shutting down…all the needles on all the gages dropping backwards, simultaneously! She pulled off the road onto the shoulder, got out of the car and opened the hood to a cloud of what was steam or smoke, hard to tell which. She came back to tell us that the cap was off of the radiator, but she found it, and stated that it would probably be best to let the car cool off before trying to start it.

Almost immediately, a van pulled off the road in front of us and a man got out and asked if he could help. Although he was headed east, as we were, he offered to drive us back to Cody. We were about 25 miles out of town, and I was amazed that this individual would take the time out of his work day to do such a kind deed! He did not act in a manner that suggested that this extra “jog” in his journey was even the slightest inconvenience to him, although we all knew that it must be.

He apologized that the interior of his vehicle was “kinda’ messy,” as he scrambled to move empty plastic juice bottles, spare gloves, maps, etc. from the seats. He was as cheerful as though he had planned a rescue of damsels in distress as part of his day’s routine. We kept thanking him profusely, and his only response could have come out of an old Western movie, as an “Aw’ shucks, ma’am, ‘twarn’t nuthin’. To quote the Bible, ‘The Lord loveth a cheerful giver’.”

Marylin did this 15-minute writing practice based on the post WRITING TOPIC – KINDNESS & POLITENESS

About writing, Marylin says: I guess I’m a “dabbler,” as far as writing goes. My first work was done for North Hollywood High’s weekly newspaper; reporting and editing; good training. I enjoy both non-fiction (mostly in essay form) and fiction; short stories, song lyrics, one billboard (it was a Prairie Public Radio contest). I’ve written some poems (still into rhyming) and even a play, as yet, not produced.

My Grandson, after graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute asked if we could collaborate on picture books for children. So far, we have completed two, and are looking for a publisher. While living in Simi Valley, from 1997-2000, I published five essays — all humorous, tongue-in-cheek — in a weekly column in the “Ventura Star Tribune.”

As an adult, I took a course in Journal Writing, in which we used Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones. Now, I am writing childhood memories. I decided to do this after realizing, in doing genealogy, that I longed to know how it felt to be living in a certain time and place, and wondered why my family moved from place to place. Simply listing dates and places does not satisfy anyone’s curiosity! 

I recently joined the Cody Writers, an informal group of women who enjoy writing and sharing what they write. We meet once a month. I introduced them to Goldberg’s “laws of Practice” at our last meeting. We all wrote like mad for ten minutes and then shared what we wrote. I know we’ll be doing it again!

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Mimbres Man sent an email last week saying he’s been journaling with his fifth-grade students every morning. They spend at least 15 minutes writing on a different topic.

He wanted to share a recent and favorite topic with the readers of red Ravine. We’ve included it verbatim below.

In today’s fast and furious world, this topic is a great reminder to slow down, to show compassion and love. Thank you, Mimbres Man, for showing your love (smile) to us here at red Ravine! The feeling is mutual.

Kindness & Politeness

Courtesy Pays road signIn my home state, there are road signs that say Courtesy Pays. These signs aren’t everywhere, just on certain winding mountainous routes. When I was young I noticed them because they were black with white lettering.

These signs are two sided with hinges on the top side and in the winter they unfold into bright yellow rhombus-shaped signs and warn motorists to WATCH FOR SNOWPLOWS. But most of the year they stayed folded black triangles and remind drivers to be nice to each other.

Today, as you drive the rural backroads of New Mexico, people wave to each other — just a little friendly hello. New Mexico drivers are just showing a little courtesy to each other.

The world is a better place when people show a little kindness & politeness.

Write about kindness & politeness. What does it mean to you? Since you receive a grade in kindness & politeness, does it make a difference? Think about it. Write about it.

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