Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Daily Gifts"

Today, before I get into my main entry, a bit of an update on swimming progress: reached 3000 yards, actually 3050 yards, but in the last fifty my body was telling me not to get greedy inasmuch as I'd only planned for 2800. The object is to get ready for a 2 mile swim on Sept.26, since as an option running has pretty much been unavailable--but also with the crazy idea that I might want to try the Boston Light Swim in a couple years (an insane idea, not at all practical--very rough conditions in this 8 mile swim... and appealing for precisely that reason). Not a certainty by any means because I have to set other things in my life in order, but, like the Great South Bay Swim (which I plan to return to next year--not enough distance training this year), it has a certain sentimental appeal... homecoming... the city of my birth in this case. Rich will think it's nuts due to its being held in the Boston Harbor vicinity (near Thompson Island), but people have been doing this swim for quite a number of years and living to tell the tale.

I was also able to run for a half hour today for which I'm very grateful. Of late, my injury has begun to calm down again--also some money came through that I was waiting for (not a lot, but I was getting very, very, very worried about that situation). So optimism is slowly resurfacing.

On that note, on to the point of my post:

As a Catholic, I've grown up hearing about--and still hear about--all sorts of novenas (for the two or three of you reading this, ;) in case you're not Catholic, it's a nine-day period in which one says a particular prayer or set of prayers. Novenas to St. Jude are quite popular--the patron saint of hopeless cases. Sometimes I've made them myself, but when I'm feeling particularly hopeless it's hard to pray to anyone.

Well, I have a novena idea that doesn't involve saying any prescribed prayers (although there's no reason not to say your favorite prayers if you're of the mind).

This is a novena anyone can join whether a Catholic or not, and come to think of it, nine days is just a starting point anyway.

This is a "daily gift" novena for the economy.

And you don't have to be rich to join in--although, rich folks, you're welcome. You don't have to give money to anyone either.... comforting, I hope, for those of us for whom obtaining money is one of those elusive abilities--for me, rather like the flip turn, but I already talked about swimming.

This "daily gift" is simply some kindness or to use a word my Jewish friends use "mitzvah" which I think roughly translates into good deed. I know, I know..."do a good deed every day" comes out of the Scout handbooks and isn't original... and its more contemporary terminology "random act of kindness" is already taken.

But it seems as if the energy of kindness multiplied could really go a long way, and nine is a nice number--symmetrical and all--and if we focused our thoughts on ways we could make one person feel better than s/he felt a moment earlier, maybe a groundswell could develop that would make even St. Jude hopeful.

For instance, an elderly woman recently boarded a local trolley with a bunch of heavy bags from the grocery. A man on the trolley jumped out to help her with the bags before getting back on. Someone just about out of money had piled together some coins to throw into one of those Coinstar machines, but saw an elderly woman rooting through the trash for food, so gave the coins to her.

Another time, an elderly man got on the bus with a walker. A couple nearby helped him board and made sure he had a seat before they took their seat.

I realize these won't undo the crimes of some wealthy power brokers whose greed bled our economy. And I hope those with greater power and money make their daily gifts larger: For instance, if you have a choice between a raise and more perks for your top brass and letting office workers keep their jobs, how about giving the office staff a chance?

But maybe small daily gifts from each person could make a difference in lifting people out of the collective sadness we've experienced due to so many out of work. Those of us who are doing without actually can feel in a sense empowered by knowing we have the power to make even one person's life a little happier. It's hard. I know...I can have days where I don't want to look at another let alone help her/him. We have learned to be strangers. "I don't trust her/him because s/he is {fill in blank: not my race, not my religion, not my age, not my size, not my neighbor... s/he is Muslim, Catholic, lives in the wrong neighborhood, wears the wrong clothes, is gay, is hetero, looks like my fifth grade teacher, etc. etc."] And sadly people have given us reason not to trust them. We've been hurt enough times, haven't we? We're broke emotionally as well as financially. We have compassion fatigue. (Well, I do actually enough times, but then I think of the people who have been good to me when they too could have compassion fatigue.)

But the "daily gift" doesn't have to be anything too dramatic. Saying hello to the bus driver... leaving a couple coins where someone else will find them... surprising a friend with her favorite candy bar. But think of the ripple effect.

One day, I watched as raindrops fell into a puddle and formed ever widening circles that overlapped other circles from other raindrops--and it felt for a moment as if I was looking at God. Infinity... one raindrop at a time.