Kindness Without Boundaries

July 22nd, 2013

village squareKindness don’t have no boundaries. So said Aibileen in The Help about the things that divide people,  “They in our heads.  Kindness don’t have no boundaries.”

If only we truly got this and lived it. The things that divide us, the things we fear about each other that make us fight and protect ourselves, they’re in our heads.

How can we overcome fear with kindness, and break down some of the boundaries in our heads that divide and frighten us?

I just got back from 6 weeks traveling in Europe (hence the quiet blog) One of the clearest lessons I took from the trip is that people everywhere, no matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin or the sound of your tongue,  and no matter what you’ve been through, we all suffer and we all struggle and we all want and need kindness; I mean the type of kindness that has no boundaries, like kindness from strangers who go out of their way to help you and want nothing in return.

I experienced kindness from so many strangers. A special shout out to the people of Portugal, who stood out for their friendliness and kindness. If we went into one store to ask for directions, the store owner would grab a map, go into the next store to double check and before long we had a whole community of 4 or 5 people helping us on our way. It was amazing to experience!

Something  clicked for me while eating a meal in Barcelona, maybe a clue about the problem in America. We ate in a village square in the Gracia neighborhood. In the center of the square was a beautiful, ancient, ornate clock tower, as if watching over the whole community, marking time. When I asked how long we would wait for a table, the waiter said “ten minutes, one hour or three hours.” At first I was annoyed. I wanted an exact answer. But then I realized that not rushing was the priority. No one would be rushed. They would leave when they were finished. The same would be true for us IF we got a table.

Kids kicked their soccer balls against the clock tower. All around the square facing the clock tower were tables of people eating tapas and drinking sangria. In between the restaurants were benches full of older people, chatting and taking it all in. It was community in action. Three generations, all sorts of people, all enjoying the space, in clear view of each other. It was also chaos, with the occasional ball hitting tables and knocking over jugs of Sangria. But no one worried about that. No neighborhood watch here and no strangers.

We can’t all live in Village Squares. But we CAN all have a village square mindset, a communal consciousness. Unlock the gates to your heart so you can let it grow and expand to include more and fear less.

I love the words of Rudyard Kipling,

 “All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!”

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  1. Sonya says:

    It was so good to read about how other countries lives and how kindness is spreading around when someone who is in need of some kind of direction. It’s also real talk when you talk about racial and prejudice. It’s very sad that we as American lives in a country where we are suppose to be free and mostly everything or issues have us fighting each other. God bless us to be in this country so we should love everyone just like He loves us. Well I know that everyday that He gives me breath, I am working on me, so i can atleast be a better person for my nieces and nephews and the people that God allows to cross my path each day. Thanks again for the wonderful journey that I you shared about your trip. It almost felt like I was traveling with y’all… :)

  2. Sue Emeleus says:

    Hi Ian, Lovely to hear of your trip. Here in Australia I think we may be somewhere between the Europe you describe and the America you live in. Today I met with my Women’s Interfaith Network group. Nobody is ‘they’. We aim at harmony but in this group we already have it. Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, Muslims, Quakers, Christians, Buddhists. Fifteen of us talking about how single women (divorced, widowed, never-married) are treated in our different faith groups; what the attitudes of our group are to gays and lesbians, how our faith groups accept (or not) those who live together outside of marriage. We all came away feeling we’d been honest and each had contributed to the understanding of the others. I wish you well as you minister in your group there. Blessings, Sue Emeleus

  3. Mandy says:

    Ian:I am Mandy’s husband who is subscribed to your blog. She showed me the articles you and your wife wrote and I would like to comment.I agree with your statement that despite the result on the T.M. case, there is racial and profiling in America. I would like to add that your very statement in-and-of-itself is racial, and you are profiling America as well. Remember that America now has a black president, elected by a majority of white citizens.I smiled when you told your anecdote about Spain, and you are “wrong again” about assuming the same thing would happen at your table… No. You would not spend three hours there, because you would not be asking in the first place and you would not be annoyed by the answer of the waiter because for Spaniards, it is normal to live in the moment, not by clock-time. It is a cultural thing.I have no doubt your intentions are good and that your spirituality is a priority in your life. That is why you should not get involved in politics…spirituality & politics generally do not mix well…also, you should be better informed, in order to express opinions as a human being, in a case so sad and so politically influenced by the media. You have not followed the case and it is not fair to express so lightly an opinion: The “gated community” that you are referring to is actually a misnomer (it is the common vernacular used in this case because it is a private, lower/middle-class development) and it has no PHYSICAL GATES! So, all your literary prose went to a waste. There were no tangible gates to open. Get informed while having a good time and dedicate to your spiritual work, where I think you may have a calling. Leave the arena of politics alone, because you are going to get tainted. The same way you said you will write more about the racism, I look forward to answering in more detail to your feverish idealistic ideas.Thanks for allowing me to post my comments,Adrian.

  4. julie says:

    I like how Mandy (comment above) can assume how you feel……..  is she a fairy that lives on your shoulder 24/7?