“Instead of judging people by their past, stand by them and help repair their future.” –Heidie Diasanta
“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” –Abigail Van Buren
This week’s blog post is a difficult one to write, because this past week my family was split in two. I won’t recite every detail, except to say that my brother and the older of my sisters felt it necessary to accuse my youngest sister of abusing our mother and their children. Harsh words have been exchanged with plenty of blame to go around. This incident has made me think long and hard about forgiveness, compassion and generosity.
My youngest sister and brother-in-law have been struggling financially for about six months. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been in their position, but being poor takes a lot of effort. I’ve done what I can to support them along the way. I think they are amazing, because they have never given up. From my perspective, they’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey, learning about themselves and trusting that the trials they’re going through are leading them to their purpose. I’m amazed that their relationship with each other has grown stronger, and their children continue to thrive, even with all the chaos going on around them. Both my sister and her husband have finally found jobs that are both meaningful, and that will help them build the life they want.
What distresses me the most is that from my point of view, my brother and sister lack compassion for my youngest sister’s situation. Oh I understand my brother and sister think they are protecting our Mother. At least that’s what I hope motivates them. The thing is, they’ve been off living their own lives, and not really engaged with the rest of us for many years. They don’t understand how the relationships among the rest of us have grown over the time they’ve been away. So why my siblings feel the need to kick my youngest sister and her husband just when they’re picking themselves up, I can’t fathom.
On the one hand I’m shocked and hurt by what has occurred. On the other, I know that the only way I can help heal the rift is to send love and light to the situation every single day. Miracles can happen. This miracle may take some time to manifest, but I know from experience that relationships can be healed. My youngest sister and I were estranged from each other for some years, but after much forgiveness work on both sides, we’ve built a stronger relationship than we had previously.
As you probably understand, this fracas has caused me to think deeply about compassion, generosity, and forgiveness all of which I learned from my parents. As I struggle to try to understand what’s happened in my family, today I found two things that helped me recommit to follow my parents lead of being generous and compassionate.
The first was a video published in Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution newsletter. It was originally a TEDx talk by Michael Norton at Harvard University in 2011. The title of the talk is: “How to buy happiness.” The point of the video is that money CAN buy you happiness, if you give some away to help others. The study the talk is based on gives amazing evidence to support Michael Norton’s premise. As I listened, I was struck with the fact that the reason Christmas is such a joy-filled season, is because we’re spending money on the perfect gifts to give others. The amazing thing is, the amount of money you give away doesn’t have to be large to make you feel better about your life. The reverse is true if you hoard money, your life is not any happier, and possibly less happy. Hum, I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother.
The second inspirational piece was an article posted by A Mighty Girl, a group I follow on Facebook. The article was about a young woman, Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who is a college student in Preston, England. She’d lost her ATM card, and was stranded after an evening out with friends. She had no money for a taxi. A homeless man, Robbie, offered her all the money he had, about $5 so she could get home. She was able to find her way home without using the money he so generously offered. However, she so touched by his gesture, that she started a fund raising page on Facebook so she could raise enough money to pay for an apartment for him. Well, of course, much more money than was needed for the apartment came in and she was able to give the money to other charities in the area that provide for the homeless. Needless to say, her story went viral and she’s starting a new campaign on Facebook to help others.
Both those stories inspired me. First off, compassion and caring not only makes us happier, it’s also big news. We want to hear inspirational stories like these. Forgiveness, compassion and caring are what’s going to change the world. If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I’m continually writing about turning away from negative thoughts and feelings and embracing the positive. In the past I’ve apologized for that, but not any longer.
I’ll end this post with a quote from A Course In Miracles which I found just after the blow up in my family. It has helped me put my feelings into perspective. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” I know that my youngest sister, her husband, my husband and I have been seeking the barriers within ourselves that keep us from accepting love. I write from experience, when you go inside and break down those barriers, your life will become messy for a while. You have to go though a time of what I call cosmic closet cleaning. However, when things in our lives fall apart, we’ve got a golden opportunity to build something new. That’s what I celebrate, because the alternative is to stagnate, which, in my opinion, is a very dark place in which to live.
I hope your holidays with family and friends are rich and happy, though I know that sometimes they are quite stressful. There can be a blessing in that for you. And remember, being generous, sharing money and compassion to others makes you feel better about yourself, and makes you happier.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014