I returned about 10 days ago from a blissful vacation and retreat in Vancouver as well as the Brew Creek Centre outside of Whistler, British Columbia. My wife, Patricia, and I had a great retreat with twenty or so new friends. It was led by Donny Starkins and assisted by Adam Maielau.
Preparing to come back to Arizona, Patricia said to me that she felt like that guy in David Bowie’s iconic song, “Space Oddity.” Specifically, the she referred to the lyric, “Ground Control to Major Tom…” acknowledging that we were going to have a difficult re-entry process.
As usual, she has been correct.
I started my retreat by referring all of the other folks to David Brooks’ most recent column, Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good. Brooks wrote the column, I presume, after seeing the new documentary film, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” about Fred Rogers.
As we began our retreat from the mayhem of our 21st century plugged in lives, I thought that we could all benefit from Fred Rogers simple wisdom of doing little things well, like being kind. As Brooks wrote, “There’s nothing obviously moving here, and yet the audience is moved: sniffling, wiping the moisture from their cheeks. The power is in Rogers’s radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce. It’s as if the pressure of living in a time such as ours gets released in that theater as we’re reminded that, oh yes, that’s how people can be.”
But, as we all know, it is hard. It is made all the more difficult in the era of social media and the pounding noise of our nation’s political theatre. As I commented during the retreat, we are living in an era where more people live above the poverty line, have access to clean water and can access some form of health care.
Yes, we can do better, but it starts with a smile and a sense of gratitude to those who have come before. Remember those who have sacrificed so much so we can enjoy our lives today.
So, in the midst of that struggle, find something to smile about, find a way to show a simple kindness, and if you are really up for a challenge, find a way to show kindness to your perceived enemy. It may surprise you what a simple change in demeanor can bring about.
Note: The other day, Kari Bland wrote a similar column in her new space saying largely the same thing. She is filling the massive shoes left by Clay Thompson at the Arizona Republic – and I think she is doing a very fine job!