Radiating Kindness

My interest in decluttering was flagging.  Alys, at Gardening Nirvana, who is a professional organiser in RL,  offered some timely, kindly advice. “Set a timer, ” she said, “and go all out for 15 minutes or so, and see how much you can get done.”  So I did. Yesterday. Worked like a charm. I raced through a heap of files, containing documents dating back to the 1990s, some of which, ( oh irony of ironies ), related to a storage facility I once used in New York!

Sigh of bliss…. so satisfactory !  to achieve so much in so short a period. And not only did I declutter, but I also discovered, tucked away in a corner of a shelf, a small  Helen Exley giftbook , called Words on Kindness.

It’s the dearest wee book, full of wonderful quotes. Several of them I greeted like old friends. Others were as new, to me, because I had forgotten them completely. Many of them moved me deeply.  The quote I have open before me today is this:

Even as a mother
protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all
living beings;
Radiating kindness
over the entire world.
The Buddha ( c 563 – c 483 B.C. )

A painting, Mother and Child, by Edgar Degas, illustrates the text. I cannot find a link to that painting.  Instead, I have selected this painting by Mary Cassatt who worked closely with, and was influenced by, Degas.

Mary Cassat "Mary Cassatt, 1902, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window" by Mary Cassatt - [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg

Mary Cassatt “Mary Cassatt, 1902, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window” by Mary Cassatt – [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg

As I read Words on Kindness, in another part of the world, far, far from me, a champion of mothers and children, a champion of kind words and deeds, was celebrating her 91st birthday. I am referring to the remarkable  Dr Catherine Hamlin, co-founder, with her husband Dr Reg Hamlin, of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.  Dr Catherine, has spent more than half a century living in Ethiopia, serving some of the most marginalised women in the world.

” In the 1950s Catherine and her late husband Reg went to Ethiopia to train midwives, but their attention soon turned to the plight of the fistula sufferers.

Together the Hamlins perfected the modern technique for obstetric fistula surgery and
 have treated more than 40,000 women, more than 90% of them cured.”

– See more at: http://hamlin.org.au/#sthash.QyWleIWz.dpuf

An award winner documentary,  A Walk to Beautiful, was made about the fistula patients, and the life-changing care given at the Fistula Centres in Ethiopia.

 

More about the work of the Fistula Hospital and Dr Hamlin can be seen  here. It is a difficult, even harrowing, video to watch but it is ultimately a testament to the transformational nature of compassion and  radiating kindness.

If I can stop one heart
from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life
the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886)

Radiating gazania; like kindness it spreads.

Radiating gazania; like kindness it spreads.

© silkannthreades

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137 thoughts on “Radiating Kindness

  1. Juliet

    Beautiful poem, and the quote I know so well. You know kindness and evoke it beautifully in this post. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Clanmother

    Kindness! This post is rich in content. I have also be involved in de-cluttering ever since you inspired me with your determination. We know how to accumulate; it is difficult to de-accumulate. But when we do, we synthesize our lives into a few, powerful thoughts. Kindness, Love, Joy, Hope. I am convinced that it is our commitment to others that provides the greatest treasures in life. Thank you for your life-affirming words.

    “To reach satisfaction in all, desire satisfaction in nothing. To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing. To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing. To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge of nothing. To come to enjoy what you have not, you must go by a way in which you enjoy not. To come to the possession you have not, you must go by a way in which you possess not. To come to what you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not.” John of the Cross

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Having this moment relieved one cupboard of about 8 years of accumulated files, I feel as though I possess a giant cavernous freedom. Your comment is timely! This feeling of freedom will only be fleeting. It will disappear when I confront the next cupboard.

      Reply
  3. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    the dickinson poem is so great; thanks for refreshign my memory. it’s a code that i try to go by – to enhance the quality of someone’s life each day, and it’s so easy with justu a smile between strangers… it’s amazing how that works w/such ease, yet how so many people are not comfortable giving a stranger a smile…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is easy with a smile, yet, as you say, often there is that reluctance to give or receive a smile. Let’s, you and me, keep on giving smiles to the world. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wendy L. Macdonald

    You’ve done a lovely and compassionate work in letting us know about these injured women. How beautiful of the doctors to start this rescue mission so these women can live with dignity again.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    Reply
    1. maureenc

      Perhaps for readers interested in learning more about Elizabeth Hamlin, they may find the book :The Hospital by the River: A Story of Hope .A paperback –by Catherine Hamlin (Author), John Little, less confronting than the video. So many of us say, like Emily Dickinson:
      If I can stop one heart
      from breaking,
      I shall not live in vain:
      But how many, like Elizabeth Hamlin “do”. A modern saint, I think.

      Reply
  5. Born To Organize

    You’ve covered a lot here, all wonderful and inspiring. I enjoyed reading from all your commenters as well. So many people leaving a positive mark in the world: Mary Cassatt, Emily Dickinson, Catherine Hamlan and you.

    I first learned of fistula through the novel, Cutting for Stone. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/books/review/Wagner-t.html

    I too must avoid that video or I’ll never get it out of my head, but thank you for sharing it and applaud others who can watch and who make a difference.

    I’m delighted to read that the 15 minute timer trick worked well for you. Here is another tip: Schedule organizing sessions on your calendar. You could plan to organize for 30 minutes every Monday morning, or Friday afternoon or whenever you think you would be most likely to see it through. It can be calming simply knowing you have time set aside for the task.

    Thanks for the mention!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh that’s another great tip, Alys. Thank you. At first I didn’t recognise the book you mentioned but after checking out the link, I realised that it is the same book that my aunt was encouraging me to read last year. She found it fascinating. It may not be the best for my bedtime reading though. 😦 And bedtime is when I find the most time to read.

      Reply
  6. Sheila

    I love the Buddha quote and the thought of radiating kindness to all. It’s amazing that something like that was written so long ago. The 15-minute race sounds like fun – I’ll have to give it a try to see what can be found (I’m guessing it’ll mostly be dust though)!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      If only dust were all I found, how happy I would be! Yesterday I did lots of 15 minute dashes and finished up with an ENORMOUS pile of paper to put in the recycle bin. However, a few more dashes and I should be done with my office/study files.

      Reply
  7. Steve Schwartzman

    Thanks for the introduction to Theodorus Gaza. I see from the Wikipedia article that Botticelli included Gaza (along with himself) as a figure in his painting “The Adoration of the Magi.”

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes I saw that but I didn’t check why. Perhaps because he was so wise? When I mentioned Theodorus Gaza to my daughter she initially confused him with this Theodorus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracelsus or Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, also a very interesting person. I expect her knowledge of Theophrastus Bombastus comes from the Japanese anime Full Metal Alchemist.

      Reply
      1. Steve Schwartzman

        My impression is that it’s not unusual in the history of painting to find that painters put their acquaintances or friends or especially themselves into paintings, even if the paintings show scenes from other eras. What I haven’t been able to track down in my brief searching is the extent to which Botticelli and Gaza knew each other. One thing I did find while looking was a translation of the Wikipedia article into Esperanto:

        http://epo.wikitrans.net/Theodorus_Gaza

        As for Paracelsus, I recognized the name right away because my father, who collected thousands of books, had one about Paracelsus that I remember from childhood. Paracelsus’s actual name of Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenhei strikes me as bombastic.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Bombastic, yes, but I rather like the sound of that name. It has a certain flow to it. I am interested that out of the thousands of books you can remember that one…..was it the name that attracted your attention?

        2. Steve Schwartzman

          It’s by no means the only one I remember, but the book’s spine had a big P (for Paracelsus) on it that was conspicuous on the bookshelf. My father was an aficionado of quotations and bought dozens of quotation books over the years. Most of them are now here with me in Austin.

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          The big P would have suited Paracelsus’ bombastic nature. 😀 I am glad you have been able to keep your father’s books. I treasure the very few books that I have inherited from my parents.

        4. Steve Schwartzman

          My sister and I kept hundreds of his books (she retaining the larger share because she’s in New York), and we donated many others to a library and a charity book sale, but even then many ended up either with no one having the capacity to take them or else, sadly, no one wanting them.

  8. shoreacres

    Strange as it may seem, I don’t remember hearing anything about fistula while in Liberia. Of course, my focus was maternal/child health, and we were far more focused on measles, malaria and malnutrition. I have been on a bit of a hunt and turned up this article about an organization doing good work there, despite the problems involved with rebuilding the health infrastructure post-civil war. As I imagined, the genital mutiliation which is a part of secret society initiations there plays a part in the problem.

    As for Ethiopia, I suspect you’ll enjoy this post by one of my favorite photo-bloggers. It’s good to see such signs of growth and development — and especially so, given that Ethiopia is sheltering so many refugees from the Sahel.

    I love the fifteen-minute routine. It reminds me that not only time, but also space, can help with the decluttering process. A friend adopted the practice of “fencing off” a 36″ x 36″ square of desktop, drawer or closet twice a day. She dealt with everything inside the “fence,” but nothing else. Once that space was cleared out, she was free until the next time.

    It seems that limits can be freeing! But no need to limit kindness. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ah, another excellent strategy for dealing with clutter. Thank you. Also loved the WordPress post on Ethiopia’s progress. Recently I saw Haile interviewed on the BBC. He was talking about his investment in cinemas, I think. Linda, although I wasn’t working in Africa, during our time there, I also don’t remember anything about fistula programmes. As you say the emphasis was on vaccination and nutrition and malaria. Fistula problems were obviously there but I believe I am correct in saying that it was only after the pioneering work of the Hamlins began to be recognised that fistula programmes took hold in other countries. The Zonta programme in Liberia looks very interesting.

      Reply
  9. cindy knoke

    Oh you ticked all my favorite boxes with this post Ann. I hadn’t read, and loved the quote by Buddha. Sometimes I feel some mom’s might not don’t get what Buddha is saying, but I have always known that in some invisible way, I am a mother to every child and each child is as important as my own. I am devoted to Emily and love this passage and two Mary Cassat prints hung in my mental health office for decades. I imagine they are still there. You did wonderful things with this beautiful post my friend~

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      My heart beats a little faster knowing that you had two Mary Cassatt prints in your office. I would have come to see you for that reason alone; just to sit and admire. And isn’t it interesting that her mother and child paintings are so beautiful and tender, yet, she herself chose not to have children. I wonder, if like you, she felt she was a mother to every child, and she expressed this in her paintings.

      Reply
  10. danniehill

    What wonderful post that brought so many good things to my mind. Kindness is something given without expectation, but in truth it returns to you over and over.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Dannie. Your comment brings to mind another quote from Words on Kindness, which is this: One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned.” (Mark Ortman).

      Reply
  11. Mélanie

    I love the 2 D’s = Dickinson & Degas… ❤
    * * *
    🙂 let's smile or laugh… it doesn’t cost anything and it’s good for our health! btw:“Adults who don’t laugh or play anymore have lost the kid who used to live inside them and they’ll miss ‘it’ forever…”(Pablo Neruda)
    * * *
    “A smile is often essential. We are paid by a smile. We are rewarded with a smile…”(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) bonus: Charlie Winston & Audrey Tautou – I love your smile… 🙂

    Reply
  12. restlessjo

    What a lovely post, Ann. 🙂 I wish I had a little more time to linger. It’s full of warm thoughts and kindness. You have a talent for turning mundane activities into something special.

    Reply
  13. inmycorner

    Wow – this post was filled with learning for me. I am not much of a student of poetry – I do know about fistulas from my previous studies – the 15 minute suggestion sounds very realistic and enough of an incentive to actually work. I think you have so much good stuff packed into this post – I will have to re-read it to capture the entire thing – I have something to look forward to for tomorrow morning. Thank-you.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Stacey, I am a real innocent in the world of poetry. I struggle with it, but, occasionally, a poem like Emily’s will come along and I feel that I may have had a glimpse of what poetry is all about.

      Reply
  14. Boomdeeadda

    It’s so like Alys to share her trade tricks and know how to make things work. The 15 minute bell sounds like a good one. I may need to use it to tidy the Boom Room. Isn’t Emily Dickinson lovely, “help one fainting Robin unto his nest again”, how sweet. I wonder when it was written if Emily wanted to help one fainting Robin unto ‘her’ nest ? Could it be that an earlier publisher, probably a man, took liberties to inject a male due to the sensibilities of the times?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How very astute of you Boomdee. Emily may well have wanted to write “her”. She may also have had a very good eye for identifying the sexes of the robins. Apparently the first unaltered editions of Dickinson’s poems were only made available in 1955. This is a link to her handwritten copy of the poem http://www.edickinson.org/editions/1/image_sets/236193. She uses ‘his’ but that does not mean to say she was not influenced/advised at some stage to write ‘his’. I do not know. 😦 And let’s hear a big cheer for Alys! Your Boom Room will be tidy in a flash if you take on her advice.

      Reply
      1. Boomdeeadda

        Thank you for the link. How darn cool is that? I just checked on Google and it’s the female Robin that incubates her precious eggs but perhaps it was a male baby bird who fell from safety while pushing his way up front, ahead of his siblings who also wanted to be fed. LOL you know the male species can be rather Brutish at times 😉

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          That could indeed be the case. Your last remark comes close to some things I have thinking about the fistula issue. It is mundane, it is female, it creates desperate situations for many women and has done so for years. Yet, something like Ebola comes along and there is panic, and armies are put to work to solve the problem. It’s hard not to conclude that the priority given to Ebola is because it threatens the male of the species. If the same resources were heaped on midwifery and fistula prevention services, fistula would be dealt a mortal blow.

  15. Cynthia Reyes

    Cheers to your advisor on decluttering. That 15 minute thing seems like a great idea.
    Cheers for the Hamlins. A fistula sounds like a very painful condition to have; how terrific that they pioneered a treatment.
    Cheers to Mary Cassatt, a wonderfully talented painter, and Emily Dickinson, a remarkable poet.. and what can one say about the Buddha, except perhaps: Thank you.

    And finally, cheers to you for continuing to bring us new bits of knowledge in a lovely way.

    Happy decluttering, though I think clutter is like rabbits: where there are two pieces of clutter, soon there will be a dozen.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ha! And cheers to you for the insight into the connection between rabbits and clutter. I think I now understand the origin of that mysterious species, the dust bunny.

      Reply
  16. Tiny

    I watched the whole video and it brought me back to my years in Addis. It was not easy to watch but at the same time so uplifting, solid proof of what compassion and kindness can achieve. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, there would be so many memories for you; just listening to the language for starters. 🙂 The video is dated from a few years ago, but what I found encouraging these days is that Ethiopia is making some headway in its development. Surely this will eventually mean better health services for everyone and a better standard of living.

      Reply
  17. Just Add Attitude

    I think setting a timer for fifteen minutes and working flat out for those minutes is a wonderful tip, I am going to try it – thank you for sharing it. I love, love that Emily Dickinson poem. 😉

    Reply
  18. Leya

    A great tip – that one I will try. It will be very good for me and my things…Lovely quotes, and Dickinson is one of my favourites. I didn’t find her until 1998, but i have loved her ever since..

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ann Christine, I probably discovered Emily Dickinson about the same time as you did. Unfortunately, I struggle to understand a lot of her poetry, but these words of hers go straight to my heart. I think the 15 minute time period could well be used on my blog writing, too! It might make my brain work faster. 😀

      Reply
      1. Leya

        Well, I believe your brain is fast enough…but I could need it sometimes. Dickinson’s poetry is not easy, but what I understand I love. I found her when studying American litterature at university. I immediately bought her collected poems.

        Reply
  19. thecontentedcrafter

    Yay for you on the decluttering front and to the so kind and generous Alys!

    I have followed the work of Catherine Hamlin for a number of years – but had not seen that video before. I am always elated when we share word of the good work that goes on in our world! xo

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Alys was the inspiration I needed! As well as her post on her beautifully organized home. 🙂 Catherine Hamlin and her co-workers are wonderful. We don’t hear enough about them. Have you ever made squares for their blankets?

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      For the fistula women, kindness is the first step in their healing. Don’t you also love the kindness embodied in the beautiful blankets they are given?

      Reply
      1. Poetsmith

        Yes, indeed. The wonderful and humanitarian contributions of doctors Hamlyn as a husband and wife team are commendable. The rural African countries must be a real challenge to treat the patients and provide health care during those years. Thank you, Gallivanta, for highlighting it in your post. Your vase of flowers do brighten up the day! 🙂 Love, Iris.

        Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      On the Hamlin website, I noticed the words “served” in relation to Catherine’s work. It is a gracious word and one which has lost its rightful place in our vocabulary. How much more compassionate our politicians might be if they remembered that they are elected to ‘serve’ us.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ah….how lovely you are passing it along! It’s good to be kind to ourselves, but really kindness does best when it is free to roam. I am sure some of the kindness went to the puppers, and they returned it a hundredfold. 🙂

      Reply
  20. lensandpensbysally

    Your commentary is filled with small and larger gems. It was just the right radiance for a snowy morning. The Emily Dickinson quote is memorable and soulful. You seem to be sorting through clutter. Sometimes it’s best to amble along. Each piece that you discover is part of who you are. You saved it for some reason. Now it is worthy or not. Strange how we alter our view of what was once profoundly important, and hoe experience and maturity changes our viewpoint.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Sally, it’s that changing perception that I find daunting. What if I throw something out which a few years hence I would love again? Self doubt creeps in!

      Reply
  21. Mrs. P

    What a great tip on organizing! I spent 12 hours straight helping a friend organize stuff in her house on Saturday. She is an energizer bunny and can go and go and go. I think it is easier to organize someone else’s stuff than your own…at least it appears that way. 😉

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Sometimes it is easier to organize someone else’s stuff because you don’t have any emotional attachment to the objects. But what a wonderful friend you are! Any chance I could borrow you for some organizing over this way? 🙂

      Reply
      1. Mrs. P

        Oh you tease me so…you know I would love to see you and if you want to organize, that would be okay with me! 😀

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Gazanias, featured in my vase, were named in honour of Theodorus Gaza, a Greek scholar and 15th-century translator of the works of Theophrastus, known as ‘the father of Botany”. So says Wiki. Apparently Theophrastus is famous for saying “life is ruled by fortune, not wisdom”. I don’t know the context of this saying but I think it serves to answer your comment rather well. If I were wise I would organise to bring you here immediately. But this I cannot do because my life is ruled by fortune, or lack of it! 😀

        2. Mrs. P

          Yes, that fits my lifestyle at the moment as well…but I am seriously trying to figure out a way to reverse the tables on fortune…and keep wisdom as well. 😀

        3. Mrs. P

          Ha! I did join a similar site…gotta have the right attitude! 🙂 When we go to Italy next year, we are going to stay in someone’s home. 🙂

  22. womanseyeview

    Good for you for staying strong on the decluttering 😄
    Thank you for drawing our attention to the humbling Catherine Hamlin…fistula repair is an issue I supported in a previous life. The problem is one that unites us as women since there but for the grace of geography go all of us. The procedure is so simple yet just out of reach except for selfless care givers like these doctors. An uplifting post!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Indeed, but for the grace of geography, this might be you or I. Her influence in this field has spread well beyond Ethiopia. So many have been given hope because of her work, but so many are still suffering needlessly.

      Reply
  23. Robbie

    I admire doctors like the Hamlins that give their life to help others—really what life should be for us all:-) Those poor young girls that are forced to have children so young:-(
    I saw a documentary once on young women in Ethiopia that suffered from ” chronic bleeding” and how they are isolated from their homes due to their condition. They walked for miles to get treatment. Thank you for sharing + inspiring us all with people that do for others their whole life:-)

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The courage and determination of such doctors and their patients are truly admirable. Another remarkable surgeon from this part of the world is Fred Hollows ( now deceased)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hollows. The organisation established in his name does tremendous work with blindness prevention.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks GP. Like you, I always find out so much when I start to research/write a post. It’s nice to pass on some of that information. Now, here’s a thought. Writing about Ethiopia reminds me of the part it played in WW2.

      Reply
  24. KerryCan

    An inspirational way to start my day! I love Mary Cassatt’s work, and think she’s under-appreciated, so I’m glad to see that you chose her. And that 15-minute rule makes so much sense–it’s a good way to get quite a lot done and, once started, I find I often work for longer than that!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I love Mary Cassatt too. I love the story of her determination to be a successful, independent, self-supporting artist. And, yes, the 15 minute rule rules. 🙂

      Reply
  25. ladysighs

    I love the poem by Emily Dickinson. So simply said. No fancy similies or other descriptions. To me they are the directions of kindness. The deed does not have to be big or one that needs a lot of resources. A little help here and there will do wonders for others and make yourself feel good too.
    We all should have the book of kindness you referenced. Better still write one of our own. 🙂

    Reply

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