I was told the other day that I had once written something kind, something that the caller had not forgotten, and, of course, I was glad to hear it, not considering myself a person who is very kind really. Rather than kind acts — and I suppose a newspaper column can sometimes fall within that category — it’s the failures to act kindly that I tend to remember, things I ought to have done that I didn’t do, sins largely of omission, though of commission too, dating to seventh grade when I said something mean about a fellow Edgeworth School student, a quiet red-headed girl, whom the teacher had singled out for praise and who had heard what I’d said.
Try Zen, the caller said. With Zen, the past is past, she said, giving me the name of a teacher, an Australian, who she thought was particularly wise, “and funny too.”
Those who are wise are always funny, I think. Like the Dalai Lama and the late Bishop Tutu. They can be of the world and yet at the same time transcend it. Because they have suffered, they are compassionate, and can say truly, “We are all the same person.” So, yes, take the compliment, Jack, and remember to think of others, as Mary does, effortlessly, it seems, it being her nature. She’s at the food pantry now, and will go back again in the afternoon. They call her “the Fruit Queen.”
“Tell them to turn up the heat,” I said as she left this morning, knowing how much the cold affects her. It’s hard to be transcendent when you’re freezing, but she’s got pluck, and the camaraderie and sense of purpose, especially during this very cautious time with Covid still reigning, is what the doctor ordered.
Warmth too ought to be prescribed, at least a month’s worth, though the politics in warm places in the U.S. generally leave her cold. Consequently, and this is very odd, whenever we talk about where we’ll go if he whose name we dare not say wins the presidency again two years hence, Canada comes to her mind, not Orange County, California, or Florida — “a fascist state” in the eyes of a friend of ours, who used to describe it somewhat more charitably as “Centereach with palm trees.”
A little more than a month more of hunkering by the fire — deriving the warmth too that comes from working with friends to benefit others — and it ought to be over.