The day before I left for Italy I was the celebrant at a wedding in Lanark County. The two women getting married asked me to speak about union, so I began with a poem by Rumi, The Gift.
Its focus is on kindness and generosity – two qualities that go a long way in making a marriage, or in fact anything, work. It begins like this:
Union is like this:
You feel cold
So I reach for a blanket to cover
Our shivering feet
The wedding was a wonderful event, outdoors in the country. A hand-made wedding with everyone contributing to a glorious gathering. I felt so much kindness and generosity abounding.
I was sad to have to leave early because of my flight the next day. But kindness and generosity came with me. For instance, I stayed with friends for a few days in a village on the Amalfi coast, and their neighbor, Lydia, had a huge garden in full harvest state. Each day piles of tomatoes, eggplant, onions, basil, parsley arrived at our door. It seemed to be her personal mission to make sure we sampled a wide variety of Italian culinary delights, so plates of her creations also appeared each day. And what to do with all the produce?!
We took turns cooking, and since we were on the coast I thought a fish soup was in order. Off I went to the village store to forage for ingredients. There was the language issue for me; how do I say saffron, fennel, and bay leaves in Italian? It was Saturday morning and the store was bustling, but the staff went out of their way to help me. The bay leaf they didn’t have but still was no problem – it grows everywhere, and a staff person went out into the street to find a friend who had it growing in his garden. It was the best fish soup ever, filled with the generosity of the village.
In Lucca, I was out on my trusty bike roaming the streets, map in hand. At a crossroads while trying to get my bearings, an elderly lady dressed to the nines – beautiful silk blouse, gold jewelry, fancy hairdo – greets me and makes it her personal mission to help me find my way. No English, but no problem either. My Spanish helps and often I got the drift of what was being said. In the end she concedes that even though she’s lived in Lucca all her life, she too often gets lost. We have a short conversation that goes beyond helping me find my way, and then I move on – still lost – but full of gratitude for her generous spirit and the heart-warming exchange.
In the train station in Salerno, faced with a few flights of stairs, a young man goes out of his way to help me with my suitcase. Such kindness and generosity went on and on, and these stories are just a snapshot of my experience. It is the Italian way, but I have experienced this every time I’ve travelled. It’s part of the reason I travel; to renew my faith in people, in the world.
I returned home feeling very full. So many new faces, new words, new perspectives that left me with one strong message: kindness and generosity feel so very good. They are ‘pleasure supreme’ and are also contagious, so pass them on in your every day!
How has kindness and generosity touched your life and brought you pleasure in the giving or the receiving of it?
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