Kindness


⚽  In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” (1869) Prince Myshkin, thought it was 10 times as hard to die when death was certain: Put a soldier in front of a cannon, and he could still hope for the best; give him a definite sentence of death, and he’d fall apart. Sure enough, when another character, young Ippolit, learns that he’s dying of consumption (TB), he falls into mortal despair and seeks to hurry his end.  Eventually, he recognizes that a life shortened is not a life without meaning.

How hard it is to know you only have a limited time to live.  We tend to think that life is endless until we are told that it is not. My son had pancreatic cancer and was told he had 8-9 months left and lived only 5 more weeks.  I can recite many more end-of-life situations for people I cared about.  None of those people were in a condition to live a meaningful life after their diagnosis.  I guess, if you have many years to live, that possibility exists.  But, if the time is short, you mostly try to figure out how to say “Goodbye”.  If you are religious, you resign yourself humbly to “If it’s God’s will”, but if you’re not, I don’t know how that gets handled.  

Then, there are us older folks who know the end isn’t too far away yet have the possibility of living longer.  I think we are the ones in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” that seek the “life with meaning”.  We try to be more understanding of faults we perceive in others, to be more financially supportive and to “lend a hand” when needed.  But I must admit I see that in the younger folks as well.  My oldest granddaughter has three children at home, a husband that’s gone for long periods of time on his job, and yet, finds it within her heart to take in two small children that needs a family.  How wonderful is that!  I have a friend down the lane from us that, during summer, takes his riding mower up and down the street cutting the grass for anyone unable to do so.  You don’t have to look far to discover acts of pure, sweet kindness from people of all ages.  And really, in the end, we should ask ourselves; have we lived a kind and generous life, have we helped others while attempting to better ourselves? Katherine Mansfield (British writer) said, ‘If you wish to live, first you have to attend your own funeral”.  My interpretation of that quote is that I need to understand that someday my life will end, and only then can I live a fruitful and interesting life.  I wish that I’d realized that much, much sooner!

⚽ During a Sunday morning service a few weeks ago, our pastor told us that during the time of Jesus, salt was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by many people.  I recall my mother saying that someone we knew was “the salt of the earth”.  I knew it was a term of respect but had absolutely no idea of why salt was used in that context.  One of the many reasons I enjoy going to church on Sunday is because Pastor Jeff always ensures that we leave church service a little smarter than when we got up that morning. 

Salt has come a long way since then and we use it in a lot of different ways, but not as currency.  As a matter of fact, doctors today encourage us to avoid the ingestion of salt because of its ill effects on our body.  As we all know, it is almost impossible to avoid salt (sodium) in our food since it is included in just about all of it. 

I remember as an 18-year-old in 1959, going thru basic training at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, during July & August.  Our uniforms were designed for winter and summer and all buttons had to be closed.  The temps ranged from 99° to 103° during the day, dropping into the 80s at night.  Since we sweated a lot, we were required to take a salt pill before each meal to replace the salt lost during the day. Turned out to be a very bad idea and I’m confident they no longer follow that practice.  Most of us also thought they included something to diminish our sex drive but could never prove it.  If they were, it never worked on me😊.

⚽  Tracy Lawrence, one of my favorite country music artists, has a song that includes the lyrics, “Every time I make my mark someone paints the wall”.  Probably, we all have experienced that problem.  My wife and I booked a cruise to Cuba last October and within a few months our President canceled all travel to Cuba.  We re-booked for a cruise to Mexico with my granddaughter and her husband and my wife’s colonoscopy revealed she had colon cancer.  So again, we canceled.  I could cite numerous examples of making “marks on the wall” and them getting painted over.  I guess it’s mostly my age, but I seem to complain a lot lately.  I try not to, but if I’m not careful, I slip back into that well-worn groove.  If someone were to ask me what a typical day is for this old codger, it would go something like this:

Each morning I arise at 7am, put on my clothes, including my Fitbit, and head down the hall to turn on my computer.  I walk into the kitchen and turn on my coffee pot, drink a tablespoon of Extra Light Olive Oil (morning & evening), and return to my desk.  I do my daily eye exercises (2 minutes) and within an hour eat breakfast, normally a bowl of mixed cereal.  Around 9am my wife and I do our daily exercise routine (15 minutes) standing in the kitchen.  On Mon/Wed/Fri we walk 3 miles on 3 possible trails near us.  Our goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily and we exceed that often.  My Fitbit tells me that in the last 12 months I have taken 2.3 million steps.  One day each week I do weight-resistant exercises on a machine I have upstairs. After lunch I go outside for 3-4 hours of yardwork and repairing/cleaning things.  My only vice is smoking a cigar every other day.  I asked my doc about it and he said, “At your age I’m not gonna worry about it”.  That made my wife furious.  I normally smoke it sitting in my favorite chair in front of my workshop, while listening to an audiobook, or talking to someone on the phone.  At 7:30pm my wife and I have dinner in front of the TV while watching Jeopardy and the evening news(recorded).  The TV is off at 10:30pm and we head to the kitchen to do dishes and then to bed by midnight.  The only drug I take is a weak “statin” for my cholesterol.  I spend a fair amount of time each week maintaining my website (www.tommyhale.net) and writing the missives that I post on it.  I can cite from memory the 50 US states by population, the 25 largest cities by population, the 25 largest countries by population and all 45 US presidents.  I do this twice weekly and the reasoning behind it is that it’s my test to determine if my memory is deteriorating.  I know so many people with dementia.  I try to learn something new every day.  I do believe the adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.  I guess I could also add, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…. Tommy.

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