As I turn my calendar to the final month of the year, I’m considering the impact of unscheduled acts of kindness, every day. In a box of my great-great-grandparents’ letters, postcards and pamphlets, I spotted one tattered scrap of paper floating loose, scrawled with words that read like a poem or a song. According to Hymnary.org, William M. Golden wrote these lyrics in 1918.
Every rose is someone’s thorn, sometimes, in this “beautiful life.”
Golden’s desire to do “the best I can” makes me think about more than my own actions. When the holiday season exposes me to the strange collision of love and stress, I want to reframe difficult experiences with patience and understanding.
That person with the angry stare in the checkout line is doing the best he can. The woman punching the horn in her SUV as I stop my car for pedestrians in a crosswalk could be having a bad day, and doing the best she can in that moment.
Self-kindness isn’t found in this hymn, but we cannot share water from a dry, empty well.
Do we treat ourselves with the same kindness we offer others? Do we make people-pleasing, conflict-avoiding agreements destined to harm us, either through exhaustion, the inner violence of resentment or a combination of the two?
Christians are told to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…love your neighbor as yourself,” which reminds me of a sad story I read somewhere about a man who “was a Christian to everyone, except himself.”
Versions of the Golden Rule exist in multiple faith traditions, including Judaism. Consider the words of Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish sage teaching before Christianity existed: “Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.”
In our quest for balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves, we cannot please everyone.
The holidays are a perfect time to BREATHE and avoid inserting a “Yes,” where a short, firm-and-kind message containing a “No” should be. For further inspiration, read How I Turned My Cranky Christmas Mood Around for More Peace, Love and Happiness by an Atlanta-area colleague, Suzie Price of Priceless Professional Development.
Based on the handwriting, it was my great-great-grandfather who appreciated Golden’s timeless message enough to write it down, inspiring one of his descendants in the next century. (Instead of editing what he recorded, I left his punctuation and shifts in capitalization intact.)
A Beautiful Life
Each day I’ll do; A golden deed;
By helping those; Who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span;
And so I’ll do, the best I can;
Life’s evening sun, is sinking low;
A few more days, and I must go,
To meet the deeds that I have done,
Where there will be no setting sun.
To be a child, of God each day,
My light must shine, along the way,
I’ll sing his praise, while ages roll,
And strive to help, some troubled soul.
The only life; that will endure,
Is one that’s kind and good and pure,
And so for God; I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand.
I’ll help someone, in time of need;
And journey on; with rapid speed;
I’ll help the sick; and poor and weak;
And words of kindness to them speak.
While going down, life’s weary road;
I’ll try to lift, some traveler’s load;
I’ll try to turn the night to day,
Make flowers bloom along the way.