Summertime and the livin' is easy… Unless it isn't.


No shoveling or falling on ice. No scraping windshields covered with frost. No mittens, gloves, parkas, or boots. I, for one, LOVE it. Winter is a lot of work. For some, the season is irrelevant. Either livin' is easy, or it isn't. For most, it has nothing to do with the weather.

When my children were impatient new drivers, I told them to imagine the person driving badly in front, behind, or next to them was coming from the hospital with bad news.  Amid a crisis, the chances of this person being a safe and attentive driver were highly unlikely. If you were at your worst, your driving would undoubtedly suffer. I remind myself of this possibility when I am running late and annoyed by the person driving the speed limit in front of me…

Mindfulness is in fashion.

It has been around as long as the human race. It has been called many different names, but let's stay current. Mindfulness: being aware, present, and in the moment; aware of now, where you are, where others are, and "reading the room." It's a life-changing spiritual practice, but not easy. Some of us might be wired to "worst-case scenario" everything. There is a book of that title, "Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook." Written in sarcasm and jest, but it sold a lot of copies…

What might happen if we considered what the other person was going through? Maybe the bad driver, the rude customer in line at the market, and the hideous patron at the restaurant are just jerks. But for a moment, consider the scenario where they're good people having Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Perhaps their lives are in crisis and they are barely making it through this moment.

Many of our neighbors, friends, and family are living in pain. Maybe it's the pain of significant illness and limited options. Perhaps it could be a crippling and chronic mental health issue, an addiction, isolation, loneliness, or despair.

Won't you be my neighbor?

We all have been the recipients of unearned kindness from a stranger. We may have been shocked, taken back, and confused, but we appreciated it. We can't always recognize the pain or struggle happening in lives very close to our own, our neighborhood, church, book club, or even in our household. Many struggles remain covert. Hidden. Private.

I loved Fred Rogers. Forty years ago, my friends in nursing school called me "neighbor," teasing me about my Mr. Rogers fan status. Nevertheless, he had it right. What's beneath? What's under the surface? Love and kindness in action. Mr. Rogers once said, "All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver."

I always want to be better.

I wish to avail myself to those who I might be able to help. I want to be more kind, patient, caring, and supportive. A hard lesson is that sometimes, the one I need to care for is…ME. If I am at my best, I'm a better helper.

Whether you are flying around hither, thither, and yon, having a slow stay-at-home-and-watch-the-grass-grow summer, or something in between, mindfulness is waiting, as is your ability to acknowledge the difficulty others live with.

Words or deeds of kindness, no matter how small, are of infinite value, not only to the recipient but to you and me. We all have seasons where the livin' is easy, and then we have times where it's anything but. I will be kind to myself and then see if it opens any room to have some leftover to share. Join me.