I’ve got a secret….
July 7, 1942
They’ve come. The young couple hold each other desperately, their infant son, carried in their embrace, sleeps unaware. She trembles and he leans a hot kiss on her forehead, murmuring that everything will be alright, shh.
If only. Safe transport to America is arranged in just 3 days. Their trunks packed and ready. If only. Why not 3 days earlier? Last night? An hour ago? If only time could flow into the hopeful past instead of the certain future.
They wait. She and he huddled in fear, trapped beneath the hideous and powerful black spider. Nowhere can they run or hide.
Hours pass. They sleep fitfully, leaning against each other. Their son bleats his hunger. She feeds him, hiding beneath the smart coat her husband gifted her last birthday. He watches her, eyes dying. He knows.
It ends. They are rent from each other. Screaming, tears, terror. She sees him lined with others upon a wall. The terrible shout of bullets, his life sprays red upon the ground, his eyes sightless as they seek her, one last time.
She dies within. They drag her onto the waiting train. Her son screams. She holds him in her arms and whimpers sounds without meaning. She tries to feed him, but there is nothing left to give.
The child dies in the night, rocked gently in the moving train, smothered within her breast as bodies lean heavily in to her. She slips into madness.
They arrive. Disembarking, she is herded, a long line of women. Head shaved, smart coat, leather shoes, dead child, all taken. She silently screams for them to kill her.
She breaks line, walking slowly nowhere. Shouts. Whistles. She is cast to the ground, a rifle butt slammed to her skull.
She sighs her death softly. Thankful.
July 7, 2014
They embrace joy. Another chance to live the lives stolen. This time they get to win.
This time they get to live.
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
There is a theory in Quantum Science, first proposed by Physicist Dr. Alan Guth, that there exist an unlimited number of parallel universes. It is a theory that is based on the discovery that atomic particles not only have the ability to exist in more than one place simultaneously, but that the simple act of observing a particle affects its behavior (the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal). There are a bunch of other theories out there, the String, the Many Worlds, the Multiverse. My brain exploded part way through researching this, so if you are interested in getting details, might I suggest Google?
*Disclaimer: I no talk science good. Please never, ever reference me as a source for quantum anything.
Now since all matter (including us) is made up of these shifty little particles, it seems to follow that potentially any thought, movement or decision we have made could have created infinite numbers of other worlds, where other versions of ourselves are living lives.
This was the premise that Kate Atkinson used in her novel Life After Life. The year is 1910 and the main character, Ursula is born, only to die before drawing her first breath.
And then, Ursula is born, this time surviving and thus begins a series of her lives which has her dying and starting over again many time. Each lifetime varies based on her decisions, on chance and on the tiniest changes. It is an excellent book. I highly recommend you pick it up on your way to the beach today.
Ursula’s many lives got me contemplating my own linear time line and the “what ifs” that have crept up along the way. For instance….
What if our Brazilian exchange student hadn’t pushed me out of the way of that car when I froze on the slippery road that day, back when I was 12 years old? In the book of my life, was that an exit?
Or what if a different Amtrak employee had made a different call that time Emily and I travelled to Michigan to visit my American Boyfriend (now known as my American Husband)? Our train was delayed because she/he at Amtrak decided to send a freight train ahead of us to make sure the tracks were clear after the wind storm that had blown through earlier. Turns out the track was damaged and the freight train derailed down a big hill. When we rolled by in our rescue buses hours later you could hear the collective gasps as we saw just how mangled and dead we would have been had she/he at Amtrak not made that decision. Perhaps in another world in another time I hit reset and began again.
Then there was last summer. Severe pancreatitis had me in the hospital for a week waiting on emergency surgery. What if I had taken a gravol and tried to sleep off the pukiness? I very well may have woken up dead. Instead I decided to go see how the staff in Emergency might be able to help and in doing that managed to live to see many more days. In another Universe did I kick that bucket before fulfilling what was on its list?
In contemplating these potential times of exit, I wonder what the purpose of these many versions of us might be. Life is a school where we come to learn and grow and eventually graduate. So if we have taken these exits in other realities, does that count as flunking a test? Or is it more like passing the grade and getting to take a summer vacation before jumping back in to try another level?
Regardless of whether parallel worlds is a thing or not, the knowledge that our thoughts can actually create, destroy or change particles at an atomic level sure does make that Law of Attraction “thoughts become things” idea more plausible. And perhaps a good reminder that worrying only creates problems. Perhaps even horrible, sick parallel lifetimes where we have to live out the worry fantasies we create for ourselves.
Now that is a terrifying prospect.
Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.
*Note to self: Science is scary. Just walk away from the Google.
“Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Fourteenth row. I can’t believe how close we are to the stage. Was I even this excited when I saw Billy Joel perform live in Calgary back in 88? Checking the time I see that it is only a few moments to show time. I look up and there he is! Walking down the stairs, just as casual as can be in his shorts and T-shirt, he shakes a few hands, gives a hug then signs something. He chats a bit then moves closer to the stage. As the announcer walks to the microphone I see him smile and wave at a few people. ” Ladies and Gentlemen, blah-d-blah blah……… Dr. Wayne Dyer!” The crowd roars. I am personally doing the bouncy clap, trying desperately not to hoot, whistle or throw any undergarments at the stage, which to my mind would probably not be deemed appropriate behavior at a lecture on Spirituality.
Dr. Dyer saved my life. I can’t honestly say that I would be who or where I am today if it hadn’t been for his books, his teachings, or the mesmerizing quality of his lectures. I had recently been through some very traumatic stuff and through it all Dr. Wayne was the life line for me. He followed me through my days, his voice repeating words over and over from the tinny speakers of my MacBook. His teachings on Inspiration, Intention and fulfilling our personal Dharma had been the bricks in the path that led me away from despair and showed me that I had everything within me that I needed to heal, survive and thrive.
I had really wanted to go on his tour of Holy sites in Europe, but the cost had been prohibitive. Regardless, I knew that the Universe had ways and means beyond my small human thinking that could make this miracle happen for me. So I just did what Dr. Wayne says to do. I set the intention. “I intend to experience the miraculous with Dr. Wayne.” And then I left it up to the great Divine Mind to figure out the hows, wheres and whens.
As with most miracles, this one knocked my socks off. I had planned to drive to Kelowna, a city about 7 hours away by car, to take my daughter for a music festival. I was talking to my Mom, asking her if we would be able to stay with them while we were there. Dad mumbles something in the background. Mom says “Dad wants to know if you want to go see Dr. Wayne Dyer in Vernon while you are here.”
Well slap my ass and call me Judy! Did he just say THE DR. WAYNE will be mere moments away from me while I am in Kelowna?? Needless to say I booked our tickets that very night, and didn’t sleep a wink between that day and THE day of the event. (I told you a million times not to exaggerate).
You see, when somebody reaches across the page and touches a soul, that person can tend to gain a little bit of rock star status. At least he did for me. That would account for my nearly rapturous state at the lecture that evening.
The events that occurred that evening count as some of the most bizarre, magical moments of my life. On reflection I believe that what allowed it all to unfold the way it did was my state of pure openness. I was of a mind and a heart that was open to everything and attached to nothing. It was that magical state that allowed the veil to slip open for me, giving me a glimpse of eternity I never in my wildest dreams would imagine seeing.
Dr. Wayne began to speak, his deep soothing voice moving from topic to topic, easily inserting interesting and pertinent quotes and funny stories. He is engaging to watch, a true master of public speaking. My senses seemed to narrow and all of the people around me, the auditorium, everything faded so that it was just me watching him.
And then something weird happened.
A large white light seemed to extend from his form and surround him. It was a huge aura of energy, moving with him so that he seemed to be dancing in the light. I was mesmerized. At first I wondered if I might be getting a migraine headache. I’ve had those in the past and they sometimes created the light effects similar to what I was seeing. I looked around me to see if the aura was anywhere else, but it wasn’t. That is when I knew I was seeing something very special indeed. I was seeing the spirit and not just the man.
My eyes were swimmy with tears but I couldn’t stop grinning. This was the most awesome light show ever! Better than any rock show. My love dial was turned up to eleven.
Dr. Wayne started to talk about St. Francis of Assisi. He had written about St. Francis in his book There’s a Spiritual Solution To Every Problem. Although I hadn’t yet read that book I had always felt a great affinity for St. Francis and the prayer based on his teachings, Lord let me be an instrument of thy peace. Such beautiful teachings, pure in the spirit of Divine Love and service. I watched as Dr. Wayne became immersed in the passion of the teachings, his excitement evident in his voice and actions.
Then something really weird happened.
The man, Dr. Wayne Dyer, phased out of my sight and in his place stood Francis of Assisi. He was very thin, dressed in tattered monks robes with a fringe of hair around his otherwise bald head. His face was unlike any I had seen depicted in the frescoes and paintings of St. Francis. He did not wear the anguish of a martyr in his demeanor and expression. To the contrary. His face glowed with rapturous joy. It was the most sacred thing I have ever witnessed and even now, years later as I remember it brings me to tears.
It lasted for only a few seconds but the impression it left has changed my life.
Soon it was time for an intermission. Dad, my date for the evening, went off to stretch his legs. I sat quietly amid the sounds of hundreds of people milling about. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath and tried to assimilate what had just happened. Was that real? Did I just see what I thought I did? Or has the cheese slipped off my cracker?
A soft touch on my hand startled me and my eyes flew open. Sitting next to me was a very lovely older woman. She grasped my hand and stared deeply into my eyes. I smiled back, a bit startled, but was fascinated by her eyes. They were so young looking in such an aged face. Sparkling green, they seemed somehow familiar. Did I know her?
“I couldn’t stop watching you. You were shining. It was as if a light was glowing from you.” She smiled at me and I felt like I was seeing somebody I knew really well but had forgotten for some reason. The connection between us was intense, like instant love, just add water.
We began to talk, our words melding, completing each others’ thoughts, talking about important things like God, and love and how we are all connected, about angels and friendships and family. We talked for the whole intermission and when Dr. Wayne climbed back on stage, she left my side to sit further in the row. Our conversation was not finished, I decided. As soon as this was over I would get her contact info so that we could resume our connection.
The second half of the evening was even better than the first. Everyone in the building could feel the energy and Dr. Wayne was as good as I have ever seen him. The aura was back, bigger than ever and I felt myself once again drawn by his words to moments of pure, inspired Truth.
He began talking about his year of living the Tao. For one year he gave up almost all of his worldly possessions and studied the Tao Te Ching, an 81 verse teaching that was purportedly written in the 6th Century BC by the Chinese Master, Lao Tzu. In the book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, Dr. Dyer wrote 81 essays, one for each verse of the Tao. As Dr. Wayne was discussing these teachings he was once again caught up in the passionate message he was delivering. The words flowed seamlessly, carrying the messages of Lao Tzu.
Then something really, really weird happened.
Dr. Wayne’s physical form seemed to fade into the white aura that surrounded him and he became the form of Lao Tzu. He had long white hair, braided down his back and wore a simple blue tunic. He had facial hair, long and sparse, and the Asian features of the great master. He emanated true wisdom and peace. I could barely breathe.
Again the image only lasted a few moments, but they were some of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced.
What was happening? And was I the only one who saw this?? I turned to look at my Dad but he didn’t seem overly weirded out. I looked down the row and everyone was in passive listening mode, all eyes turned toward the stage. With the noted exception of my new friend that is. Her twinkly green eyes peered down the row at me and we smiled at each other.
Dr. Dyer talked for another hour or so, powerful messages, good laughs and everything a person could hope for from an evening with the man. We stood up and applauded at the end and as soon as he had left the stage I turned toward my new friend, anxious to get her email address or phone number.
And then something really, really, really weird happened.
She was gone.
I searched the row, looking for her diminutive figure. The seat she had occupied was empty and there was no way she could have left other than by crossing in front of me. Where did she go? And more importantly, was I losing my mind?
Ah what the heck. Was a mind such a terrible thing to lose?
Dad and I left the venue and as we were pulling out of the parking space I happened to catch my own reflection up close in the rear view mirror and paused as I saw my own green eyes. They were exactly the same as the lady’s eyes. No wonder they looked so familiar to me!
Mind = blown. But in the best possible way, of course.
The following few weeks were spent trying to make sense of what happened. I shared the experience with my American Husband, my daughter and my best friend. They each had differing theories on what the visions meant. As far as the Dr. Wayne transformations there were a few schools of thought. One was that Dr. Wayne had been both St. Francis and Lao Tzu in previous lifetimes. (That was my vote) Another was that he was so enraptured by the messages of these men that time kind of folded in on itself and they became One for a moment. The third option lived silently in my mind and whispered that I was delusional and had better not talk about this because I would be judged as bat-shit crazy.
As far as my friend, the woman with my eyes… who could she be? Was she an angel? Was she me from the future (another fold in time)? Or was she me from a Parallel lifetime? Jury is still out on this one, but I do know that she visits me in my dreams sometimes and it is always such a beautiful reunion. I only spoke with her for a few minutes, but I have missed her ever since.
So here’s the thing. When strange things happen to me I tend to keep them to myself, only sharing with a select few people. I would like to say that I am independent of the good opinion of others, but truth be told, I fear the judgment. (I’m working on it)
These events began to grow in my consciousness. It seemed that every moment of the days following I would think about them, and a persistent voice was nagging me, like Patrick Swayze singing ”I’m Henry the Eighth I am” to Whoopie Goldberg, over and over and over. This persistent, nagging voice kept telling me I must write a letter and tell Dr. Dyer what happened.
I ignored that voice of course. (WRITE THE LETTER). No way was I going to be THAT person! (WRITE THE LETTER). He would think I was wacko! (WRITE THE LETTER). Crazy as a spoon! (WRITE THE LETTER). Off my proverbial rocker! (WRITE THE LETTER).
I sat down at my computer and wrote the damn letter. Without allowing myself to give it any further thought I found the address to Hay House Publishing in the back of Inspiration Your Ultimate Calling and stuffed the damn letter into the damn envelope, sealed it and dropped it in the damn mail box.
Whew. Done. I could breathe again. Certain that my letter would never find the man, I went on with daily life, relieved that the nagging voice was stilled.
Little did I know what the Universe had in store for me.
You have one new message. “Hello Brenda Babinski, this is Dr. Wayne Dyer……”
‘As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul.‘
Gnarled and spotted thumb draws circles upon the worn linen sachet. Careful, careful, I remind myself. The yellowed fabric now so thin the contents easily bleeds through. Thin and yellowed, like my skin. And yet I still live. Wretched.
I sit on the straight back chair, watching death as it hovers ever near. This time my husband, Gaspard, breath ragged and strained, lost already in the deep sleep of death but with a body that, ever so stubborn, continues its functions. How many hours have I sat waiting for death to come and take somebody I love? I absently stroke the sachet as my mind counts Maman, Papa, young Pierrette, Grandmere finally at 102, and now Gaspard. All these years I sit and wait for death to come, jealous each time that I am not the quarry. What cruel God keeps me healthy and breathing? What cruel God gives me nearly half a century of living after my soul has died?
I brush a bit of lavender dust from the fragile fabric of the sachet, thin as moth wings, powdery. I lift my hand and breath in, hoping the scent will come, but that scent was rend many years back. Another time of grief.
There was a dream. He had been steps away from me in a fog and I chased after him, calling his given name, a name I never dared to have uttered in my waking moments. I called and called in my dream but he remained just out of sight. When I awoke I tried to bring his image to my mind but found it had gone. I panicked then, trying to remember the turn of his jaw, the shape of his brow, the shine in his brown eyes, but he was not to be found. He was ten years in the earth by then, but I grieved again as if it were a day. His image, the face I fell in love with, gone forever. That was another bad year. The scent of the lavender survived a bit longer, but it too has faded from the world.
My other memories remain viciously clear. I remember the moment he placed three sprigs, freshly stolen from the botanist below deck into my bare hand. He was full of mischief, laughing about his crime. Our fingers brushed and we both held our breath. My face was reddened and I hid my fluster behind my fan when Gaspard joined us at the rail. Gaspard did not come above deck often, finding his sea legs were far too uncertain, but on this day he had managed.
“A few days to port. I am very eager to see land once more,” Gaspard spoke cordially to M. du Pre. The gentlemen settled in to talk with cigars at the rail and I made my way to the state room to attend the children. We embarked from home five years hence with three children in tow and since that time three more have joined our family. The seventh was waiting for home soil. Swollen with child I berated myself once more. How could I be tempted so when I was matron, wife, mother, dutiful member of polite society? And M. du Pre and his beautiful, childless, yellow haired bride, with a waist easily spanned by his long tapered fingers, how could I be so foolish as to believe he would even glance my way?
We could not stop our eyes from finding each other and once found, to linger, seeking depths never before known. I feared that others around us must be aware of our racing hearts for the beating was profound. Oh I had noticed him looking, searching the dining room, the deck, and then setting eyes upon me, his seeking would end. And my eyes drawn to him as if I had sight unseen, knowing when he was near, yet uncertain how I knew. Two flames drawn together, but belonging to separate chandelabre. We could not seem to resist, though we both knew that the fire would destroy us.
I hid the lavender in my sleeve, and later dried it carefully on the windowsill.
Moments, so few, I replayed them over and over through the years until they became dust. What words did he not speak? Handing me down the gangway, his kerchief over his hand lest our skin touch, he looked into my eyes for the last time. Loosening his grip on the cloth he released it to my care, a secret gift. His monogram, AdP stitched into the corner was tucked carefully inside the sachet so that only I can tell that this, and I, once belonged to him.
These two gifts, the lavender and the cloth, sewn together and tucked next to my heart now for forty eight years, are all that I have left of him. He and I never spoke of love. We never even spoke our given names. Propriety won out. But we did love, of that I am most certain, though that has not always been the case. I had many moments through the years when I would doubt his feelings, and convince myself that I had imagined the whole thing, read nuance where there was none, or brought my own feelings to bear where his were devoid. Perhaps he was just polite, being attentive to the matronly passenger who sought the fresh sea air as he did. Those were some of my worst moments, so much worse than the silent screaming grief that I carried with me. Did he love me as I loved him?
When we parted, he spoke of reuniting upon his return from Polynesia. He spoke of a time when we would drink cognac in a parlor and he could tell of his great adventure. He held my hand a moment longer than necessary and I saw his mouth move, a silent word unspoken. Olivia.
I smiled politely, waiting until the children and I were in the carriage and had moved beyond his sight before I shrugged behind my veil and allowed tears.
The first parting, ever bittersweet with longing and hope.
The second parting was much worse. He lived within my heart those next few months, alive in my thoughts every moment of the day. He was with me when I gave birth to my son, and in all of the moments I sat in a sunny window alone with my memories. Sewing him in every stitch of the sachet, I could feel him warm against my beating heart, a tender secret. A whispered maybe.
News of his death was a black feather, stark and surprising, landing softly at my feet. A parlor filled with smoke and laughter. Talk of news and gossip interwoven with the steady hum of nonsensical chatter. Smile affixed I feigned interest in something, my thoughts at the rail, a hint of lavender rising from my bosom. A word across the room caught my attention. Polynesia. I tilted my head toward the speaker, a man addressing a group of others.
“… findings that the expedition made luckily were salvaged. At the very least he kept good notes. Terrible shame. Young widow.”
Voices like ice pellets. Scattered words.
“du Pre leaves a great legacy”…”death on foreign soil”…”young man with great potential”…”dead”.
I rushed across the room, my skirts waves upon the stillness. “Tell me. What is this you are saying?” Men staring at me with surprise, but answering my question despite my impropriety.
Anton du Pre was dead, they said. As was my soul, perished that very day.
Several hands caught me as I swooned and I was removed hastily to the confines of my bed, where I stayed for many days and nights. When I finally arose it was to begin life as one already dead. Years passed and no day was spent without thought of him. I played and replayed our moments together, imagining what I could have said, should have said, and wondering what he wanted to say but didn’t.
A widow with no weeds. A grief with no voice. A silence so loud and hot and full of tears that some days I could not rouse myself to leave my bed.
I persisted in my duties, smiling at the successes, romances, weddings and lives of my children and cooing at the births of theirs. I craved the sleep of dreams to once again be with him, for his visits were infrequent, but offered vivid color against the spectrum of gray and brown that was the waking world. Years of living but not. Years spent sitting the death watch for so many, but never for the one who mattered.
Gaspard releases a rattling breath and I wake from my reverie. His face has turned gray, lips parted and purple. It will not be long now. Soon he will win the death that I covet.
My hand squeezed the sachet involuntarily and I feel it disintegrate in my hand. I cry out in despair as I see the fine dust escape the shattered linen and fall to the floor. A fine whiff of scent, a death knell. Lavender at last. I inhale with a shudder.
My gnarled hand releases the fabric. As it floats to the ground I finally see his face, clear as the day I last saw him standing on the pier. He is staring into my eyes and trying to convey a thousand words with one look. I reach to touch his face and see that my hand is no longer the hand of an old woman but is once again young and soft. At last. At long last. Years of aching sadness release on a breath and I ride the beating of my heart to the next world.
“Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Frederick Salomon Perls
My American Husband and I were long distance friends for about a year before we finally met face to face. We had been members of an online community of movie lovers who started as strangers from all around the globe and ended up finding each other as friends, lovers, spouses, and eventually even co-parents. We called ourselves the Movie Regs and met every evening for conversation, trivia games and laughter. For a single Mom, this was the only social life I had the time or money for, and it was surprisingly fulfilling.
After a year of emails and phone calls, we finally decided to meet for a 5 day getaway in Idaho. We figured that if the chemistry was good and our friendship was meant to blossom into something more, the 5 days would be sufficient to determine that. In reality, 5 minutes would have been enough because our chemistry was most definitely good. It took us an hour to get out of the Spokane airport because we kept have to stop and kiss on each other.
Too much information? Probably.
On our second day in Idaho we stopped at a local market and picked up some fresh fruit to have for dessert. Ranier cherries, plump, yellow and pink, and redolent of that amazing scent that perfectly ripe cherries have. We ate them warm while sitting outside in the sunshine. We spit the pits off into the bushes, and didn’t mind too much when our hands and lips got a bit sticky with the juice. They were succulent. The perfect food.
To me, Ranier Cherries taste how falling in love feels.
Our senses hold so many memories. The smell of baking apple pie is a visit from my Grandma. My American Husband can’t hear “I Shot the Sheriff” without remembering his Dad (“What kind of song is this? What is this world coming to??”) And the sound of a spoon dragging along the top of a bowl of cheerios, dunking them in milk, well… you know who you are.
But what about those sense memories that harken to other lifetimes? My Dad has had vivid memories of a lifetime in the Incan Empire since he was a tiny boy. He won’t wear the color red. He hates the taste of cornmeal. His senses remember what happened centuries ago and he carries those memories in the sights, and tastes of this present time.
For me, the sight and scent of apple blossoms bring back a flood of happiness from a time I lived a gentle, loving life as Constance Willoughby. And the smell of dust in the dry air make me remember how it feels to choke with asthma, though I have perfect, healthy lungs. I get anxiety from the sight, smell, taste and feel of saffron. These things belie logic and make me wonder how many memories from other lifetimes are stored in these senses of mine.
Curiosity piqued, I intend to do a little experimenting. I have a sense memory tangled up in lavender. I have no idea why it is, but when I smell or see lavender I am filled with such a deep sadness or maybe a better word is longing. Why does lavender (and no other flowers, purple or otherwise) create this reaction in me? Is this a past life sense memory?
I aim to find out. During my past life travels I have determined that if I set my intention to find out a specific answer to a question (Like why do I have stage fright? Or when did I have a past life with this person? etc. etc.), I typically end up going to the lifetime that best provides the perfect answer. With that in mind I will do a regression tonight, setting the intention to find out what this association with lavender is all about. Why such a visceral reaction to an otherwise lovely flower? Inquiring minds want to know. If anything of interest comes up I will be sure to write about it in tomorrow’s blog.
Where will Brenda’s travels take her next? Find out on the next episode of…. Past Life Tourist.
Don’t touch that dial.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Henry James
It had been a crap day. A crap week even. Oh who was I kidding? It had been a full on crap year and this day was just the perfect example of all of the accumulated crappiness. The world was gray, like it gets after the snow has melted but Spring has yet to sprung. I was unemployed and broke, grieving the recent loss of my beloved golden retriever, Wyatt. I had no sense of direction and my life purpose seemed to be simply to survive the constant onslaught of shit that the universe seemed to be throwing my way. To say I was depressed would likely be an understatement.
I loaded groceries into the trunk of my car then climbed in, ready to drive home and begin another day of blah. Checking my mirrors I noticed an elderly gentleman gingerly pushing his cart across my path. He leaned heavily on the cart and I could see that he had a cane slung over the handle. I waited patiently as he shuffled along behind the car, each step measured and cautious.
Poor old guy. Sympathy began to elbow self pity out of the way and I felt myself soften. Bette Davis said that old age is no place for sissies and watching this gentleman I could see exactly what she meant by that. It sure put some perspective on my own pity party.
As he cleared my path I began to back out. Turning toward him I saw that he had lost hold of his cart. He was bent over, holding on to the bumper of his truck as his fully laden shopping cart, with the cane hung over the handle, slowly but inexorably rolled away from him. He tried to follow but I could see his step falter and he quickly gave up, reaching back and clinging to the vehicle. Tears of frustration shone in his rheumy eyes.
Without a thought I parked my car, jumped out and chased the runaway cart, wrangling it and running it back to the gentleman at his truck. Handing him his cane I said a cheerful “good morning” and asked if he would like his groceries in the back or the front of the truck. His relief was greater than his pride and he graciously accepted my offer. I happily helped him to unload the cart into the bed of the truck. After running the buggy back to its corral I returned his quarter to him.
He grabbed my hand as I gave him the coin. “Thank you”. He stared into my eyes and I saw that he was profoundly grateful for this small act of assistance I had offered. I smiled back at him. He introduced himself, formally, and I did the same. We chatted for a moment or two then parted ways. When I drove past and waved I could see that he was grinning from ear to ear. I was too.
Damn that felt good! More of this, please… I said it out loud, a prayer. Amazed that one small moment of my day could turn things in such a wonderful direction, I virtually danced my way through the chores of the morning, riding the wave of happiness that had been created when I chose to reach out and help someone who needed it.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was experiencing something known as “helper’s high”. It’s a real thing that occurs to people after performing selfless acts of kindness. There are even scientific studies surrounding altruism and how it effects our physiology and some have very interesting results.
For instance, did you know that when a person performs an act of kindness, that person strengthens their own immune system and increases the production of serotonin in their brain? This is the chemical that occurs naturally to make us feel really good. Referred to as the “happy hormone”, serotonin has powerful influence over mood and has been shown to decrease the symptoms of depression. Booyah!
And the person who receives the kindness, they get the very same health benefits. Their immune systems kick it up a notch and their happy hormones start to dance.
But even more interesting than all of that is what happens to someone who witnesses an act of kindness. Simply by being a bystander to an act of kindness, the one observing has the exact same physiological responses as the giver and the receiver. Holy ripple effects, batman!
It’s as if we are hardwired to help each other out.
Committing random acts of kindness has become my hobby since that beautiful gray day. I do it because it is helpful and kind. I do it to show compassion. I do it because I love how it makes me feel. That last reason may seem selfish, but believe me it is the very best kind of selfish there is.
Some random acts of kindness you may like to try….
1. Pay for the person behind you at the drive thru
2. Plug an expired parking meter
3. Drop off the books you have finished at the local woman’s shelter or retirement home
5. Smile at strangers. It is amazing to watch how they transform
6. Say please, thank you and mind your manners… just like Mama taught you
7. Go walk the dogs at the local animal shelter
8. Help out a neighbor with their lawn mowing, or snow shoveling
9. Let them merge
10. Tell someone why you appreciate them. Write it in a letter that they can keep forever
I try to be creative with my random acts of kindness and I find that keeping it as anonymous as possible makes it even more fun. I don’t need glory or gratitude. The joy of helping is reward enough. No sense fighting our biology. Bring on the helper’s high, baby.
And if you feel like getting some awesome serotonin flowing, watch this.