There’s a little poster pasted to our kitchen wall: Kindness Begets Kindness. It was a gift from its maker who was a speaker at a Secular Humanist breakfast. I don’t remember her name or the subject of her talk that morning, only her kind eyes and smile whenever I look at the poster.
Generosity also begets generosity. In the world I want to live in and pass on to my heirs, these are fundamental principles. Stephen Cope, one of my favorite yoga teachers, offered this exercise as an antidote to despair. Lie on your back and relax your body. Let yourself remember the benefactors in your life. Picture their faces, hear their voices, try to recall in some detail the circumstances in which they helped you, something they said or did or made possible, that caused you to feel — and be — better in some way. It’s a powerfully grounding practice.
I have known the artist, Beju Lejobart, and his wife, Sherryl Muriente, for 5 or 6 years. We met after a reader of this blog passed the link along to her, and she reached out. She, teaching urban design at Florida Atlantic University at the time, was interested in the Transition Movement, recognizing a certain kinship between its core ideas and her work with, and passion for, urban acupuncture. In case it is unfamiliar, urban acupuncture is “… using small-scale interventions to transform the larger urban context…Just as the practice of acupuncture is aimed at relieving stress in the human body, the goal of urban acupuncture is to relieve stress in the built environment.” Source Wikipedia
Sherryl and Beju began attending monthly Transition meetings at the Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, a city we didn’t call home, but with the help of resident, the late Dean Sherwin, recognized as having many of the small town attributes upon which a self-sufficient, localized, energy-conserving economy could be constructed.
Dean and his spouse, Susan, had been members of Transition Media (Pennsylvania) before moving to Lake Worth, and as members of the Meeting House, were providing our group with both the space in which to meet (for voluntary donations) and their ideas and first-hand experience. Dean was an expert in energy efficiency. Our monthly potlucks drew people interested in permaculture, solar energy, the arts in service of climate activism, simplicity, home-schooling, and home-steading, bee-keeping, to name a few. My interest was pop-up community gardens, in unused urban or suburban plots – a kind of mini urban acupuncture, if you will.
Sherryl’s project, C’est La Via, click here, was a good fit with Transition principles, and many of us were happy to volunteer in a happy, cross-pollination. Many movements for social change start out with extreme generosity of this kind.
A year or so later, in 2015, I am a founding member of Women Aloud, a troupe of women who came together to perform The Vagina Monologues and decided we wanted to keep doing this stuff: have fun and raise funds for women’s causes. Beju volunteered to video tape our second production, a collection of monologues we called, You Can’t Say That! Though we had not worked together for awhile though still “rowing in the same direction” (as Sherryl put it), he was back in my world, donating his services as videographer for yet another show, this one in partnership with Emergency Medical Assistance, an abortion funder, called Hear Us: Our Stories of Abortion.
Although social media had kept us somewhat in touch, we decided it had been too long since we sat down to a meal and shared what mattered to us. That was how we two couples crammed ourselves into a booth at Malakor in the Northwood section of West Palm Beach, talking and laughing over steamed dumplings and nam sod, a delectable spicy, cold salad. In the meantime, Beju’s art has taken off, see www.Dudali.com (Dudali® is a registered Trademark.) Sherryl has become Manager of Urban Placemaking, WPB Downtown Development Authority. None of us had lost our enthusiasm for the arts, community-building, and whistling while we work. Before our 2-hour lunch was over, we had discovered a number of possible future collaborations. Dare I say, stay tuned.
Let me sign off this post after a longish hiatus from blogging, on this note. It has become a lot more difficult of late to be hopeful about our future as a thriving species on a healthy planet. Yet I choose to live as if kindness and generosity beget more of the same. The alternative is not worth considering.