Loving kindness is a Buddhist term which defines right action on the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. It’s also the title of a wonderful book by Sharon Salzberg. The best bumper sticker I’ve seen proclaims, “Loving Kindness if My Religion.” Not a bad motto for people of any denomination.
One of my favorite meditations is to recall all the people who have shown kindness and love to me throughout my life—starting with my parents. The list is lengthy and the memory-walk always leaves me feeling peaceful, grateful, and hopeful that I can pass along the love and kindness I’ve received to others.
Mitch Albom wrote about the five people he hopes to meet in heaven. Because I’ve been remiss in offering thanks in this life, I have scores of people I’d like to thank in heaven.
I have to admit that some of the kindness I’ve received hasn’t been appreciated at the moment. I remember being angry with my dad when I was 12 or 13. I stormed to my grandmother’s house to snitch on my ogre father—forgetting that Grandma was Dad’s mother. Instead of sympathy, which never helps, Grandma told me in no uncertain terms that my dad worked hard to support and care for my brothers and me since my mother died. I needed to be helping, not harassing Dad.
Another act of kindness I didn’t enjoy was Cousin Buffy’s criticism of my junior high taste in clothes. To avoid Buffy’s censure—I tempered my “throwing on whatever is handy” style to a more coordinated approach and avoided ridicule from peers.
A couple of teachers at transition points—9th grade and Freshmen year of college—kindly gave my sloppy first assignments low grades which shocked me, but motivated greater effort.
Kindness comes in many forms.
Mitch Albom has written about the possibility of reuniting with choice people in heaven. I love the idea, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. My mind entertains the possibility that Richard Dawkins, a vocal atheist, is right and there is no heaven. Or, that if heaven does exist, only the elect or the righteous will gain admittance. For those reasons, I’ve decided I’d better spend time with friends and loved ones while we’re still here.
A phone call last week announcing the death of a friend I’d been meaning to call jolted me with the consequences of procrastination. And while it’s nice to think I might get a second chance to tell her how much I care about her in heaven, that event is less than certain. What is certain is that I could have called her a couple of weeks earlier—and I didn’t.
George and I each lost aunts whom we didn’t take the time to visit when they were hospitalized. Of course, we’d have made the time if we’d known for sure this was their last illness—but we didn’t. An opportunity in heaven to make up for failure to visit, console, and express love to a person before they’ve left this life appeals to me. And don’t you think apologizing will be easier in heaven? Surely nobody’s going to hold a grudge beyond the pearly gates. Maybe the key to admittance to heaven is the realization of the long list of people to whom we should make amends. Maybe hell is finding out there is no opportunity to make amends beyond this life.
I think it’s time I went on People Finder to locate some long-lost friends. I’d like to meet them in heaven, but it’s risky to wait .And, assuming there is a heaven, the person I’d most like to meet there is Richard Dawkins—just to see the shock on his face.