Monday, August 16, 2004

Just after I returned home tonight, there was a knock on my door. Can I just say that I have the best neighbors, ever? Kay and Andy, my downstairs neighbors. Kay is from Texas, but she's not a Bush kind of person. She's friendly and talkative, a counselor, always interested in my life. I've been taking her to Hydro-fit lately, and we'e been introducing our lives to each other on the drives there and back. Andy is from the Philipines, originally, and he's soft-spoken and kind. He has spent the entire summer transforming the small lawn space before our house into a glorious garden. Orange zinnias and bright pink fuschias and a profusion of plants for which I don't know the names. (I blocked out the botantical facts after working with Keely on the gardening book.) The doorsteps are covered in summer spectactulars. And I didn't do any of it. Andy did.

He's also a cook.

Yesterday, as I passed him on the front steps, as he worked on the garden, Andy told me that he caught a 20-pound salmon when he went fishing. Wow, I said. He said he was going to smoke some of it, and they'd have me over for bagels and lox soon. Okay with me.

So, they knocked on my door tonight. I greeted Kay, and her pug dog, Daisy. We chatted about her weekend in Southern California. And then Andy emerged from their front door and handed me a plate. A huge piece of perfectly grilled pink salmon, on a bed of red-green lettuce, roasted zucchini, and a roasted ear of corn. What? They just gave me this. No reason. No occasion. Just sharing. I had just eaten at the lovely party I attended tonight, so I'm saving it for lunch tomorrow. But the glowing effect is the same now.

I feel really blessed to be surrounded by so many kind, giving people in my life. This summer, in particular, I seem to be noticing the profusion of them. The orange zinnias and bright pink fuschias of my friends and acquaintances and the ones whose names I don't even know. Everywhere, it's kindness. Those are the only people I have in my life now, the ones who give.

And the ones who like to receive, because I'm the same. I love, love, love giving to people. Sending care packages to Alaska. Editing friends' dissertations. Making mix cds for any occasion. It's the only way I want to live, helping other people. Even when my kindness is not directly reciprocated, it comes back from someone else, almost immediately. Even when someone in particular responds to my gestures with silence and lack of kindness in return, and it hurts my feelings, it still doesn't stop me. I just want to give.

Yesterday morning, I made oatmeal cookies, big fat ones, and took them right out of the oven and headed to the pool. I have made so many friends there, most of them over seventy. Mary had been teasing me that I didn’t bring any food for the goodbye party the day before. So I woke up early and threw together cookies. I didn’t have time to taste them, but I knew they were good. They were enormous and filled with nutmeg. When I arrived at the pool, Mary was already in. All I could see was her fuschia-pink bathing suit straps and her white Nike hat above the blue water. “Mary!” I shouted, and I brandished the bag of cookies at her. She giggled her throaty laugh and smiled. After class---ah, the buoyant feeling after class--we all climbed out and gathered around the bag of warm cookies. Bob had to take out his bubble gum first. Everyone oohed and ahhed. It seemed it was a particularly good batch. It was a sweet feeling, all the senior citizens gathered around me in the sunshine, and me feeding them cookies.

I made a vow, long ago, to help everyone I could, in every moment. Because that's why I'm alive. Why we're all alive, I feel.

"Kindness is my only religion." --the Dalai Lama


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