Friday, October 2, 2009

Generosity, Friends & Right Speech

In what seems like a former lifetime I made and sold handmade cards. As I finished up some things surrounding my mother's death I decided to give cards of thanks to the ladies my mother sat with in the dining room at the assisted living building where she lived. When I went to check my tray for cards I found the perfect ones. There were three cards that used old photos of my mother as a young woman. They were miraculously all "friendship cards". So they were perfect to give to the ladies as thanks for the friendship they offered my mother. One of these cards is badly photographed here! The quote on it says "Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and wait to hear the answer."

The quote reminded me of the Buddhist idea of "right speech". It reminded me to be quiet when I delivered these cards and just listen a bit; not to jump in so quickly with a reply. I think generally we talk too much or maybe I should make that, generally I talk too much. The quote was a good reminder. Recently I read somewhere that any conversation about someone who is not present is gossip. This seemed a bit harsh but over the next few days I watched myself. I was a bit astounded at how often I mentioned other people in conversation (not maliciously). My daughter is doing this or how is so and so doing? And on and on. Hmmm maybe next on the agenda would be to try a day with no mention of anyone not present. I suspect my jaw will have a restful day!

Last night courtesy of my mother I spent a delightful hour with a woman I didn't know was a Buddhist. My mother left a little something to a woman who used to do some home care and cleaning for her. I looked her up, called her and then dropped by with the gift. My mother always felt a special connection to this woman. She was warm and kind and caring and cooked a mean Vietnamese noodle dish that we used to slurp up with gusto if we dropped by on the right day. When I visited her in her home she had a small altar in the kitchen and that started our conversation on Buddhism. When I told her I was interested in Buddhism she quickly went and retrieved some books she had from the Temple she has attended for the last 30 years, one of them called "A Rose For Your Pocket" by Thich Nhat Hanh which is all about mothers and their importance. Another one is called "The Buddhist Doctrine of Life After Death" . "This will help you not be so sad about your mother's death," she offered. It was a lovely visit filled with tea and Vietnamese cookies and a chat that felt like one between old friends. I left with 4 little books on Buddhism and an orchid which she insisted I take. "Think of your mother when you look at it," she said which seemed such a lovely generous offer. She told me briefly of her coming to Canada 30 years ago as a "boat person" and how hard her journey had been. I left feeling I was the recipient of more gifts than I had bestowed. It is interesting how even though my mother is gone, her presence is still strongly felt through the actions I am happy to carry out on her behalf; this little visit that was so heartwarming was courtesy of her. And on this occasion and in another instance I got to feel the delight of generosity in disbursing gifts that my mother had left to others. Even though she is gone from this world her presence still radiates through these gestures of generosity.


  1. listening well, being quiet, allowing things to unfold without unnecessary intrusions - all important, and rare things in this life it seems. thanks for the reminder.

  2. Reading your blog always has such a grounding effect on me. I can smell the Vietnamese noodle dish, picture the hands of the women you bestowed these gifts upon, feel the ocean breeze when you speak of walking beside the ocean. I so enjoy taking the time every day to check in to your world and feel calmed by your words.

  3. Just Beautiful! What a gift for all of us! I am touched. Thank you for sharing this...

  4. Thanks for the kind comments all. And Kennedy Ink, that feedback sings in my ears! The hope of every writer I think, that the saltiness and sweetness of life are tasted by the reader. Thanks to all for taking the time to drop by and leave me your gifts of encouragement.