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Virtues in Paradise
Linda Kavelin-Popov is co-founder of The Virtues Project and best-selling author of ‘The family virtues guide’, ‘A pace of grace’, ‘Graceful endings’ and other books on virtues. In this regular column, she explores virtues in the Cook Islands context. You can find out more about her work at www.virtuesproject.com or www.gracefulendings.net.
This week Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, historically a time when the indigenous people generously fed the hungry pilgrims wild turkey and other native foods.
During a book tour in Spain for The Family Virtues Guide (Las Virtudes Familiares), a radio host asked me an interesting question.
One of the things I learned when serving as Spiritual Care Director at a Hospice was that dying people don’t really want someone to cheer them up.
They need someone to meet them wherever they may be on a given day, someone who can be compassionate yet comfortable with their tears, their confusion, their worries, or their humour.
When any of us is hurting, feeling loss, grief, confusion, anger, or joy for that matter, the last thing we need is for someone to talk us out of it.
Quaker theologian Douglas Steere said, “To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery is almost the greatest service any human being ever performs for another.”
I don’t know why we are so ready to come up with little sayings, like ‘it’s okay’ ‘be strong’ and ‘you need to fight this’.
Not to mention all manner of sayings about God’s will, as if we can speak for Him.
One day when I was at the airport, a woman I had recently met beckoned me over to sit with her.
She told me she was leaving the island to visit a sister in Auckland who was very ill.
She said, “I don’t know why she asks for me. She’s surrounded by family. And I visited her a couple of months ago.”
“What do you do that is different?” I asked her.
“Well, they all tell her to fight it, and I don’t. I just sit with her and listen and hold her hand.”
“To me, that is called ‘spiritual companioning’”, I said.
“She must feel peaceful when you are there.”
“Yes, she does seem to calm down.”
Then she asked an important question.
“What do I do when she cries?” I said, “When she cries, use your compassionate curiosity and ask her ‘What are those tears?’ and then listen. If she can no longer speak, say ‘Good on you, Sis, bless your healing tears.’”
Her face lit up and she said, “I can do that. And I’ll ask God to make her well.”
“Do you honestly think she is going to get well?”
Sadly, she shook her head. “Well, maybe it’s best to ask God to do His will and to give her mercy. Only God knows how long she is meant to live.”
She cried a bit and I sat with her, holding her hand.
Then I said, “I’ll tell you a great secret. Before you see her, put a shield over your heart of detachment and compassion, so that you can be with her without taking on her feelings.”
We hugged and I told her “Your sister is really blessed to have your compassionate presence at a time like this.” Then she went out to board the plane.
Her sister did die, and I’m sure my friend’s peaceful, accepting presence was a mercy for her in her last days, giving her a more graceful end of life experience.
We all need companions willing to listen to us at any time of life.
Eco warriors stash the trash!
Calling all eco warriors! It’s time to stash the trash! Have you noticed that here in Paradise, sometimes it looks clean and pristine (probably after a village clean-up) and other times, it looks like it’s turning into a rubbish dump?
I have always admired the faithful way people continually rake their rubbish, whatever falls from the trees or lands in their yards. Yet, others are so careless of these islands -- jewels of beauty the Lord has placed in the Pacific.
I taught my children never to litter. One time, we were speeding along a busy highway in the U.S. One of my sons tossed a gum wrapper out the window, and I pulled over and backed the car up to pick it up. I told them, “Never, ever litter. We are stewards of God’s beautiful earth. We have to take care of it.”
Recently, I’ve been growling to myself about the amount of trash casually tossed from bikes or cars onto the verges, especially after Friday and Saturday nights, when people tend to go to the bars. Not one to stand idly by, I invested six dollars in an excellent “grabby thing” at a pharmacy overseas. Early one morning, I decided to try out my new toy, I mean tool. I set out with a large green eco-friendly bag (available at Vonnias, CITC and free from the Aitutaki Conservation Trust) and started grabbing paper, glass and plastic rubbish. I was thinking, “I probably won’t find much, so I’ll use the bag again tomorrow.” How wrong could I be? By the time I was finished clearing a small section of road, the bag was chock full of drinks cans, beer bottles, plastic cups, ice containers, straws, candy wrappers, plastic bags, and to top it off, a huge piece of Styrofoam. I felt like crying. How can anyone not appreciate this God-given beauty which we share with tourists who bike and drive along our roads? They gaze at the sparkling sea, luxuriating in one of the rare places on earth where natural beauty is still un-marred by high rises or too many man-made things. Does their bubble of bliss pop when they glance down to see trash lining the roadways?
One of the first things that delighted me when we first arrived was the recycling initiative. Bins for rubbish, and recycling are all over. How blessed we are to have this program! And bless the eco-warriors putting huge effort into the recent clean-up initiatives both on land and under water, including those from our primary schools!
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” (Leviticus 15) A Scottish proverb says, “If each before his own door swept, the village would soon be clean.” Here are ways to take on this sacred task:
1. Stop before you drop! Stop and think before you throw anything on the road.
2. Stash your trash! Carry a plastic bag for rubbish, or put it in your pocket and wait till you can toss it in a bin.
3. Do your bit. When you see rubbish on the beach or the road, clean it up. Do it as a service to the One Who created these beautiful islands.
4. Pass it on: Don’t just stand by and watch others litter. Remind them to be responsible.
If every one of us does our part, we will soon have a land and seascape that is pristine and sparkling clean, a Paradise to be proud of. Calling all eco-warriors. Let’s stash that trash!
Fun, food galore at school gala
IT SEEMED like the entire island turned out to make the most of the food, fun and wicked prizes at the Apii Te Uki Ou Gala yesterday afternoon.
Families and school supporters were out in numbers to support the schools fundraiser and to enjoy the fantastic festival atmosphere.
The beautiful food, bargains, creative arts and crafts as well as the fantastic prizes including dinner vouchers also had something to do with the crowd numbers at the school.
While the adults shopped up a storm, youngsters made the most of the fun activities including the horizontal bungy, sponge throwing and the favourite among the smaller kids – rides on the fire truck.
There’s no doubt the day was a success for the school and parents who worked hard to provide products for the day and to man the numerous stalls and activities on offer.
A few weeks ago, my brother Tommy contacted me to tell me that his beloved wife had died suddenly the night before.