Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kindess

Sometime in the spring, I heard about the Big Apple Experiment from a colleague. Essentially, you take two apple slices, love one, trash talk the other, and see what happens. My job involves supporting educators to teach social and emotional skills to young children, and it was an experiment she had done with her preschool class to talk about kindness towards others.

When she emailed me and shared the experiences of the children and educators in her room, as well as the effect on the apples, I was moved. Are our words really that powerful? I started thinking it could be a meaningful exercise to try with my own coworkers. So I put a couple of apple slices in jars, and asked everyone to be kind to one, and be mean to the other. I did not tell them why.

Here is the apple we were kind and caring towards. I often heard it being cooed to, complimented, and occasionally someone sang to it. Four weeks later, it looked like you could dip it in caramel and still eat it.


Here is the apple we were mean to. It was talked to in tones of contempt, occasionally the table it sat on was smacked as frustrations were spoken to it, and one of my colleagues admitted to giving it the finger. ...I couldn't even touch it when I pulled it out of the jar. It was mouldy and squishy and just... not in good shape.


The two slices came from the same apple. They were cut with the same knife and placed at the same time into identical mason jars.* And because they were placed at opposite ends of our office building, I even switched their locations part way through so that each experienced the same traffic patterns of people overall. And what blows my mind is that both jars were sealed. The apples were not touched or tampered with. The only difference between these two apple slices was the attitude with which they were treated.

There is clearly an entirely different energy in hurtful words and actions than in loving ones. One rots; one protects. When we are unkind, not only do we wound another emotionally, or even fracture a relationship--we also leave behind a lasting negative energy. If this is what meanness does to an apple at its core, what does it do to a person in theirs?

...As someone who spends her day talking about social and emotional well-being, let me be clear that I'm not saying we shouldn't express our hurt or anger. We need to be authentic with all our feelings. ...But we do need to be mindful about where and how and to whom we're directing our energy.

We have a choice in every interaction--with the cashier at the grocery store; the customer service agent on the phone; our child or spouse at the end of a long day, in hard conversations with friends; at a tense team meeting--to choose: malice, sarcasm, belittling, anger, a raised voice? Or kindness, compassion, patience, empathy, and truth spoken in love.

We are not always going to be perfect, but the good news is that we have endless opportunities to practice.

I know what kind of energy I want to leave in a room, or in someone's heart.

I choose kindness.








* Yes, I washed the apple, the knife, the jars, and my hands before doing this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where 100,000 Will Take You

I enjoy driving. I am my father's daughter in this regard, traversing whatever kilometres I must to get where I want to go. When I'm not commuting to and from work, I'd say the majority of my driving is to either visit the people I care most about, or to explore somewhere with my camera.

So is it any wonder that after four years of moving to and from these places with my current car (a Dodge Dart named Tom), he would hit his 100,000km mark on a road in rural Saskatchewan... a trip he has made many times to keep me connected to some of my favourite people.

Within Edmonton, I must admit that Tom and I have... struggled... to get along with the city streets.* But--we have always enjoyed the open road together. It is interesting where different seasons of our lives take us. My Honda went everywhere. Mountains, ocean, foothills, prairie--she even crossed into the United States more than once. To be fair, I owned Aubergine twice as long as I've currently owned Tom. That being said, thus far, Tom has only had a taste of the mountains and foothills, he's never been to the ocean, nor has he crossed any international borders.

But the prairie.

Well.

Tom is a prairie expert.

The view at 100,000km.

Under the ever-wide sky, we have explored the green and yellow patchwork of summer fields, as well as the white blankets of winter. We have stopped to take in unexpected delights, and we never hesitate to pull over for a good sunset. In the dark of winter, thousands of songs, a hundred podcasts, and several audio books have helped to pass the time.

All so that I can access the pieces of my heart that I have scattered abroad.

Tom's knees are starting to creak, his face is pock-marked by gravel and dust, and his interior is in desperate need of a bath. ...I've put him through a lot in four years.

At 25,000km per year, I am hoping he and I can enjoy at least another four together, and I am curious to see which directions our ambitions take us.

There is so much yet to explore.


* But if you need to find a pothole, a nail, or a piece of wayward rebar, I'm your gal.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

SOTC 246/365

Many Monks (SOT 246/365)

SOTC 245/365

I have no shame in bribing birds with food to get them closer to my camera.

Noticed (SOTC 245/365)

Monday, July 10, 2017

SOTC 244/365

Magpies are jerks. They are noisy pilferers and bullies. Several of them roost in my neighbourhood. If I am working in the garden and suddenly hear a bunch of magpies squawking, I know that somewhere on the street, a dog or cat (likely my own) is being taunted.

Late last night, I heard quite a ruckus of noise, louder than usual; what are they taunting now?

I was shocked and angered to see 8-10 magpies squawking and pecking at a baby bird in the street. My heart took over--natural selection be damned; baby birds don't deserve to be bullied!

My presence scattered the magpies, and I managed to scoop up the bird--a baby blue jay. I wasn't sure if he was injured, and I wasn't sure how long the magpies would linger, so I opted to house him for the night.

This morning I spotted the adult jays in my front yard, and another fledgling on the neighbour's lawn. Assuming this must be his family, I was happy to release him*... but not without attempting a few pictures first, of course.

The adult jays sure vocalized their opinion about me being so close to their young, but baby blue jay clearly had a sense that I had treated him well, because he stuck around on the grass just long enough to let me photograph and pet both him and his sibling one last time.

Baby Blue Jay (SOTC 244/365)

Stay clear of the magpies, my feathered friends.




* I had considered taking him to Edmonton's wildlife rehabilitation centre if his parents didn't come back for him.

Saturday, July 8, 2017