Lessons from the holiday: compassion, kindness and civility

By Reade Brower | Dec 05, 2019

With one holiday in the mirror and another around the corner, retrospection is in order.

Thanksgiving is the day to celebrate gratefulness; it’s a holiday without presents, where the gift is your presence; that is if you can avoid politics or other hot button subjects with friends and family gathered.

While Christmas and Hanukkah are about showing love through gifts, Thanksgiving is about food and fellowship. It’s not that simple; even if politics, religion and belief systems can be avoided, family dynamics can bring up pain bodies.

As we age, triggers can become more acute; sending us on a “freight train to the past.” Counseling has helped me understand that often pain bodies, when activated, go screaming back to the darkest spot in the past. In other words, small instances can send us to the apex of our worst moments.

A somewhat innocent remark or small slight might trigger an avalanche of feeling. Talking it out helps but getting over it is the long-term solution. This holiday, a family member was able to walk together with me and share the light.

It came down to one simple word; compassion for others. Over the last few columns, examining civility and kindness have helped in understanding how to get over anger; one must let go and “live and let live” or else be doomed to a world where being right is more important than being loved.

Think about it; would you rather be right or would you rather be loved?


Reading “Mother Jones RECHARGE – Stories to get you through the week” is part of a recipe for leading a life based with the weight of your feet in humanity.

By the way, going to the new Tom Hanks movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is another respite. It’s a movie that moved emotions, not in a way easily explained. It was simply sweet to see a man (Mr. Rogers), admittedly not perfect or ideal, but certainly gifted in his ability and desires to do good, make a mark with his time on earth.

First up in “Mother Jones” was a story called “A Helping Hand” where Ben, after his back-up help failed to arrive, was the benefactor of the “kindness of strangers.” It started at the Waffle House where Ben worked when one customer helped him clear tables, setting off a chain reaction of customers refilling other customers’ coffee, running orders, and helping Ben wash dishes.

Customer Ethan Crispo videoed it, describing it as “one of the most wild instances of really, really cool people just coming together” to help Ben at this Birmingham, Alabama, establishment. The Waffle House management, getting wind of the story, was apparently grateful enough to offer one of the customers a job.

With the acrimony received after writing a column about the need for civility around Maine Sen. Susan Collins, faith in humanity was restored when reading about Congressman John Lewis, a man once shunned by Republicans and degraded by President Trump for not attending Trump’s inauguration, based on his principles.

Recently, this Georgia legislator bucked the current polarization that permeates both sides of the aisle, publicly saluting an ailing Sen. Johnny Isakson, telling the crowded House; “You, Senator, led a team that could cross the aisle without compromising your values,” adding, “I will come over to meet you, brother.”

With that, he made his way to Isakson for a hug that would be inspirational to both Republicans and Democrats present. Lewis is known for his ability to cross party lines, winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom and 2016 National Book Award.

Lewis once wrote, “Hate is too heavy a burden to bear. Love is the better way.”

Therapy llamas also made the list of feel-good story lines; 300-pound llamas roaming freely through a nursing home, in search of the next “head pat” is sweet enough, but learning about a therapy llama named “Knock,” patiently waiting by a hospice patient's bed for a hand to reach out, explains why “Knock’s” owner, Carol Rutledge, said, “To be able to get through it (a session), without getting emotional, takes several visits.”

Finally, a story called “A no-brainer” asks, what prison program can turn a 50% recidivism rate into 4%?  The answer is “College Behind Bars” — something the local Maine prison system in Warren already gets. The Maine State Prison has teamed up with the University of Maine in Rockland and the results are astounding.

A while back, I was invited to lecture. What I saw was amazing — students fully engaged and a teacher who wanted to be there; mutual respect, the catalyst for success.

Mother Jones shares the point from this Washington Post article that correction departments would save money, in the long run, by adding to these programs and creating more opportunities. However, much of the public remains caught up in a punitive attitude that is clearly counter-productive.

They end the summary asking, “What’s more corrective than learning?”


“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” — Eugene Ionesco, playwright (1909-1994)


If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Dec 05, 2019 11:29

"Mutual respect, the catalyst for success." Y E S  !!!

If you wish to comment, please login.