Tag Archive | kindness

Please Forget Me When I’m Gone.

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Where the sidewalk ends

 

I watch a man, a father I think, pushing a baby in a stroller who is maybe a year old.The father rolls his son right to the edge of the sidewalk overlooking the crashing surf below so that there is nothing but salty air between the child and the sea. He crouches next to the child and points out over the shimmering water. There are no words, nothing but the gesture, yet that simple wave of an arm is a lecture on eternity, a tutorial on infinity, of all things. It is a master class in perspective.

Later this day, I stand in line at the grocery store. There are several people ahead of me and only two checkers open in the village-sized store. The older woman ahead of me who is blocking everyone from passing because she seems unaware that anyone else exists, begins to complain loudly. This is an outrage, she complains, she has valuable things to do with her time. Her cart is filled with wine and expensive specialty items. And still she complains. When she looks to me to bitch along, I say, “I have been too many places where parents cannot feed their children for me to complain that I have to wait a few minutes for all of this.” I wave my arm in direction of the unbelievable bounty and choice available to us. “Whenever I have to wait,” I tell her, “I remind myself how fortunate I am to have so much abundance.”

Her face twists in sour indignation, but before she can wind up to vent off more entitled outrage, I shrug comically and say, “Hey, how else you gonna’ keep your sense of humor?”

What I really want to do is scream at her, “There are hungry children on the street outside! They will go to bed hungry!” But it will do no good, this woman has no experience in her ken that allows her to shrug off even this slight inconvenience because she has no gratitude for what she has, who she is, where she lives, the privilege she was born into, nothing. She has a grossly limited perspective. She knows only that the world is ‘supposed’ to be the way she wants it to be, the way it has always been for her.

It’s really such a very small way to think.

How do you change that in a ‘me first!’ society? Can you teach empathy? The issue, of course, is that it’s a matter of standards and awareness. To what do you compare any given thing? Do you see yourself as a member of a vast universe or as the center of the only story you know. The creator or the victim?

Let’s take my writing career as a sample. I have published eight books, I’ve had many people enjoy them very much, (which is the best metric for me), I’ve had glowing reviews, and I adore creating other worlds and lives. I am lucky. Compared to someone who has always wanted to write but who has never had the time, the agent, or the publisher to do so, I’m a success! Whoo hoo, go Shari!

But, if I look at the fact that I’ve never had a best-seller, I’ve never had a movie made from one of my books, and I’ve never been featured in Oprah’s book club, then I’m a resounding failure. Boo Shari.

So what do you think? I think it’s writer’s choice whether to call myself a winner or a loser.

Okay, I know some of you are choosing the latter description with a little too much enthusiasm, fair enough. That propels us into the realm of judging our worth based on what other people think about us, but that factor is so unknowable and immeasurable that the science to gauge it hasn’t been discovered yet.

So let that go, for now, focus on the question of whether you think yourself a success or a failure. Should you be happy with your lot in life or distressed?

Each person’s answer depends on what test they use to arrive at an answer. And what’s your time frame for this assessment? Is it what you are experiencing in this minute that counts? The last year? The bottom line of a balance sheet of your total life? And what goes into that accounting? Money made? Happiness felt? Relationships failed? Tears wiped from another’s face by your compassion? Will there be a statue of you or your name on a bridge when you’re gone? What standards apply?

Watching that man with his son on the edge of the ocean was such an amazing reminder to me to look up, to see and imagine the possibilities beyond my limited vision, to remember that there is so much more out there.

I don’t believe in bumper stickers or tattoos, because I have changed my mind so very many times, and I hope I always will, because the option to that is to stop learning and stagnate, fester, and rot. But if I were to have any kind of constant message or symbol to remind me who I am and what is important, it would be one simple word.

Mortal.

This too shall pass.

Ironic, I know, the idea that once I’ve rotted, or hopefully been scattered as ashes in some magnificent redwood glade, I will be far more enlightened and connected than in life. I don’t necessarily believe in life after death, but I do believe that energy and love never die, just morph into something new that is absorbed into a universe hungry for the infusion. I for one will be grateful to return when the time comes, I hope. It does not frighten me that I will be forgotten. It makes no difference to me at all. But making the world a better place while I am a part of it— that is everything.

Try it, for one day, instead of constantly needing to tell yourself how important you are, how fabulous, how great, and especially instead of having to think yourself more important than others, think this…

You will die. All this will be forgotten. It’s just a matter of how long. Even those who are desperate to believe they will be remembered (be immortal) throughout history must face the fact that all human history will eventually end. Even this planet. Only the echoes of our energy and our love will remain, reborn and blended into something new, something even more wonderful.

So, for today, be mortal. Run to the edge of the ocean, or the top of a tall building, or stand in the rain, or listen to Mozart and weep, and know that this moment is magnificent. Say hello, offer a kind word, slip a twenty in a sleeping homeless person’s shoe, laugh like a child.

It isn’t what you absorb, but what you project that matters.

It isn’t how you are remembered, but how you are that counts.

So count yourself lucky.

Stop complaining.

Know that your breath is shared by seven billion other people.

Seven billion.

We’ll all be gone before too long.

Leave something of worth, something more than a memory.

And when I’m gone, if you do think of me, I hope you smile.

And then forget me.

I’m okay with that.

I’m already part of you.

 

 

Shari. October 12th, 2017

 

 

 

 

From Flames to Fabulous.

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These are pictures of  a young women I consider to be one of my ‘other daughters’ She’s a junior in high school. The photos were taken an hour apart. She is a fire cadet, and the first photo is her in gear on a ‘call.’ The second is her ready for prom an hour later. Needless to say, I admire her and her choices immensely, and am so grateful that my daughter chose her friend so well. Most parents might discourage a pretty daughter away from a ‘dangerous’ career, but this mother is one smart, amazing lady, whom I greatly admire, and it shows in both her daughter’s characters.

How do you raise a child to respect themselves and the world around them versus one who is so focused on themselves that they miss out on the best that life has to offer?

Well, nobody knows for sure, and there is already an overabundance of advice out there, some really good, some pathetic and selfish. So…though I know a little bit about a lot of things, and nothing about everything—here I go.

First, and most important. Set a good example. Be happy, not desperate to be liked. Be interested in people, in nature, in time with your family, in quiet time, take them to museums and travel if you can. Spend one on one time that’s about what they like! Introduce them to what you like, but don’t expect the same enthusiasm. Every time you can expand their world view, do it! My girls rebelled at being taken to museums in Rome and Amsterdam at first, now they regularly request outings to the Getty or the Norton Simon museum here in L.A and eagerly look forward to future trips. My oldest has even contemplated a career in curatorship, and they are both amazing artists.

It’s a tough balance, of course. It’s completely natural for kids in their teens to be enamored of their peers (future support system), to preen, to prepare themselves to find a mate (make-up, hair clothes and now tattoos, piercings, etc.) And there is increasing pressure through the high school years to pick a career, to stress over success, getting a job, become famous, stay skinny, have boobs or muscles, etc. All of these things are natural, but it’s important to make sure that they focus on being kind and brave, and figuring out what they do best instead of what will impress others. Striving to be envied is a life philosophy that leads to nothing but emptiness, which no amount of ‘acquired stuff’ will fill.

The best thing to do, I think, is keep the lines of communication open, stay aware, but don’t take it personally when they prefer to spend the weekend with friends instead of you. It’s good for them, and maybe for you too!

Recently I read someone’s blog, (accidentally, it was forwarded to me with only a web address, and I was appalled that this particular person was giving parenting advice. The crux of her message was, “Ditch the kids and make it all about you!” It only took a paragraph to realize that this was a step-mother who was jealous of the attention her husband’s daughters received from him. And she only had the kids three days a week! She complained about having to socialize with other people with children just to spend time with her husband, and how she demanded a date night that was ‘all about me!’ Not, ‘us,’ mind you, “ME!!” Shouldn’t date night be a about both of you?

Wow, if that’s your attitude, you should probably skip having kids, and definitely don’t marry someone who has them. The example you are setting is narcissistic and uncaring and the kids know it. What does that teach them? Of course your happiness is important, but not to the exclusion of your children. And facts are facts, babies and children require almost constant attention, it’s not a job for the self-absorbed. As they grow into teens, hormones and emerging independence change that somewhat. In my opinion, that’s a good thing. Not just for them, but for you, helping to transition into that time when they will have their own mates and interests, and you will need to stop running their lives and fill your own. The way I see it, it’s not my job to do everything for my kids, it’s my job to prepare them for life in the wild.

My husband and I are lucky enough to have plenty of time to ourselves because of a custody arrangement that gives us a couple nights a week off. Of course, we would both prefer to have the girls full time, but he is such a thoughtful and creative man that we would be romantic either way. I remember after the huge fire in our neighborhood that left us without power for 3 weeks. He returned to do what he could to make the house and grounds livable, and when I arrived two days later, in the evening, he had lit the walkway to the door and the house with candles and bought steaks for the grill and had champagne on ice to welcome me home. I often make a special evening for him. Maybe dinner by the fire out by the pool. I greet him with a cocktail in an evening dress, a table set with linens, lanterns in the trees, whatever, and we spend hours talking and reaffirming our bond with each other. Other times it may be pizza and hot wings and a game on TV. It isn’t what you do, or even the amount of time spent, it’s about the fact that you made the other person feel considered, loved, and treasured. This is true for your mate and your children.

I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself, of course you must, find time for a walk, a lunch with a friend, some creative project. Spend time with your mate and remember why you picked them. Laugh, have sex, talk, and most important, Listen!

Now let me be clear. I’m no expert. I honestly believe that for all the reading, studying, advice, etc., nobody actually always knows how to be a perfect parent. We’re all winging it, even the best intentioned. But if you wing it with love, if you realize that your child is a separate, unique individual who is on their own journey, and you support their choices, then I believe they will feel safe enough to be brave, kind, and fulfilled. The best things in life take both courage and compassion.

Time flies my friends, and that time with your children, that time when you can help them make choices that enrich their lives and fashion their passions, is limited, over far too soon.

Don’t waste it. Love them, hug them, be patient, stop and think what’s best for them, not what you fear.

But mostly, let them fly.

Shari, May 18th, 2015.

Charity without Cheering.

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Rainbows are all around us. Good people come in every shape and color.

 

For years, as a semi-celebrity, I attended many charity events. Some of them, I wasn’t even sure what  cause was being supported until I arrived, having been invited by whatever-sho- I-was-on’s publicist. What always hurt my heart was the way that so many of the celebs attended these events to get their picture taken for publicity, drink and party, and go home with a gift bag full of expensive gifts. I recall one event in particular, a black tie affair, where there were donation cards at each place setting. I was with my then husband and other cast members of his show. When we stood to leave, I noticed that I was the only person who had even picked up the card. The rest of them had left them discarded as they headed out to the nearest bar, while the head of the charity was still speaking, no less. 

I understand that publicity and public awareness are important for a charity, and therefore celebrity attendance is helpful, but as the director of the Desi Geestman Foundation, my task with every event we throw is to keep the cost down and get that money to the kids and their families. Celebrities will actually ask how many photographers are coming and what’s in the gift bag. I always tell them that the gift bag is a small thing when children are suffering and parents are losing their children. That usually sobers them a bit. Of course, many celebrities do a great deal of very real charity work and giving and I honor them for it. 

This morning I took my daughter to our favorite thrift store, it’s a big affair that benefits AIDs charities. It is raining here now, very hard, and this is not only unusual, but especially hard on those who survive on the streets. I was perusing the linens section when I noticed the manager helping a woman who was obviously homeless. The manager was helping her to find a few warm blankets, because the ones she and her husband had were all soaking wet. I was truly touched at the way the manager was obviously concerned that the woman get the blankets that would be the best for her, and she gave them to her free of charge. 

Later, as we drove away, safe and warm in my car, I saw the homeless woman and her husband, pushing a grocery cart covered in a blue tarp through the driving rain. They stopped on the corner to hug each other reassuringly, then paused again to speak to another homeless man in a park. They handed him something that looked like a half a sandwich wrapped in plastic, shook hands and went on. 

To where? I do not know. But what struck me about both of those exchanges were the fact that they were done without pomp, without glory, without reward or even notice. There was no red-carpet, no celebrity picture in the paper offering congratulations to some famous rich person who can easily afford to give far more than they do, nothing. Just giving where it means the most. 

I think the sandwich struck my heart the deepest, because these people were most likely giving up their own food to help a fellow person in dire straights. It really touched me. All too often we disregard the actions of people who live on the fringe because we find them distasteful or it makes us uncomfortable to have to look at all the sorrow in the world just outside our door. 

But not everyone. There are those among us who always give, even if they have very little for themselves, and they do it because it is who they are, not what they want people to see. If you have one dollar and you give someone a quarter, I think there is a special place in heaven for you. If you are worth 100 billion, (the walmart family) and don’t pay your workers a decent wage, then all your fancy charity galas mean nothing except an excuse to wear fancy clothes and pretend that you are moral. 

I want to share a native american story. A grandfather was explaining the nature of the human ego to his grandchildren. “There are two wolves inside of you,” he said, “One of them is greedy and angry and bitter, the other is kind and good and generous. And they fight against each other.” 

One of the children looked up at the wise grandfather and asked, “But which one wins?” 

The grandfather said, “The one that you feed.” 

So maybe, just maybe, today, give up your angry political views and fears, let go of thinking that your religion is the only name for God, and just feed the kindly wolf. Smile, care, give, forgive, stop judging, try not to be afraid.

And kudos to the givers who have little, for they are the richest. 

Shari, Friday February 28th, 2014.