When you fall in love in your 20s or 30s, you don’t really think about love in your 60s or 70s. How it changes and how it evolves. You don’t know the richness or depth that can exist between two people. How a simple glance at a party can say 'I’m ready to go home'. How a constant routine can comfort the same as an 'I love you'. How a slow kiss can awaken a sleeping memory. As I turn 65 today and think of all the moments, the memories my life has accumulated, I can barely picture them all. I didn’t know how much you could love a 7 year old boy who lives a thousand miles away from you. Or how you can ache for your departed mom. So much I didn’t know and so much I don’t know now. I certainly didn’t know the pleasure of a quiet morning slowly sipping coffee while watching the birds out my back window. I didn’t know how your sweet magenta birthday card, placed right in my morning comfort spot could bring me to tears. My life, it don’t count for nothing, but the moments of love are a full treasure chest of riches. I’ve been a little intimidated by growing old, and 65 seemed like quite a scary number, but it appears to be just another day. An opportunity to be loved and to love.
When I was a little girl I would cross the street from my house, sit on the tall parking lot curb, lay back and look up at the clouds. Up in the distant sky I would see moms and dads kissing, puppy dogs turn into dragons, and elephants on skateboards appear! That parking lot was my domain. Outside was where I wanted to be. I could throw a ball for hours against the side of St. Matthews school or sit and watch as the boys played wiffle ball. I practiced cheer-leading there and the safety of my house was one short run across the empty street. I could hear my mom call me for lunch, or not hear her call me to remind me of my chores. I didn’t need to be taught compassion then, it was merely a way of life. If a neighbor needed anything and we had the means to give it we did. We constantly asked the nuns and priest if they needed anything; gave people rides to the store, helped shovel a driveway or mow a shut-in's yard. Sometimes we would be rewarded with a quarter and would make haste to the candy store. Kindness was just part of the landscape, something you didn’t have to think about. I believe that kind of goodness still lives deep in the soul of our country. Throw out Facebook and cable media and useless hours of video games. Throw out labels and the me me me conversation we hear today. Throw out selfies and selfishness. Under all that veneer is a desire to care about others; a true empathy for those less fortunate and a want of pure simplicity and love. As a country, we are always first to come to the aid of those who face some kind of disaster. We desperately want to solve the problems hate causes. We don’t want to see people hurt. It is true, people are turned off by the egotistical folks and attracted to the humble.
Compassion, like clouds, is always out there. We just need the vision and the space to see it. Let’s all be a part of the beauty. It surrounds us. Just believe!
Our society is becoming more and more isolationist. We have moved from being community-based to the nuclear family way of life; closed off from our community. When was the last time you borrowed a cup of sugar from your neighbor? Do you know your neighbors’ names? I don’t. As I reach out beyond my comfort zone and give away a Compassion Coin, I see delighted recipients. But what I have heard from others is that it is difficult for them to reach out. It is unfamiliar and a bit intimidating. I pondered this response and I have some ideas about the resistance. Because we have become so isolated, taking more than a moment with a stranger feels threatening. Luckily, once we reach out we find the response of the person is delightful. The benefit of giving the Compassion Coin is not only for the receiver; actually the most benefit is to the giver. It activates our empathy space and calls us out of our isolation. Remember the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive"? If we are going to survive as a society we are going to have to get past FaceTime and into real time relationships. We are going to have to feel connected to a community. It is not enough to hold a Compassion Coin. Like compassion itself, its value is experienced in action, by giving it away. I have found so many ways to use my coins. On the days I am out and about I am looking for ways to lift someone up. I don’t always find someone but I usually do. Trust me, in the crazy world we live in I could stay safe within the walls of my made up homogenized world. But I realize we gotta reach out, we gotta love and we most definitely need to heal. My surrogate dad, Fr. Bob, told me in no uncertain terms to get out of my comfort zone, and I still heed those words today. No, it’s not comfortable to do an act of kindness to a stranger or a friend, it feels unfamiliar and that is why we need to do it! Tell fear, “You are not driving this car today, as a matter of fact, get in the back seat and be quiet.” Drive your life with confidence, paying the toll by paying it forward. Thanks my friends for letting me share. Love to you all.
Peggy Perry-Hill has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. She spent many years as a public school teacher. Her goal was always to be a full time writer. She has spent the last 25 years traveling the globe with her husband John Two-Hawks, presenting concerts workshops and retreats. Her mantra has been 'making music and making friends'. Peggy has also written several books with her latest being 'Give Peas a Chance' a nostalgic 60s cookbook which she wrote to hold onto some levity in her life during the pandemic. She has facilitated Women of Wisdom (WOW) retreats for over 15 years. Peggy is the owner of Circle Studios Records and CSR Media Publishing Company. Her passion is compassion and she has stood for decades by another mantra, Love is a Verb, so her main goal in writing is to inspire her readers into action. Peggy Perry-Hill is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves writing, music, theater and culinary arts.