Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Today there was a sort of three-way conversation in which I was involved. My friend and former lover T saw a post that is going around and seems to be on the verge of this year’s trendy kindly thing to do. The post discusses a group of friends who, annually, all get together for dinner, each of them bringing a $100 dollar bill. At the end of the dinner, they give the wad of bills to the server, and anything left over is a tip. Within the post it discusses this year’s recipient and the difficult year she has been having and how much it meant to her.
The idea, I believe, is that anybody who works such a job is probably underpaid, and more than likely could use the money. It’s a beautiful act of charity, and T is a very kind, loving, and altruistic soul. She reposted it and asked if anybody would want to participate should she plan such an event. So far, it looks like two people have signed on with one “maybe”, and assuming that these people all have a partner with whom they would go, we’re talking about roughly $600 to $800 in cash (including T and her husband). One of the respondents, L, replied that she would like to but cannot afford it.
L is also a friend of mine, and former student. She has been going through a terribly rough patch, including major medical bills and outright homelessness in the recent past. She’s on the road to bouncing back, so I texted her and promised to send her the money for her and, if he wants to join her, her son. Honestly, I would like to participate in something like this myself, and with two of my friends interested, how can I not offer to help out? I almost am thinking of L as my “proxy” to the event.
T and L hated each other. They used to live one above the other in the same apartment complex, and there was just something about the other that each simply didn’t like. They sniped at each other, and each of them complained about the other to me. It was like stereo listening to each complain in a different ear about the other, but they both had great hearts. T was my former lover so I knew her quite well, and when students complained about me and my institution began a formal investigation of me (violating their own rules on how they were to be performed), L was the one (actually one of the few) who told me that they were performing an investigation and asking how she could help protect me. (To tell you the short end of the story, after an extensive investigation, no wrongdoing was discovered.)
At some point, wanting to bring the strife to an end, I convinced T to at least just talk with L. It was after telling T of L’s attempt to protect me that T finally decided that maybe she was worth giving a chance. I have no idea what the conversation entailed, but almost immediately they became very close friends, to the point that I feared they would share secrets about me, and I’m the guy that convinced them to talk!
Both of these beautiful women had personal demons when I was a larger part of their lives, and each of them successfully overcame them. This is part of my love for them; I know the difficulty of such battles, and those successful in coming out on the other side immediately deserve respect. L is just now on the upswing of her life, while T has been working on self-improvement and charitable work for a considerable amount of time. T has the biggest heart of anybody I know, constantly working with charities and organizing events to help others all while raising a small army of her own children, running her own business and working towards her degree online which should be completed, as I understand it, next year. By anybody’s standards, this is remarkable.
When I read L’s comment on T’s post, I texted her and personally offered to put up the money for her and, if he wants to join her, her son. This offer resulted in a flurry of texts from both T and L, but I really want to focus on what L said, as my conversation with her largely centered on T herself. As L sang her praises, she mentioned how much she looks at T and her story for inspiration, and as a model of how she would like to be herself someday. I could hardly disagree, saying what a great person T is, and what a wonderful role model she was. L suggested that I was such a role model as well, but honestly, I don’t believe that I am. I’m average, or at least what I believe the average person should be. Unfortunately, with our society being what it is today, it just makes me look like I shine more than I actually do. T is much more active than I am and should be. I try to say and do kindly and accepting things, but honestly, shouldn’t we all?
Hearing L saying how she looked to T as a model reminded me of the Iching, which I shared with L. In the passage called “The Gentle”, the Iching discusses the lasting effects of a gentle force always applied in a consistent direction. These changes are not as noticeable as those brought about by violence, such as the massive earthquakes that gives rise to mountains, and yet the gentle force is far more permanent, such as the winds that eventually erode them. The passage ends by suggesting that it helps to follow the great master, as this helps to maintain focus on the direction of that force. T is a terrific choice for such a master, a model of overcoming personal demons, a model of giving, and a model of accomplishment. I hope L follows that example, as one day she, too, will be a great master.