Compost and Kindness

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by AJ Fox

Transacript:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

A simple saying that helps me dig deep and find kindness in moments when I am struggling to find compassion. It is attributed to Plato or Socrates or a number of other wise minds but it seems to actually trace back a minister named John Watson who was writing fiction under the pen name Ian Maclaren in the late 1800s.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I have a dear friend who has a rich compost pile. She is a member of a CSA and her family eats lots of produce and all of the squash guts and carrot tops and onion skins end up in the compost pile.

She keeps two piles. One is compost that is ready for the garden, dark rich hummus. And one is the compost that still needs time and heat and more time. Last week her husband, his mind likely distracted just like all of our minds are distracted lately, out of sync, out of rhythm, tossed a whole kitchen counter compost container worth of eggshells and apple cores into the ready to go compost. And then, in his same distracted state, mixed it in real well.

For those of you that know compost, he set that compost pile back quite a ways.

And my friend, who is not a crier, was moved to tears. Tears that felt like frustration, anger, grief.

And somewhere midway through her cry over the careless degradation of the compost pile she realized that it had snuck up on her.

She thought, through all of this uncertainty and fear and anxiety and grief, that she was holding it together. But it is there. Grief over the potential death toll of this disease but also grief over the way that this disease has unexpectedly changed all of our lives so substantially, so quickly. Grief that her children are missing their teachers and friends. Grief that she wasn’t able to finish out the semester with her own students. She thought through it all that she was holding it together.

And suddenly she was crying over compost.

I suspect many of us have witnessed this in the last few weeks. Minor inconveniences or small slights feel so magnified, when we are all living under this intense grief that we cannot yet even begin to process. And in my head I have begun to practice the mantra, both for my own reactions and when attempting to offer grace to others, “This isn’t about the compost”.

“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

“This isn’t about the compost.”

Once every two weeks a Unitarian Universalist publication titled Braver/Wiser plops in my inbox. They are insightful timely responses and spiritual reflections. A couple weeks ago the article Braver/Wiser sent out was titled The Ninth Obstacle by M Div student Laura Solomon. If you are not receiving Braver/Wiser, I encourage you to sign up for it.

In The Ninth Obstacle, Laura Solomon reflects on an obstacle course mud race that she participated in a few years ago. The race had eight major obstacles that every participant had to complete. But in addition, she realized, each person at that race brought their own obstacles and barriers. Each person came with a “ninth obstacle”. The toughest moments are still often a result of our own individual previous experiences. Laura Solomon shared that her “ninth obstacle” moment of struggle during the race was disrobing in the locker room tent. For another athlete it might have been the sick kid who they stayed up with the night before or the shift they knew they had to go work as soon as the race was over or a substance abuse issue that was wearing on their body.

Laura Solomon ends her article by saying:

That’s kind of what’s happening right now: COVID-19 has imposed eight obstacles that we’re all contending with. But we each have nine—or more—obstacles. You have no idea what anyone else’s ninth obstacle (or tenth, or eleventh) is. You just know they have it.
We have no choice but to be gentle…excessively, generously, powerfully gentle.

“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

“This isn’t about the compost.”

“You have no idea what anyone else’s ninth obstacle […] is. You just know they have it.

We have no choice but to be gentle…excessively, generously, powerfully gentle.