Our favorite weather phenomena visited much of the country this week, the Polar Vortex. For those of you unfamiliar, it is the bank of cold air that normally sits over the North Pole. During winter months it expands, shifts and as many of us experienced this past week, moves southward to send us into a deep freeze.
There is something about weeks such as these…Car commuters, normally annoyed with jay-walkers, graciously allowed people to cut across the street so they could dash into the warmth. Buses, normally watching the clock, waited for riders as they trudged through the snow and cold, bundled with every winter item they owned. (And, you may have noticed new, creative and descriptive words forming on frozen lips. The Chicago Tribune reported increased usage of words such as “shindiggler,” flarking” and the ever popular “shivering cows” to describe the polar vortex experience.)
Because it was downright dangerous to be outside, people helped people. This is true not only during the brutal cold of the vortex, we see it in many situations where we are brought to the edge by life unexpected events. These events bring us to a place where we can more easily see ourselves in the face of the other.
The driver waits because they wouldn’t want to be out in the cold longer than needed. Someone takes the time to jump start a stranger’s car because they have been in the situation before, and know how it feels. Another gives grace to a teen whose car is stuck in a snow-drift after taking a curve too fast. After all, it could be their child out there in the cold. The fullness of compassion is when the comfort we want for us, is the same comfort we want for all people. This picture of compassion can be easily observed during events such as the vortex.
What if we experienced grace, generosity and goodwill every day? What if, that grace, generosity and goodwill was something we offered to ourselves first of all?
We often think of compassion as something we do for another person. However compassion in its fullness begins with how we speak to and treat our own self. The harshest critic can be our own internal voice. As we practice compassion for our own situation, compassion for others deepens. If we are first compassionate with our own foibles, compassion for others flows freely.
Our internal critic can feel cold and harsh, like a 50 below windchill. It can cut to the core of our being. Self compassion on the other hand circles in and around us offering life, and giving each of us hope. As you celebrate the mild temperatures this week, consider how best to expand warm breezes of compassion into your own soul. Offer grace, generosity and goodwill to you. Every day. It will do good things for you and all those in your circle.
Fleece and cocoa for the continued thaw,