There’s nothing like a donut to bring two people together.
I brought my truck in for a long overdue oil change yesterday. My five year old son came with me and we decided the one hour wait would be a perfect opportunity to visit the donut shop next door. We hustled in from the cold and ordered up a couple of hot chocolates and sweet treats.
I invited my little man to choose our table and he pointed toward a two-top in the far corner. The space felt noticeably peaceful. Nearby three old men sat reading the paper, enjoying a warm ray of sunlight shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows. We smiled at them as we passed and I followed my son to the corner, listening to the quick, rhythmic shoosh-shoosh-shoosh of his snow pants he walked through the quiet shop.
We sat down and got cozy, shaking off our jackets and releasing shocks of staticy hair from under our hats, then reached for our goodies. I unwrapped my go-to flavor, Boston Cream, and he slowly revealed own his favorite, Strawberry Sprinkled. He laid the pink donut on a napkin and sipped his cocoa, “Too hot!” I peeled off the cap and poured in a little more milk. He tried it again. “Mmmmm. ‘S good.”
“What happened in school today, buddy?”
“Did you learn anything new?”
He was not interested in conversation. He pushed his cocoa aside and turned his focus on the awaiting spongey delight. I decided to stop talking and simply enjoy the sight of my little guy wholly engaging in an exquisite eating meditation.
With deep concentration he examined his snack on the table. He picked it up and sunk his teeth in. When a tiny red jimmy toppled onto his napkin, he pinched it between his thumb and forefinger and meticulously nestled it back into the icing. He chewed and paused and chewed some more. He lifted the donut high above his head with one hand, clearly in awe of its deliciousness. He held it up to me as if to say, Look, Mamma, isn’t it beautiful? But he didn’t utter a word. He just returned his full awareness to the slow and methodical extinction of one pink donut. He carefully selected which portion to bite, mindful to save the sweetest bit for last. He chewed and relished and appreciated the donut so entirely, I could only imagine that for him, in those moments, not one other thing existed in the whole wide world.
The last bite was upon him. He popped it into his mouth, chewed for a long while, swallowed, then tossed his head back in the chair, staring at the ceiling, seemingly reconciling the experience.
I paused to take in the warm hush of the donut shop. And I realized that silence is a pretty amazing way to communicate.
I smiled then laughed out loud. I told him I loved him.
“I love you, too, Mamma,” he finally responded.
I wrote this a few weeks ago. It first ran in The Winchester Star. Today is #GivingTuesday, a day devoted to service and philanthropy worldwide. I’m really proud of my children and their buddies for participating and wanted to share the story of their inspiring philanthropic efforts. If you don’t know what #GivingTuesday is check out the hashtag on Twitter or Google it! You will absolutely want to get with the program next year! Here’s the story…
It’s a quiet evening in the Gobes household. The autumn sun sets early as the rich aroma of Barefoot Contessa’s boeuf bourguignon peaks our appetites.
With a click of the mouse, my cozy, quiet, comfort-food kitchen is suddenly infused with emotion as my family quickly transitions from hunger to contemplation to tears to determination to inspired action.
My children and I are wrapped around the sound of a news story aired by NPR online, brought to living color by Paula Bronstein’s stirring photo of a Filipino expressing his raw suffering after Typhoon Haiyan.
For a long moment we four are suspended in stillness as we connect with his suffering. His tears flow through our eyes as we watch the computer screen in silence.
I break the hush and spend a few minutes talking about what it means to be human. This man is a stranger. He is thousands of miles away, but his pain is as familiar to us as our own breath.
My youngest children are 9, 7, and 5. They know suffering, or at least they think they do. Their low points are dredged up by missing sneakers on gym day, by two green brussel sprouts on a dinner plate. But their imaginations are fertile and their capacity for compassion is immense. They examine the man’s expression and begin to list emotions he might be feeling. They, too, feel those things. They connect the dots. He’s just like us.
“How can you help him?” I ask.
“We can send him blankets!” suggests one.
“He’s not cold, he’s wearing short sleeves,” says the other. “How about pillows?”
“How can we get the pillows to him?”
“Maybe the best way to help him from so far away is to raise money. He can use it to import what he needs,” I suggest.
“Can we color him a picture, Mommy?” my little one requests.
“You bet, babe.”
My 9 year-old seems to be experiencing a paradigm shift. She picks up the house phone and begins to dial with great urgency. She’s recruiting her besties to lead a fundraising effort – a good old fashioned coin collection. Empty your piggy banks, fellow third graders! The people of the Philippines need our pocket change! She disappears into her bedroom, chittering quickly, hashing out details and coordinating collection locations.
My 7 year-old has settled back into her book Big Nate, but upon absorbing her big sister’s charitable enthusiasm, she ditches the read and picks up a marker. “How do you spell typhoon?” She churns out several posters as I type emails to friends soliciting support for the children’s mission.
My 5 year-old is on the edge. He’s constructing cannons out of Tinker Toys and monitoring the commotion cautiously. “Mommy,” he ventures, “Can I ask Jack and Billy to give quarters to that man?” I respond in the affirmative and hear his barely audible, “Yessssss.” He continues to quietly play with his cannons.
“Can you believe that a 5 year-old boy like you can do something important like this? You have the power to help a grown man feel better. You’re like a superhero. What do you think about that, buddy?”
“Good,” he mutters, not lifting his head. But I can see past his long bangs that he’s smiling. The enthusiasm for this project is contagious.
Big sister returns to the kitchen, placing the cordless on my desk. The plan is a go. The primary players are enlisted. We decide to collect change until Thanksgiving and have a coin counting party on #GivingTuesday. They’re excited to be part of such a special day.
Dinner is hot and it’s time to eat. I take a moment to reflect. In the time it took a pot of stew to boil, my children adopted a cause and took action. I’m reminded of a quote by Seneca, “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste of a lot of it.” No wasted time here. Giddy-up.
From mine to yours,
This summer the ever-expanding internet has been saturated with self-help titles. This year’s ubiquitous How-to columns are last year’s Call Me Maybe. 5 Ways to Know You Have a Sunburn, How to Match Your Socks to Your Underpants, The Best Way to Break Your Andy Cohen Habit. I admit, I’ve cast out a few How-tos of my own. So move over Carly Rae, here’s one more.
Okay, okay, so this isn’t the most serious article you’ll ever read, but I’ll bet my kids’ weekly allowance that mastery of this survival skill will save your butt the next time you’re hand to bellybutton with a ferocious tickler.
You’ve got to admit, being tickled is torturous. It’s juvenile, it’s flirtatious, it’s downright… painful? Uncomfortable? Breathtaking? Invasive? Creepy? I don’t know how to describe the feeling of being tickled, actually. But it ranks very high on my least favorite interactions specifically involving my neck, armpits, ribs, thighs, and feet.
Tonight I had an encounter of the tickling kind. My four-year-old was in big trouble. He kept pulling the puppy’s tail and laughing whenever I disciplined him. So I carried him upstairs and pinned him on his bed to keep him from wriggling away while I lectured him. I imagine that his four-year-old mind processed my words like this: “Wah wah wah-wah waaaahhh.” (I am officially a Peanuts cartoon character.)
He laughed hysterically while I spoke. At first I was offended but he kept laughing wildly. He broke me. I started laughing, too. Then I started tickling him and he responded with relentless retaliation. Before I could run for cover he was jamming his little fingers into my armpits and I was curling into fetal position to protect my ticklish parts.
I’m four times the size of him so it was easy for me to squeeze my arms into my ribcage and protect my goods. But I noticed something while he was relentlessly searching for a way under my arms. More so than the tickling itself, the anticipation of the tickling made me crazy. Cracking up, tears rolling, chin pulled into my neck, hooting with laughter. Isn’t this the way? The anticipation of the event produces more emotion than the event itself. (Note to self: Please remember this next time you begin obsessing over your impending mammogram.)
“Why are you so ticklish there?” my son probed.
“I don’t,” snort, “know,” chortle, “Can you stop,” giggle, “pllleeease?”
He wouldn’t stop and I was frozen with red-faced breathlessness so I decided to put my meditation practice to work. I began to draw that discomfort away from my underarms and neutralize it. While he squeezed and poked, I separated my thoughts from my body and somehow extracted the discomfort from my field of feelings. The fingers were no longer tickling, just poking. I don’t know how I did it really, but it worked. And when he realized that his little paws no longer had a dazzlingly humorous effect on me, he stopped.
My torturer was outdone by my amazing power of equanimity. Take that How-to little man. Until next time…
Some superheroes wear capes and masks, crested unitards and holsters packed with magical tools. But there’s another kind of superhero. The kind that wears smocked dresses with patent leather Mary Janes or grass stained jeans and Red Sox caps.
My kids are the latter kind. At least I’ve always told them so. When they were tiny I’d tell them that they were born with superpowers: the power to make people feel good by showing kindness and forgiveness, the power to end sadness by sharing their toys and offering a helping hand.
If they ever doubted the strength of their powers, I’d say, “Go on and test it out. See that little boy crying by the monkey bars? Ask him if he’s okay. Use your superpowers to see if you can make him feel better.” And they would. And they’d be convinced. “See? That’s the power of compassion!”
One day ages ago, I was at the splash park in Belmont with my daughter and her friend. The girls were whispering and pointing at a woman across the water wearing a beige burqa, black gloves and purple Merrells. Her face was veiled, just her eyes were visible. Those eyes were focused intently on her baby girl splashing playfully and wildly in the same pool as my crew.
“I’m afraid of her. She’s a stranger,” said my daughter’s wide-eyed friend, laying eyes on a fully covered Muslim woman for the first time.
“No, no, she’s not scary. Let’s go say hi to her and she won’t be a stranger anymore.” The girls looked at me like I was totally insane. They resisted and skidded as I grabbed their rigid slippery hands and sloshed across the puddles. As we approached, the Muslim woman was chatting on her cell phone.
I waved at her and wrinkled my eyebrows apologetically, “Would you mind if I interrupted your phone call to ask a question?”
She looked a little surprised but smiled at me with her eyes and hung up her phone, “Oh yes, is everything okay?”
“My daughter and her friend were feeling a little afraid of you because of your burqa and I wanted them to meet you.”
“Come! Come!” she beckoned with one gloved hand. She pulled the veil away from her nose and leaned into the girls. They peeked down her dress (as did I) and admired her gorgeous face. “I only wear this when I’m outside. But when I’m at home I wear anything I want. I wear my hair long, I wear make up. My favorite color is pink. What’s yours?”
“Purple and turquoise and orange and yellow. And pink,” said one girl.
“Rainbow and pink,” said the other.
“Come and talk to me anytime. Don’t be afraid. I’m a mom just like your mom.”
The girls asked a few intrusive questions, as kids do, and I thanked her as we splashed away, figuring out which superpowers we’d just activated.
“The power of friendliness!” my daughter shouted, bounding over a shooting stream of cold water.
“The power of fearlessness!” I cheered.
“The power of pink!” laughed her friend.
Then we extended our list of superhero garb to include bathing suits, aqua socks and burqas.
From mine to yours,
Please read this story with children in your life who have superpowers. Tweet, pin, tumble and share wildly, please. Thank you!
looks like it’s become inspiration week on bringingupbuddhas. i guess this is what i’m needing. maybe you are, too.
from mine to yours,
The family was playing a hot game of Monopoly Tuesday night. At one point during the game, we stopped to assess the board. My youngest was in jail, where he had spent the growing majority of his turns. He hadn’t passed GO in about 8 rolls. My middle daughter was banker, maintaining complete control of money, properties and building projects. The number one requirement for her job seemed to be fuzzy math. My oldest sat back and sniffed her putty colored hundreds while building hotels from Mediterranean to Connecticut Avenue. A slum lord in the making.
I couldn’t help but look at this scenario and laugh about it in relation to my month’s spiritual work – acceptance of life as it is, the gentle guidance of my children toward peace and collaboration, the release of bearing the burden of their shortcomings and mistakes. In 30 years, if my kids are incarcerated, corrupt and amoral, I’m going to blame it on Monopoly.
From mine to yours,