Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

When you have faced a health challenge where you could have lost your life, everything shifts into a whole different perspective. Even two years down the road in perfect health, I make it a spiritual practice to ask myself certain questions every day such as: “What is really important in life?” What gives me joy?”

It’s as if I used to live in this huge warehouse filled with wonders, but all I had was a little pencil flashlight to find my way around. Now I have a really huge, high-powered light and I’m finding out that there’s much more to feel and experience than I could ever have imagined.

I had an extremely vivid dream once where I had died of a ripe old age and was on the other side. One of the most interesting things I learned in that dream is that “the veil” between our human existence and our “home” in the other world is much thinner than we could ever imagine. We can truly experience “heaven on earth” if only we have the eyes to see and a heart that will open. It’s there, all around us in the hummingbird outside my study window, in the fourteen geese that suddenly flew overhead while I was walking down by the river in the Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano, in the way the hills of Southern California fill your entire being with the smell of sage and resinous plants. It’s in the love you feel for your family and your best friends, and the love you feel for a stranger’s child running along the beach, laughing.

Random Acts of Kindness

How can we be a person who brings a little bit of heaven closer to others? I think one of the simplest and most powerful things we can do is to follow Anne Herbert’s admonition to “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Last Sunday I had brunch with my friend Isabelle, and spend the rest of the day with her. Sometimes when we talk it’s like “tongues of flame” descend and the dove of the holy spirit comes to rest in our hearts. Ideas, insights, epiphanies just flow, and it’s so sweet. One of the things we began talking about was how powerful an act of kindness can be. Studies have shown that not only does being kind to someone flood our bodies with certain types of endorphins that cause a rush of good feelings, but also the other person to whom we are being kind experiences this amazing physical/emotional response as well.

Izzy was telling me the story of how recently she was standing in line behind a woman buying sheets and pillowcases. However, when the cashier rang up the purchase, the woman didn’t have enough money, so she set the pillowcases aside. Isabelle stepped up and said, “Would you please allow me the pleasure of buying those pillowcases for you?” The woman was stunned and at first said, “No, that’s all right.” However, another woman further down the line had the right idea. She said, “Look, someone is offering you a gift. Just take it and feel happy.”

Research has also shown that the morphic field of kindness doesn’t stop with the giver and the receiver but literally moves out like a wave, raising the endorphin levels of the people surrounding the event and creating somatic shifts in them as well. This reminds me of the story told by a Native American friend of mine. He had been invited by a police officer to come to Long Beach, build an inipi, and conduct a monthly sweat lodge ceremony with a group of young men whom we euphemistically call in our culture, “youth at risk.” As Gene went month after month and met with these young men, the police officer noticed something very strange happening in the community. This particular part of Long Beach was known for its high crime rate, and especially its murder rate. The office started to notice that, statistically, the crime rate was going down, and most significantly the murder rate. It was as if whatever honesty, healing, and deep caring was going on in that sweat lodge was moving out into the community itself, healing some of the chaos, hatred, and desperation of the people who lived there. That’s a mysterious and powerful message.

It seems like a small thing, just being kind. But I’ve been the recipient of kindness many times over the last few years of my life when I really needed it, and sweet acts of simple kindness were sometimes all that kept me going.


I have a wonderful friend named Gretchen who talks about how important it is to give thanks every day when things are going well, but especially when things are going terribly wrong. Nothing gives you the strength to keep going like writing, “I’m grateful for____” ten times on a sheet of paper. It’s astonishing how much there really is to feel thankful about.

Then again, every once in a while we hit a place in life’s road where, for a while at least, everything is golden. I’m on one of those stretches now where in the last week I’ve had so much to be thankful for. I’ve had a long, long period of stress and uncertainty, but now all of that is resolving, piece by piece. So I’d like to end this blog on a note of gratitude.

I’m thankful that my CT and bone scans are completely normal and that I am the poster child for beating cancer, the person my oncologist calls “a miracle.” I’m so glad I can be that miracle and that two years down the road I’m strong and vibrant and enjoying life with all my heart.

I’m thankful for the miraculous rescue of Baby Eaglet Harmon over the past few days. When the Raptor Center took him out of the nest to care for his injuries, it was risky and there was no guarantee that his parents would accept him once they put him back, especially since the whole shebang was accomplished via a truck with a cherry picker. However, literally moments before the kind folks at the RC were about to move in and rescue him again since the parents hadn’t come back in over 24 hours and the poor eaglet was about to spend another night alone in the nest—potential prey for owls and raccoons—Dad swooped in like superman and began feeding the eaglet, and Mom was not far behind.

What I am especially grateful for is watching the chick literally luxuriate in all the new attention and “feeding up” he’s getting. His eagle parents are pretty young and haven’t raised many broods. Before Harmon’s injury, when his wing got stuck in the nest bowl, Mom eagle used to leave the nest often to go shopping at Bloomingdales while the 3-week old baby sat there alone. Now there is almost always a parent in the nest, and Harmon is snuggling with them all the time—attention he needs since his former snuggling partner, his sibling, fell out of the nest a week ago. It gives me such joy to watch him lying sprawled in the nest with a full crop of fish, stretching with contentment.

Finally, I’m thankful that I have made it through the first step of the three-year tenure process at UC Irvine, and that my department has given me their full support and recommendation for my continuing appointment. The first time an instructor undergoes this evaluation, they call it “passing through the eye of the needle,” so you know it’s not easy. In their letter to the higher-up committee that will review my application they wrote:

“With great enthusiasm, the Composition Program recommends that Joy Parker be granted an excellent review and promoted to the status of “Continuing Lecturer.” Joy is one of the most gifted and talented teachers on the Composition faculty, and also a productive colleague and collaborator.”

This is huge hurdle, and I’m over it.

May we all be granted big flashlights in the magical warehouse of life and remember that bad times are followed by good times and that there is always so much to be thankful for.

About Joy Parker

As a three-time cancer survivor and storyteller, I felt compelled to create this blog because I felt the need to connect with an audience and immediately share what I am learning as I am learning it. The material in this blog is serving as the basis for two books that I am writing. The first book talks about how illness is a vehicle that takes us into the unknown land, teaches us things we couldn’t otherwise learn, and then gives us the opportunity to bring them back to our community. It offers a compass and creates a map of the unknown land so that others might find their path more easily. Most important, it shares what I have learned about waking up and being truly alive in this magnificent world. That might sound simple enough, but the actual experience is devastatingly beautiful and powerful. The second project is a book with medicine cards discussing many of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences with healing and as a healer, the indigenous world, and walking a spiritual path. Most important, it is the story of the development of my own personal mythology. People tend to think of myths as massive stories and beliefs that develop in a culture over hundreds or thousands of years. We now live in a time of crisis and we don’t have a hundred years. The time for healing and transformation is now, and we are the ones we have been waiting for.
This entry was posted in 5-7-12 Minnesota Bound Blog - latest update on Harmon, Cancer Survivor, Copying with Anxiety, eagle cams, eagle chick, eagles, Francis Weller, gratitude, Harmon is home, Harmon's parents return, Healing, Live eagle cam, Los Rios District, Love, Malidoma Some, Minnesota Bound, Minnesota-Bound Eagle Cam, Minnesota-Bound Eagle Chick, Mom and Dad eagles return to Harmon, Nature, our life's purpose, prayer, Reda Rackley, Rescue of Harmon, Rescuing Harmon, San Juan Capistrano, Saving Baby Eaglet Harmon, Saving Harmon. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

  1. Looking for ahead to reading extra from you in a while!? Im usually to blogging and i really respect your content.

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