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Simply Kind Tuesdays : Week 29 : Guest post by MJ Ryan

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Claudia here:  MJ Ryan is one of my personal heroes.  She's so many things to so many people. To me, she's an excellent example of someone who, uncomfortably, uncertainly, yet magnificently  follows her own path. If you havn't enjoyed the luxury of reading one of her books, I'd strongly encourage you to pick one up.  My favorite, so far, is This Year I will. I had the heart pounding joy of an email exchange yesterday. She selected the following passage from her latest book, AdaptAbility,  for today's Simply Kind Tuesdays. I'll have a review of the book and copy to give away later on in the month.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things....Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing...

from Naomi Shihab Nye's Different Ways to Pray

One of the upsides about unasked-for change is that it a great leveler. Suddenly we're more aware that we're part of a huge human community struggling for survival. Then we're faced with a choice. We can see it as every person for him- or herself and try to grab whatever goodies are available. Or we can allow our awareness that we're all in this together to open our hearts and offer as much kindness and help as we can.

Being kind helps the giver at least as much as the receiver. As Studs Terkel put it in one of his last interviews, "Once you become active helping others, you feel alive. You don't feel, 'it's my fault.' You become a different person. And others are changed too.' When we focus on someone else's problems, we put our own in perspective. Plus we take a break from worrying about ourselves, which is always a good thing. A friend who was in a California fire zone last summer emailed me during the time it wasn't clear whether she lost her house, saying, "If we focus on helping others, panic diminishes."

I keep reading that volunteerism is up. Maybe we're all getting it. Maybe one of the effects of this monster wave of change we're all trying to cope with is that we'll turn toward one another, not against. I fervently hope so.

--M.J. Ryan, excerpted from AdaptAbility, How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For (Broadway Books, May 2009.) www.mj-ryan.com