Acts of generosity and the heart of a watermelon
I bought a wonderful end of the summer watermelon last week, and it reminded me of a lovely habit my beloved Baheej had from his childhood. He did this whenever we had a melon.
He'd cut it in half, and then cut out the center "heart" of the melon and served it to me. It is the sweetest piece in the whole watermelon, and no seeds. In Nazareth it was always given to a special person or honored guest. It is an act of generosity, love or respect.
It always made me smile because my family was generous, too, but in a different way -- a Minnesota way. In my childhood, the kind and thoughtful thing to do was to cut the watermelon in such a way that each person in the family got a part of the "heart." We would never start by cutting out the whole piece for just one person!
So as I cut my watermelon the other day, and served the heart to myself, I had to smile.
I was the only one here, so … lucky me.
This memory reminded me of the positive power of generosity, especially the generosity one extends to others. It makes that person feel better, and makes the giver feel better too.
When one is bereaved, we are often the recipient of generosity and kindness. That is a great blessing, especially in the first weeks and months when it's hard to even think straight, much less enjoy anything.
I've found there comes a time in this long journey of grief, where it feels even better to extend a little generosity to someone else.
There are many ways we learn how to cope with and manage our grief: Reading, learning from the experience of others, trial and error, getting out in the community and being part of ongoing social life. I believe there comes a time when we have enough stamina and experience ourselves that we can extend ourselves to others, to help someone else in need or grieving.
I don't mean generosity to the point one depletes his or her needed resources, or that we give away what we cannot afford.
In Nazareth, you had to be careful what you admired when visiting another family's house. If you see a vase or something else you like, be careful what you say. If you say, that's so beautiful or so nice, the host may just give it to you! "You like it, it's yours," which is another form of Nazareth generosity. Baheej warned me so I never made that mistake when visiting someone in the Holy Land, even family.
The point is: Generosity to others makes us feel better and can be given in simple ways: a nice meal, an unexpected phone call or letter, a small gift on a holiday. A cake or batch of cookies. It is a healing action, which benefits those in grief as well as the recipient.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com.