Touched by Kindness
How I saved the world’s economy by eating chocolate, and how I spread compassion by learning how to make hummus
Loving kindness cannot stop at yourself: if it does, it keeps you stuck at the egocentric, narcissistic stage of development. It also cannot be self-effacing, giving to others while denying yourself, because what you give to others is tainted by hidden agendas of the unconscious, seeking approval or advantage or reciprocity, without really being conscious of it.
A couple of weeks ago, an email announced me of a boycott against Israel. As a good Israeli, I decided to respond by buying something Israeli. I ran to the store, and stocked on Israeli imported chocolate, snack foods – Bamba; tea with Nana (the Mediterranean spearmint) and spicy crushed green olives. Israel, don’t worry, I’m behind you! I may have just saved your economy!
Why does people’s kindness always make me cry? Actually, human cruelty makes me cry too. Maybe it’s just me, crying at the drop of a needle. But the tears that stream down my face when I witness an act of human loving kindness have a different quality about them than tears of pain: I feel my heart opening in a warm glow, and a wave of deep affection takes over me, wanting me to open my arms wide and embrace everyone in the story: the givers, the receivers and the watchers of the kindness act. If I could have it my way, I’d be hugging and kissing everyone in sight, tears of affection drizzling everywhere over their clothes.
This is how I feel when I do something kind, especially when it’s not easy for me, when acting requires me to sacrifice the agendas of the small ego and do that which is inconvenient but loving: like taking down an Alex Grey poster from the wall to hang my husband’s favorite painting, which I dislike.
Recently I visited a couple of schools, in my quality as a speaker for Passages to Canada, to offer the students presentations on my immigration experience. One group of nine and ten graders, had quite a few immigrants among them. In my presentation I listed a few of the ethnic foods and habits I became familiar with when I moved to Israel from Romania: Moroccans drink tea with sprigs of spearmint, in transparent glasses; they cook their rice with saffron and dried fruit and blanched almonds. Iranians eat bunches of herbs ‘sabzi’ with their food, together with raw onions and radishes. They drink their tea sucking on caramelized sugar wafers called ‘pulaki’. Their rice is burned on the bottom, and the kids in the Persian family fights for the crunchy layer of rice.
When I spoke of Indian chai, curry and pickles, the two Indian girls in the class smiled happily, and added to my listing. “How do you make falooda?” I asked. “You put milk, vermicelli, cumin…” they replied.
“No, too grainy” I complained.
I have a theory: when people eat each other’s food, they get to know each other intimately. Sharing food builds community. Friendships are born around food. When food is exchanged, like in a potluck party, energy is being exchanged as well. Distances between people diminish, and bridges are formed. Learn someone’s language and food, and you know them better; you know them better means you are closer to them; you are closer to them means, Love can flow. Fear needs distance in order to exist; it’s in reverse proportion to closeness.
“Sharing food builds community. Friendships are born around food. “
I go home happy and grateful for lending my hand at building a bridge between cultures. I further my diligent efforts to saving the world by sinking my teeth in a luscious bar of Canadian-bought Israeli made Swiss milk chocolate with caramel filling.