Tag Archives: kindness

Jeanine Winslow

[short story  by Sha’Tara]

Devon avenue is an old street with old trees, old houses and old people. This is where Jeanine Winslow lives, with her old cat. She is a widow now, her old husband died about two years ago, but no one remembers that except Jeanine and the Revenue Service. Jeanine’s house and home is one of the most decrepit small bungalow type houses on the street.

Today is a grey day. It’s raining, a cold, miserable rain that hits the skin as frozen needles. Jeanine’s arthritis is bad today, that being one reason she has been unable to go to the corner store. The other reason, of course, is that as usual the month outlasted the pension and there is not one red cent left in the house. The cat is the fortunate one, he can go outside and hunt mice. There are lots of nice fat mice in his neighbourhood. Yes, it’s his neighbourhood, he’s a cat.

There’s a steady tinkling sound in the small dining room, just behind where Jeanine is now standing and contemplating her situation.  There’s an old, rusty water can on the floor to catch a steady drip from the ceiling, a drip that keeps wandering as the drywall gradually sags lower from the water coming through the old worn out asphalt shingle roof.

A knock on the door takes Jeanine out of her circular thinking about a situation she has no control over. Wiping her tears, she goes and answers the door. On the rickety old porch, long without a roof, two very well dressed young men with briefcases smile at her. She smiles back and politely invites them in. They come in and begin their spiel.

They’re from the local “Tabernacle” they say, and they are collecting funds to finish the inside of their church, and inviting their neighbours to participate in the services.

The tinkling continues as Jeanine, sitting nervously on a small stool, the only two chairs taken by the young men, listens politely. One of the young men stares at the drip in the can, then follows it to the sagging ceiling. It impresses itself on his mind as his father is the owner of a local lumber yard and he’s done some construction himself. He understands this lady’s problem but says nothing, letting his partner do the talking.

Finally the spiel is over. They stand, realizing that this woman was certainly not made of money and perhaps they’d have better luck on another street. They make to leave when suddenly Jeanine finds her courage and her tongue to say something to these nice young men. She does not berate them or call down their religion, or their God. Far from that. Jeanine is a very kind lady. But there is something she needs to do.

She grabs the coat sleeve of one young man and say, “Please, don’t go yet. There is something here I need to show you. Please follow me?”

They follow as she leads them deeper into the old house, through a short, dark corridor. She opens the door to a tiny bedroom and in the bed, two small children, obviously a boy and girl and obviously siblings, sleep, the little girl sucking her thumb, the little boy having his arm over her in a protective way.

“I found them downtown five days ago, she says. They were crying and hungry, abandoned as so many are. What could I do but take them home, feed them, wash them and provide them with a bit of warmth and the comfort of a few sheets and blankets? I have nothing to dress them in and their own clothes were nothing but dirty rags. Now… I have nothing left to feed them. I just wanted you to know that it is not because I’m stingy that I didn’t give you anything, it’s that I don’t have anything… nothing. I’m sorry.”

The two very nice young men looked at each other and something flashed between them, some thoughts that found agreement. The oldest of the two, the one who had done the presentation, spoke then.

“We’re sorry too, very sorry. Look, here’s forty dollars that I have on me. Take that for now, and I promise we will be back.”

The younger searched his own pockets and came up with another fifteen dollars and some change. He also handed that over.

With a trembling hand, Jeanine took the money and the look on her face showed all the gratitude that words could never express. The young men left and Jeanine, knowing the children could be trusted to stay in the bed, got dressed for the cold and wet, painfully put her winter boots on and went shopping, slowly dragging her old two wheeled cart and counting her steps as was her habit.

Two days later, early morning, the storm having passed and the pale winter sun having made his appearance in a bright blue sky, a construction truck loaded with roofing materials and several cars pulled up along Devon avenue, close to Jeanine Winslow’s cottage. One man walked up to Jeanine’s front door while the rest, a crew of some seven men and three women, began to unload the truck and wheelbarrow the materials to the house. Ladders came next.

The “foreman” whose name is Jason Farnham and none other than the owner of the lumber yard, had gone to speak to Jeanine and got her shocked OK, for the work to proceed forthwith. The old roof was quickly peeled off and the happy pounding of air nailers and commands hurled back and forth filled the yard. Two women, one a strong teenager, the other, middle aged, went into the house and after moving the meagre furniture and spreading a tarp, pulled down the damp drywall. While finishing they explained to Jeanine,

“We’re sorry about the rush but the drywallers are only available tomorrow. They’ll start at 10:00 AM sharp and they’ll be done the hanging by noon. We’ll be back to finish the taping and mudding tomorrow afternoon. Any mess, we will clean up and we’ll paint next week. Is all this OK with you, Mrs. Winslow?”

“I… Yes, of course, yes…” She sat, small and quiet, with her big tomcat in her lap, her face in her hands. She didn’t know what to make of all that was happening. She thought, maybe she should just let it happen. And that’s what she did: let it happen. She went to the children’s bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed where they were occupied drawing and colouring. They looked up at her and smiled and her heart nearly burst with joy.

The small, basic roof was completed in record time and while the roof crew was cleaning up and running the magnet along the walls for stray nails, the foreman went back in the house, expressed his satisfaction on the removal of the old damp drywall then addressed Jeanine.

“Mrs. Winslow, I must apologize for our brisk performance but we just wanted to get this done in the shortest time while the sun was shining. We didn’t want to leave you as your situation was described to us so we put our emergency crew together, gathered the materials and soon I promise, your life will be back to normal, minus the roof worry. We will also put a new roof on your front porch. That, and new steps, comes later this week. I would have called you, and certainly we should have sent someone to warn you, but you don’t have a phone and we didn’t think there was any option either for you, or us so we decided to act instead of debate. My son Steve, whom you’ve met, was very persuasive and quite insistent.

“We will need to talk about the two children you are harbouring. The situation will have to be, shall we say, legalized? We have a couple of very compassionate people who we rely on to discuss these situations. Would you agree to meeting with them?”

“Yes I very much would. I know I can’t keep them but I need to know they will be sent to a good home. They really are wonderful kids, you know? I wish I could have them meet all of you but I’ve got them wrapped up in old clothes of mine and my husband. I haven’t been able to go shopping for children’s clothes, I’m sorry.”

“Did you get that, Leona? The kids need clothing. Could you leave the clean up to the rest of the crew and go get some children’s clothes from our good will box? If you can’t find anything there, please go and buy em.”

“OK, sure Jason. Be back shortly.”

“Leona’s my wife, we’re a team! I’ve got to go, Mrs. Winslow but there’s a couple of things to settle yet. First, here’s a check for $500 to help you get through this time. Second, and most importantly, everything we did, or will do, for you, is our choice. You owe us nothing and we certainly do not expect you to join or attend our church or any such thing. You will not be embarrassed by having to give any testimony. When we’re finished, we’re finished. Certainly, should you need further help you are welcome to get in touch with us – use the lumber yard – but that’s it. We are very happy to have the means to help you and others like yourself. Is that all OK with you then?”

“Yes Mr. Farnham. Yes it is. Thank you.”




A Difficult but Necessary Matter of Balance

 (thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara)

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, being as they say, busy.  But surprisingly, I’ve had time, perhaps too much time, to think about this world, about its overall condition and where it is heading, apparently heedless and unaware.  I know this is a judgment forming an opinion, but not once in my entire life of 70 years has my sense of where things are going ever been wrong.  It’s like a compass in my mind, something I can “see” and rely on entirely, basing my personal movements on it, knowing when to “hold and when to fold” as the song goes.

I feel massive waves of sorrow passing over me time and again, triggered by many encounters: a baby in its mother’s arms; an old man hunched over waiting to safely cross a busy street; a homeless lady holding a sign saying, ‘Please buy my CD, I’m hungry’ and displaying a CD she probably found in a dumpster – (she got lucky: I saw her and I chose to believe her despite all the propaganda against her) or even moved to a helpless stop by the wind’s choreography of tree branches not yet covered in leaves.  A house hunched behind a sagging gate; a rusting sign from a business that went broke years before…  

Have you ever just “thought” about “the world” and had tears well in your eyes until they started flowing down your cheeks?  Closed your eyes and brought your hands together as if in prayer, though you don’t pray?  Then thinking, ‘Do I want to be here?’ and knowing the answer is ‘No, I don’t want to feel this, this way, connected to this chaos of ignorance, of pain, of apparent mindlessness.  I don’t want to be the stranger any longer; to not be able to speak to the trees, the birds, the clouds.  I’m tired of just feeling and finding it so terribly difficult to harness those feelings; to draw intelligence, awareness, understanding, acceptance and meaningful teaching from them.  That is probably neither their purpose, nor task but I’m breaking the rules here.’ 

Life, I find, is like driving a street.  Some parts are smooth, some rough.  Some are safe and some, well, you may not get out of alive.  The truly sad part is, much of life is entered into without its overall costs duly assessed.  People are programmed, it seems, to repeat patterns and unable to stop and consider the risks, the odds, based on previous lives, previous experiences of elder people, or people in history.  ‘What are my chances this is going to work as I hope?’ Is not the question asked.  Plunge into the swamp, there are no alligators here!  But there are, disguised as floating logs.  You may have passed your swimming tests and won medals, but guaranteed: terror is but a splash behind you, and it isn’t virtual reality. 

Too dark a vision?  Probably, but some of us have chosen a path that runs counter to that of the herd and we see that which the herd isn’t permitted to see, and would not want to see in any case. 

Someone has to shed burning hot tears for the dying.  It’s a difficult but necessary matter of balance.  


The Gift of a Life Changed

                                        [a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Oh, he knew her so well.  He remembered how she came and hovered over his crib when he was a tiny baby; how she fretted over him, and kept his rattle or soother at hand.  She was his “other” mom, and the older sister he never had.

Over the years she had come to him at different junctures of his life.  He remembered the glow of her presence at his first communion and later, his confirmation.  She encouraged him, and gently taught him to notice how other people, especially his elders, teachers and parents, lived their lives.  Don’t judge them too harshly, she’d whisper, but notice the hypocrisy, always notice that.  Don’t confront them, just note and remember.  Especially remember. 

Then he grew up and he didn’t see her during his time of rebellion, anger, chaos and confusion.  He saw girls instead and he lusted after them.  He did stupid things, boastful, ignorant, hurtful; things that endangered the lives of others.  It was as if he was possessed to do evil.  The girl he dated became pregnant.  He still had a sense of the old chivalry he’d learned from his childhood fairy tales and fantasies.  He asked her to marry him and she accepted.  Not the best start, but on their wedding day, she was there again.  He saw the glow and suddenly his heart opened and guilt filled his mind to overflowing. 

The moment passed.  Life was tough enough.  Wife, kids, a mortgage, car payments, responsibilities he was trained to handle, but nevertheless, stress.  There were other things to impede the good life: a growing awareness that the world was not a great place to be.  There was “the war” that needed protesting – he’d become a conscientious objector and tried to live by some personal code of non-violence.  There were draft dodgers from across the border to help find shelter and jobs.  Then environmental issues took priority and his life grew very complex and a darkness grew in his heart. 

The marriage failed.  He found himself, thanks to his losses, freed of a commitment he felt was complete.  But the darkness held him down.  He re-discovered religion and attended church.  It provided little.  He saw more of the old hypocrisy.  He saw how the claims failed to match the lifestyle.  Disappointed and discouraged he struck out alone looking for something, not finding. 

Lost in mid-life, he was walking along the river shore one cloudy day and sat on a fallen log on the bank.  Staring at the shining waters flowing past him, he formulated a prayer, or rather a request.  He addressed her and said, “You know, I’ve made a complete mess of things.  I wanted to do right, and did wrong.  I wanted to change the world and couldn’t even change myself.  The things I’ve done are horrible to me.  I’m sorry for my ignorance and stupidity, but most of all, I’m sorry for my pride. 

I need you to help me now, though I don’t deserve it.  I’m going to ask your for the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that it cannot be bestowed on anyone, that it can only be earned through experience.  I am asking you to grant me the gift of humility.  Only with that can I re-learn to live with myself.  I don’t expect to suddenly become humble, but I need you to guide my heart into this new and alien territory I intend to walk across until I reach the other side.  I’m going to proceed knowing that you are here, guiding me, and reminding me.  Thank you.

And so it was that he gradually changed.  He did not feel any more humble, rather the opposite, but others noticed.  Always he’d be shocked when they said something, or praised him for his kindness or gentleness.  That can’t be me, he thought.  Then he’d know she was there, calming his heart, softening his hands, making him choose his words with care, showing him how to proceed in all situations.  Over time he understood what it meant to be blessed.  He thought, I find it so amazing that the less I possess and the more I give away, the more I have; the more filled I feel.  And he learned to laugh. 

He lived long past his chosen time.  Those who knew him believed he’d discovered the secret of immortality but that was only their hope he’d always be around.  One day he left.  He walked away with only a small overnight pack on his back.  She walk silently beside him, then she touched him.  He was never seen again.  

A friend of his, having understood, said, we held on to him much too long.  We made him feel guilty about leaving but finally he allowed himself to hurt us a bit so he could claim his own freedom.  He’ll never be completely gone for he lives in each of us.  What he showed us, the wisdom he taught and the changes he wrought: those are the pieces of his heart we hold within ourselves.  He’s still here, giving us of himself when we emulate his burning joy.

Quote: Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside you can give you any place… In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.” ― Flannery O’Connor





     The Star Dancer

       I have no recollection of having posted this very short story.  If I did, it would have been many months ago, and “followers” have changed drastically since.  If it is a repeat for you, just ignore, although I have made some edits.  thank you.                                               

                                                               a short story by  ~ Sha’Tara ~

One could almost say she had the characteristics of a winter bird without stretching the comparison.  A killdeer on a windswept dune in December heard only after darkness covers the shores, that would describe her presence. 

Slim of build, almost translucent of skin, she could stand in perfect stillness beside a doorway and remain unseen by those passing in and out.  Generally silent, there was a quality to her voice that demanded stillness and silence.  Not from weakness nor self-pity, her way of remaining in the background was her means of allowing her to observe the world, voicing some of her thoughts little more than the occasional soft word.  She could just as easily remain alert and active for long hours without apparently tiring.  Never was she seen indulging food or drink beyond a body’s basic needs.  Her pleasure, and she radiated pleasure, did not emanate from satisfying carnal desires. 

She was not what would be called pretty, but she was truly beautiful, with the movements of a small wild animal raising its head to look inquisitively at the world; with the velvety touch of an angel.  And what to say of her attire?  She wore no makeup and draped herself in the simplest of styles, in second-hand clothes.  If asked why she didn’t spend more on herself, she’d smile, as if shyly, and shrug.  “It doesn’t go with the innocence of children,” would be the extent of her explanation on the subject. 

Certainly, the innocence of a child would have described her.  She was called naïve by some.  To that she’d reply, “Do not confuse naïvety with innocence.  I choose to remain innocent.  It is my way of counteracting the many grave faults of this man’s world.  Do not make the mistake of thinking I am unaware of what goes on here or helpless to do anything about it.”  Only then did her voice take on the severe tone of the Teacher, a tone of voice loaded with implications which none but the awakened caught.

She was an empath.  Compassionate.  When she interacted with strangers, she mostly smiled and helplessly, they would smile back at her and then at one-another.  All children who met her were attracted to her, that is until the time when their innocence was forcibly taken from them.  Then she faded from their eyes and their memory.  They will not remember her until they get old and tears will roll down their lined faces in realization of what they had encountered; what they could have learned; how much it could have changed their lives.  

There were tragedies in her life as in every life.  Through it all, she brought hope and comfort where none existed.  That was her nature — to give, not to take.  It was as if she gave her own flesh and blood to those in need.  She “fed and clothed” by what she did not spend on herself – that was one of her “open” secrets.  But with each sorrow, her translucence increased.  A dawn would come to finally dim her starlight beyond earthly recall.

It didn’t matter what they called her, I recognized her from times before time.  She was of the Star Dancers; those whose home is the infinity of the Cosmos; who scatter themselves as stardust over myriad of worlds and touch the lives of countless others.  Sadly, yes, some of us get lost and for long periods, sleep in forgetfulness.  Our memories of the Star Dancer are but myths in the conflagration of time that burns within our confused minds.

But she did come.  A speck of dust on the wind, perhaps, but she appeared on our horizon, burning off into the skies like a meteorite. 

What does that matter now that she is gone, you may well ask?  What matters is, she came, scattered a bit of magic stardust and there was joy where none was to be had; there was hope where despair had held sway. 

What matters is, I can now remember and continue to do some of what she began.  How could anyone forget such a passing?  How could anyone mourn?  How could anyone who ever encountered her not make a supreme effort to remember?