Dec 28

Twitter Post Speed and a White Peace Dove

Bird of Peace outside library - Photo by Sharani
Bird of Peace outside library - Photo by Sharani
My co-worker called it the ham radio of the modern age. I had just described to him that I learned of Bhutto’s assassination before it was even being reported in news articles on the Web because I saw it first on a twitter post from Infodiva, a librarian in San Francisco whom I follow in my “with others” section of my own twitter account.

I was getting ready to update my own twitter post with something reflecting that the Christmas holiday had now passed and she had just twittered about Bhutto’s death. When I quickly hopped over to Google News, no newspaper article over the Internet had yet to announce this tragic moment. I was hoping she was somehow wrong but shortly thereafter the updated news announcements began to stream in from newspapers worldwide.

If anyone ever belittles Twitter and its place in the roster of Internet tools, I will simply tell them my own experience yesterday when Twitter was faster than Google for breaking news of great significance.

This unexpected start to my day came full circle as my shift at the library drew to a close that same evening. One of my co-workers who is constantly pulling our leg and playing practical jokes on us said to us that peace is coming in the new year because there is a white bird sitting on the railing just outside the building entrance. We figured he was teasing us but one by one we went outside to look and take photos of the bird. It appeared too fine and unafraid of us to be a wild bird and we lamented what to do with this lost or abandoned albino fancy pigeon – or at least that is what we thought we were observing.

The fellow who found the bird outside first ended up putting it in a box and bringing it home to feed it bread and water. How does one even begin to track down the rightful owner of this domesticated large bird? As I write this post, I’m not sure of the outcome yet because none of my co-workers want to adopt it as a new pet.

That a bird symbolic of peace landed in my life the same day of Benazir Bhutto’s death made quite an impression on me. I wrote the following poem as I ruminated on the uncanny events in this day of birds.

Gone Astray

A day starts and ends
wrapped in wings
of unexpected falling
and tumbling dreams.

Morning Twitter post
I read of Bhutto’s fall
before CNN and BBC
before the Internet
distance drum shout.

A teasing night shift worker
from his ever joking voice,
We are going to have peace.
There is a white bird outside
our library tonight
as we leave for
home and hearth.

No jest – the avian albino
with fancy feathered feet
adopts a perch outside
our door
a peace reminder
in the dross of this
fierce and sadness day.

With the white bird
tamely placed in a box
- yet homeless
He takes it away
for bread and water
under strict orders to keep
his bravado reputation
intact.

Can we put a scrawled sign
on the street post?
Found: One White Dove
Call to claim
your rightful home
in humanity’s inner sanctum.

Can we scratch away
the dark hours of man?
Rewrite history -
slash mark across the
calendar page
tear into little
white fluttering feathers
for a molten light of peace.

The white bird
has gone astray.
O day of birds
pray let the peace dove
migrate your way.
-Sharani 12/28/07

This day came full circle in an odd and poignant manner. I close with a quote about peace doves from harmony leader and visionary Sri Chinmoy:

Dove, my dove,
You sing the song of peace.
The aspiring human beings
Are all on their knees
Before God
To have your eternal treasure.
Without you, life is nothing but
A destructive pressure.
With you, life is fulfilled satisfaction
In measureless measure.
-Sri Chinmoy

Dec 23

Kindness and the Unexpected

Acts of Kindness at Bloggers Unite
Acts of Kindness at Bloggers Unite

When I first wrote a post taking part in the Bloggers Unite Acts of Kindness Day on December 17th, 2oo7, I did not know yet what unexpected stopping points this girl on a road would encounter. I am taking a moment to write again now that my goal fast approaches of completing 9 different actions leading up until Christmas Day.

I feel a little embarrassed in writing because my actions were eminently ordinary as far as charitable giving goes during the holiday season. However, unexpected moments and serendipity accompanied me along this journey offering me far more blessings than any I might have shared.

My journey began with the great and noble inspiration found in ten year old Laura Stockman who decided to share some form of kindness from December 1st through December 25th in memory of her much loved deceased grandfather. With nine days between December 17th and December 25th, I chose to strive for 9 acts of kindness, however simple.

9 Activities
(when things like answering Dear Santa letters at the post office didn’t work out)

1. Create a Candle Group at Gratefulness.org for a hospital bed bound friend.

2. Donate to a family in the town where I live at Gem Plumbing’s “Random Acts of Kindness” holiday initiative. I first learned of this local effort while listening to Lite 105 FM’s continuous Christmas music on the radio during December. I was in tears listening to one story of help given to a family whose father had been badly injured on the job.

3. Buy toys for the U.S. Marines “Toys for Tots” drive.

4. Buy 2 kid’s new winter coats with matching hat and mittens and one of the same for an adult. Almost gave to Burlington Coat Factory’s Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Campaign but am offering directly to a community center seeking winter coats.

5. Put a 20.00 bill into the Salvation Army Kettle instead of a 1.00 bill.

6. Baked cookies and brought as gifts to various places such as my doctor’s offices.

7. Wrote a check to the campaign to keep a public library operating despite budget difficulties in the town where it is located.

8. Gave a grocery store gift card to a friend who lost his job and has not started collecting unemployment yet.

9. Brought back the library books of the woman whose husband had died that day and gave away a 20 percent off total purchase coupon for the Christmas Tree Shops to a woman who had a carriage overflowing with holiday items. Ironically, I would have saved 12.00 myself by the time I left the store if I had kept the coupon instead of giving it away. I knew that these coupons almost never exist and that the newspaper it ran in might not be something the people at that store would have seen since the newspaper was in the adjoining state.

Two moments that struck me deeply during these nine efforts involved death – something I have myself been processing recently with the passing of my dear spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy on October 11th, 2007.

First Unexpected Moment
When I tried to make arrangements to visit a local friendly 91-year old man that I first met while walking in the neighborhood during my job’s lunch hour, the phone number I hunted down said it had been disconnected. With further detective work, I managed to find the phone number (at least I hoped it was it) of his grown daughter who lived next door. I left a voice message and when she returned my call later that afternoon she said that her father had passed away a couple of weeks ago. Then she said that her husband had just died today and that the funeral home had just recently come to the house to help her make arrangements for her husband’s funeral and burial.

Since I work in a library, she mentioned how one of the things she would have to do included returning his currently borrowed library books. I instantly offered to pick up the books and return them. I ended up coming over to her place after leaving work and tried to offer comfort and company as she awaited the arrival of one of her grown sons who worked up near Boston. She showed me the obituary for her father and gave me a Catholic memorial card for him as well. I never expected that this intended effort would turn out as a gesture of sympathy with such uncanny timing.

Second Unexpected Moment
One of my other intended activities from my post on Acts of Kindness day was to bake gingerbread men/women and bring them as a holiday offering to places such as the doctor’s office where I had an appointment later that week. True confessions! While I have been the lucky recipient of goodies during the holidays at the public library where I work, I had never reciprocated before by baking cookies for others besides co-workers.

Please now picture very red shades of embarrassment when I admit that those cookies were not an easy task. The dough kept sticking to the cookie cutter no matter how much more flour I added and the decorator icing didn’t harden – something I neglected to notice when I purchased it. With waxed paper to the rescue, I was up until the wee hours of the morning trying to get these cookies together to bring to the doctor’s office, the physical therapist’s office and the library in the town where I live.

When I arrived the next morning for my appointment, the ever sweet secretary asked me if I knew that the doctor’s 52-year old sister had just suddenly and unexpectedly passed away the prior week. She showed me the obituary and I recalled how she used to work in the office taking blood pressure when her father was still alive and part of the medical office. I felt so humbled that every drop of sweat on my brow while making these cookies was a drop of insignificance and I was so grateful to suddenly have a gift that could also serve as a consolation offering.

Lasting Impact?

I am really grateful that Bloggers Unite decided to suggest an Acts of Kindness day in which bloggers all over the world could focus on sharing gifts of kindness large and small. Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy writes:

One brave step is not too much to take.
Take one brave step toward your
destined goal.
One kind word is not too much to say.
Say one kind word to the lost,
orphaned world.
One soulful smile is not too much to offer.
Offer one soulful smile and transform
the face of the world,
Within and without.
-Sri Chinmoy

I do hope that this focus during the holiday season can blossom into an outlook in which Sri Chinmoy’s following words can also resonate:

May my morning begin
With the breath of kindness
And sweetness.
-Sri Chinmoy

Dec 18

Light a Candle at Gratefulness.org

I first learned about Light a Candle and the wonderful site Gratefulness.org when I read an article by Sascha Zuger called “How to make someone’s day… for $20 or less (or even nothing)” in the October 2, 2007 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. Gratefulness.org is a nonprofit organization and international Internet community dedicated to increasing a spirit of gratitude in our daily lives.

Perhaps the most beloved part of this site is the Light a Candle feature. Begun in 2001, 4 1/2 million candles have been lit representing over 200 countries. This powerful contemplative tool begins by inviting the participant to reflect before continuing. Then you can enter a message, your name and country and you click on the wick to light the candle. It burns virtually for 48 hours. One can also create a thematic group and invite friends to light a candle in the spirit of a particular person or cause.

Today I created a candle group for a fellow spiritual brother Dharmaja in the Sri Chinmoy Centre from San Diego, California. He has been hospital bound on the East Coast since a little over a year ago. His cheerfulness in the face of his current physical limitations is a beacon of light in itself and an example for all the hearts he continues to touch.

I do hope if you have never heard of this special place on the Web that you explore its offerings. There is also a wonderful collection of articles on the subject of gratitude and its immense value in our lives. The Light a Candle graphic will take you to Dharmaja’s group. Please join me in wishing him well in this very special way.

P.S. this candle group is one of my activities to try to share kindness moments from Dec. 17th – Acts of Kindness Day – until Christmas Day.

Dec 17

Acts of Kindness Day 12-17-07

Acts of Kindness Bloggers Unite
Acts of Kindness Bloggers Unite
December 17th is Acts of Kindness Day at BloggersUnite – Bloggers Unite is part of blogcatalog, a social blog directory that lists blogs by topic.

They call their efforts “an initiative designed to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, a single voice can be joined with thousands of others to help make a real positive difference…”

I love the idea of committing random and in this case not so random acts of kindness. With this initiative, the idea is to have hundreds of people all over the world offering some moment of kindness and then blogging about it afterwards.

In the spirit of Laura Stockman, the 10-year old girl who is doing 25 things during the month of December in the spirit of the Christmas season, I want to try to do 9 things – the number of days between Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 – ideally one thing each day. Today will be day one instead of day only. I felt as if my ideas on only a couple of days notice were not sufficient enough to make a decent splash if I limited it just to Dec. 17th.

So what to do? This morning after I finished my daily session of prayer and meditation I was seized with excitement and anticipation in coming up with 9 acts of kindness instead of just one to do today. I jotted down the following brainstorm ideas:

  • Give a 50.00 gift card to the local supermarket I received as a holiday present from my union at work to a friend who recently lost his job and hasn’t started collecting unemployment yet. He said he has virtually no savings so I know he needs this supermarket gift card much more than I do.
  • Set up a candle group at Gratefulness.org/candles for a friend who has been confined to a hospital bed for over a year.
  • Bake gingerbread men and bring in for co-workers plus as a holiday gift for the chiropractor’s office when I go for an appt. on Friday.
  • Give away a seldom-offered coupon for the Christmas Tree Shop to someone with a large carriage of items who does not have the coupon from the newspaper.
  • Try to become a Santa elf for the post office and purchase gifts for someone who sent a letter to Santa through the local post office. Beanelf.org
  • Donate toys for a local Toys for Tots holiday gift drive. Cardi’s Furniture stores are accepting items.
  • Put a 20.00 bill instead of a single into a Salvation Army kettle outside the supermarket.
  • Pay somebody’s gas or drive-through order behind me in line.
  • Go visit the 91-year old gentleman I met while walking in the neighborhood on my lunch hour. *** I called his daughter today and he passed away Nov. 28th as well as her husband passing away today. This plan is now modified to me going to her house after work to pick up her late husband’s library materials to return them for her.***

Do you have any other ideas for me to do? I welcome all comments and suggestions and am feeling so inspired to try to extend the Acts of Kindness Day into a whole week!

Related: My blog post at the Sri Chinmoy Centre site about befriending the 91-year old neighbor to my workplace while out walking. A Friendly Reminder

Dec 14

The Panorama of my Silence-Heart Cafe

Panorama of my Silence-Heart Cafe - Photo by Sharani
Panorama of my Silence-Heart Cafe - Photo by Sharani
A new addition to the Briarwood neighborhood in Jamaica Queens, New York serves up lattes and delectable vegetarian fare with a dollop of serenity and artsy atmosphere for garnish. Since its debut in August 2007, owner Ketan Goldman has quickly created an inviting atmosphere with great espresso, teas, hearty salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Dubbed The Panorama of my Silence-Heart Cafe by spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, the name really fits.

Even if you are surfing with the free WiFi, getting a triple blast of espresso softened with rich cream (Infinite Bliss specialty drink) or tapping to the beat of live musicians, a quiet feeling of inner serenity slowly pervades your outlook. As you take in the colorful decor, the books on the browsing shelf about meditation and spirituality by Sri Chinmoy or the fragrant beauty of flowers on the tables and counter, the term “silence-heart” takes on tangible meaning as you relax into the cafe’s ambience.

Panorama Cafe - Photo by Sharani
Panorama Cafe - Photo by Sharani

Yet it’s the food that will keep you coming back even more than the atmosphere! You will sing hallelujah if you time a visit to coincide with chocolate chip/chunk cookies coming warm out of the oven. Mine was so warm and melted that I ate it on a plate with a fork and these cookies baked by the cafe rank among my all-time favorite.

Or if you get a chocolate brownie I am ready to similarly guarantee that it will soon be your new “best” for this baked good as well. The hot chocolate with whipped cream was a winner with myself and my companions. Organic loose leaf teas are steeped and/or iced one order at a time and the blueberry rooibos is a fruity robust flavor perfect for the caffeine free crowd.

The chicken caesar salad is a generous filling meal in itself and panini sandwiches such as the Chevrole with goat cheese and tomato on an onion panini is also a crowd pleaser. Sunday brunch is the best of all. A prix fix includes varying fare such as a banana frappe, muffin, crepes or eggs.

Whatever your choice, Ketan’s gourmet touch shines through. Even the potato chips are not your ordinary style but the Route 11 brand which has won numerous accolades. In fact, you can enjoy a variety of menu items and entirely forget that you have just eaten from a vegetarian and even possibly vegan menu.

In between socializing over cappuccino, people watching the local college student crowd and noshing on waffles, don’t forget to check out the local photography exhibit on the wall just past the counter or tickle the ivories of the piano on the back wall. By the time you walk out the door, you will utter a sigh of contentment in your share of the panorama of offerings to be found at Panorama Cafe.

Restaurant Review at QueensPRESS.com

Restaurant Review at Times Ledger

Location: 84-73 Parsons Blvd. near the Parsons Blvd. stop on the F train. Hours: Seven days a week from 7 a.m.-9 p.m., with the exception of Wednesday, when it closes at 6 p.m. For more information: call 718-526-0723.