A Practical Table: Simple Kindness, and the Kindness of Simplicty

I'm transfering over some of the posts from the old blog now, a start anyway. This one was originally from back in October of 2006....


Though her blog is no longer online, when this post was originally written i had been moved by a passage from Plain and Simple:

"Simple living is a very personal construct ...where we have to find our feet and follow our instincts; and my path may not be the same as your own. However, I think there are certain commonalities between all those who aim to simplify and before I go on it is probably best to outline them, however briefly.

Firstly, most of us know that the way we live needs to be more environmentally aware if we are sustain life on this planet. There are those that argue, quite rightly, that the fact that I make minor changes in the way I live does little affect the environment in a positive way. However insignificant our contribution we must do what we can as we are in stewardship of the Earth. Simple living is a practical expression of the respect I feel for God's provision. Secondly most people who live simply live on a smaller income, that is why simple living is so very useful to those who feel it is of great importance to "go home". Our grandmothers and great grandmothers knew that their way of life depended on the way in which they managed the household income, they knew the importance of thrift. ....Thirdly, simple living is an expression of your true needs. For some folk this means shelter, food, warmth; nothing more. For me, following a simple path has had wider implications. Besides the need for shelter, food and warmth, I have found that I need a garden, a good quality oven, a computer, "pin" money, a bath, my knitting, a washing machine, music and books. I can live without the television and a dishwasher but I can't live without contentment. For me, simple living is about balance - taking what you need but no more..."


So now all this got me wondering... is there also a word maybe, a hub, under simplicity? And what jumped up so strongly and immediately was the word kindness. And kindness, that really does feels to me to be the "hub"...Simplicity isnt about self deprivation when it comes down to it. In a word, simplicity is about kindness ...being kind to ourselves and our loved ones with more peace and more time, being kind to the earth by not hurting her, being kind to God by slowing down and finally hearing Him, and being kind to all of the above by living more "directly" (feeling that pulse, that heartbeat, that realness of the sacred in the mundane...for example by gratefully getting our food from the garden or an awareness it was from Gods garden anyway if from elsewhere, feeling the sacred life there, the journey it made to nourish us, and saying our grace before our meals, etc...). These things are all part of the same package really, all part of kindness, and so all at the root of simplicity.

And the reverse is true too I feel. My own little journey here so far, its taught that stressful deprivation, even to one's self, sure isnt kind. And that polluting and wasting isnt kind, thats why I can't help but feel appauled when i see folks who claim simplicity and yet use toxic polluting things. And that turning your back on our Father who loves us isnt kind, thats why I cant ever seem to picture simplicity without prayer and contemplation. And that distancing ourselves from that heartbeat in things by living so indirectly and apart from things is not being kind fourfold, and that that goes the deepest of all. At this point in my life, I've come to believe that we can't just "pick and choose" with this stuff by only being kind in one area--I think this kindess has to be a package--kind to ourselves, kind to others, kind to our Earth, and of course kind to our God--to have simplicity. I feel in my gut that if you take one of those four walls away that the whole house will eventually fall apart. We need all four walls.


I feel such a treasure of true simplicity in this Proverbs verse:

Wisdom has built her house,s
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens;
she callsfrom the heights out over the city:
“Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding.-
-Proverbs 9: 1-6

The feeling of the four walls of the house spoken of in the above section (kindness to self, to others, to our earth, and to God) brings me right back to those Proverbs verses now, and reminds me how much I really love them. And a house image for simplicity, I really like the feeling of that. And yet I have to add, those same four walls may be built differently for different people I'm realizing.

Take the second one, the wall about not polluting etc and thus not harming our precious earth. That wall for me is very firmly about things like using non-toxic products. I am absolutely appauled when folks use toxic products, and by toxic I mean stuff that most folks consider "normal" like bug spray or hair spray or glade plug ins or downy fabric softner or even suave shampoo. That stuff is just pure poison to our bodies, and poison to our earth when it gets into the air and soil, and i stopped using them long before even the chemical sensitivity hit and made it a necessity to. Even if my chemical sensitivity left miraculously, I would not use them. They just felt/feel plain wrong to me. And yet...what might appaul another is how I dont buy organic food that much. The organic food thing is not a big part of that wall for me right now, wheras for someone else it may at be the very heart of their wall.

Its not that I dont want to be organic. I know its better for us, and for the earth, and it even simply tastes better, and Id definitely prefer to be organic. But sometimes you have to choose your battles as as they say. The toxic products above are blatently harmful toxins. Non organic products are not good either. But the amount of toxins used in the latter, they are just minscule compared to what is touched or even breathed in from toxic products like above. From here (a great article in itself by the way),

"What we breathe goes straight into our lungs and organs, as well as our brains. The sense of smell has a more direct connection to the brain than any other sense. There is no barrier between the brain and the chemicals that you breathe in…. Studies have shown that inhaling fragrance chemicals can cause circulatory changes in the brain. Changes in electrical activity in the brain also occur with exposure.”

Plus, toxic products are quite easy to inexpensively replace with a little know how, you can even make them homemade. But organic produce, its often pretty outrageous, and so as much as I'd love to be organic right now, I end up getting the conventionl produce and such much of the time instead. And Maggie of Frugal Abundance gives her (I feel) very sound perspective below with this stuff, from one of my favorite posts of hers, here:

"A commenter asked what I meant by organics being a matter of vanity and pride. That is a challenging question for me...Organic foods are better quality. I've purchased them, I've eaten them, I've even tried to grow them once or twice and I can say with complete and total honesty that they taste better. Plus they have no man made pesticides or added growth hormornes which is probably better for our bodies.

Organic foods cost more. They increase my grocery budget by at least half and if I'm not extremely careful when I shop then they double or even triple my grocery bill before I can beven blink.

I took pride in choosing organics. I patted myself on the back. I said to myself "Ah, what a good mother I am giving my children the very best." I looked at my peers on the internet and said to myself "Now I can be a member of their elite club becasue I am buying organics and using only wholesome natural sweeteners."... For me (not everyone, just me personally) this became a matter of pride, vanity and trusting in myself to protect myself from pesticides and naysayers instead of trusting Christ. I thought to myself "At last, I'm on a higher level. All of this stinky poverty has been washed away from body and my life by choosing organics over standard plebian swill." I imagined that my body was "detoxifiying" from all of the pesticides I've consumed over the years and fancied myself more "enlightened".

Another thing happening at the same time is that we are coming up on a lot of construction bills... Quite simply we need adequate housing more than we need organic food.

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. --Proverbs 30:8

Another thing I was thinking about is what my duty as a Christian is in regard to my food and the meals I feed my family. As a Christian homemaker I have duty to make the best I can with the resources my husband provides. We aren't rich and there are lots of things we need more than we need the satisfaction of eating the "perfect diet". When I was buying organics I was spending too much for food... I would rather the kids have shoes and underwear that fit than be able to eat 3 organic meals a day. For some people it may not be a question of either-or, but for us it is. My obligation is to use the money I do have as wisely as possible and the Lord has made it clear to me that for me (not anyone else, just me) spending extra on organics is not a smart use of my resources. If I don't manage my money wisely then I am not doing my job...

Instead of getting the best, I get the best I can afford. And like poor people have done for thousands of years, I trust the Lord to provide for me (she also mentions in her immediately previous post about praying over the food she serves so "He can use His supernatural power to make them as nutritious as possible") . I don't have to be able to be afford the best becasue I have an ace up my sleeve. I have an advantage. That advantage is a loving savior who will work on my behalf to take care of my family and I, no matter what we can afford. His protection is not incumbant upon my finances or the food filling up my shopping cart. As the bible points out, He takes care of the ravens and the sparrows and He loves us, His children, even more than that, so we can trust Him to provide for us, beyond our understanding.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? -- Matthew 6:25-26

I have 2 requirements put upon me. I have to do the best I can with what I am provided and I have to exercise faith that God will care for us, for our health, for our physical needs, regardless of what we can afford. Most of us know He is caring for our spiritual needs, but He isn't just a spritual God. He sent Christ to Earth in the flesh so we would know that a part of God endured all of the physical temptations and limitations that the rest of us face every day. I don't have to worry endlessly over the quality of the food I buy because God has already got that covered. All I have to do is bow my head and accept His Grace..."

So anyway, there is some variation I think we have with our "walls".

And with all of this simplicity stuff, I probably still dont have the words. But the word kindness itself as the hub of simplicity, that feels warm and good, like i want to hold it to my heart.

And kindness helps lead to trust. Trust, it is what deep down I seek the most really, I think what many of us do. It is the deepest healing balm I know.

"In the end,
Only kindness matters"
--Jewel, from Hands


For the longest time I've had this phrase in my head--"simplicity needs support". And it does. The support of a peaceful home, a strong faith and loving God, help when you need it, and caring and trustworthy people around you. Truly, this is the stuff of simpilicity, the roots it needs to grow, and underneath all this is kindness.

I didn't exactly think this way before my injury was sustained, before i started living with such chronic limits and pain. Back then before this happened, I would have in some ways equated simplicity with strength--look what I can do alone, and what I can get by without--that is how i saw simplicity in a way, as "freedom from needing". Not so now...

Seperating wants from needs, that is freeing for sure. Plain and Simple's philosophy of "taking what you need but no more" feels incredibly right to me. And it is at the root of kindness too really, this "taking what you need but no more". Defining need is the thing, and though we definitely have some human universals I feel, still in ways it is individual for each of us. When I did my little organizational list of brainstorming for a simple future home before, I saw just how individual. I found out when I looked inside that I could do without things like standard plumbing if I had to, and without a lot of space, and without most standard appliances, and possibly even without electricity if there's a bit of solar power. By admitting I could do without if I had to I mean this--realizing they were wants not needs. But I cannot do without a hearth of some kind deep down (even if only candlelight), or deeply living in nature (in particular being by trees and by water), or true quiet, or true nontoxicness, or a good deal of privacy, or beauty. Those are very real needs for me, not just wants. Someone else might be appaulled at my willingness to forgo standard plumbing etc if I had to, but they might find they could give up a lot of privacy and be more communal if they had to whereas I couldnt, because for one of us these things are a want, another a need.

Honoring those needs once found, it isnt a static thing though I'm slowly learning. Things happen--we get sick, or we grow old, and so on. Even if we think we don't need much now we may later. In my own life I know so many things i took for granted I "didnt need help with" I do now. Simplicity built on assuming ones strength and hardiness just crumbles when your strength is gone. But simplicity based on kindness, like the ways discussed earlier above, I feel this is more deep and lasting. I really do feel kindness is the at the root of deep simplicity somehow.


May we all have a year of kindess somehow as we enter each of its precious seasons.

May we all have a year that is simply... kind...

(Image is Fairy Holding Flower, from here. I love the double feeling here, with that flower she is holding, she is both nourished and nourishing, both comfortable and comforting...kindness as wholeness...)

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