Julia Kasdorf is an award-award winning poet who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. Her earthy, colorful poems draw deeply on lived experience and often reveal an ache for connection and community. "What I Learned From My Mother" is a list of simple, specific things the poet's mother did for those around her in need—from taking garden flowers to the sick to attending funeral viewings. It raises the possibility that the suffering of others might become a source of meaning in our own lives by creating conditions that ask us to make ourselves useful. It also touches on questions of upbringing and whether a person can be taught to be generous.
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Sleeping Preacher by Julia Kasdorf (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), p. 43.
What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?How should we respond to crisis?Who should we give to and why?How have my past and heritage shaped me?How has my family or background shaped who I am?How does a person learn compassion?Is my service changing the world or only myself? Is that enough?Where does the best learning happen – in the classroom or elsewhere?