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  • Writer's pictureDiann Schindler, Ph.D.

Culture, Kindness, and Compassion: Episode Two, French National Anthem

(This is the second of three episodes/blogs.)

My little room at Madam Donka’s hotel was a short walk to Le Bistrot, which turned out to be my favorite café/bar for 8 wonderful days in the bohemian Marais area of Paris.

My first meal at Le Bistrot was their incredible buddhabowl, chock full of healthy ingredients, including cucumbers, turnip slices, quinoa, edamame, and fresh, slightly smoked, perfectly textured salmon. The blonde beer was an excellent complimentary beverage…light with a floral finish. And, the bread! Soft and moist on the inside with a delicious chewy crust.

The next morning, I just had to stop by again to get a café latte to go. The waiter recognized me, “Bonjour madame, bon retour. Vous avez eu notre buddhabowl et bière blonde. Comment puis-je vous aider ce matin?

Yep, this was MY little bistro where they knew my name: Madame!

I couldn’t resist going back for dinner. Yes, I ordered the buddhabowl and blonde beer.

The café was full, inside and outside, with about 50 people, of all ages, persuasions and countries…mostly Parisians.

I sat inside at the last seat available. I had my very own tiny table, facing out with a large open-air window where I could people watch, not only clients eating and drinking, but also others strolling by.

Just to my right was a television broadcasting the women’s football World Cup, France vs. Brazil. It was just pregame.

Suddenly, I heard the television blast the French National Anthem. A few people began singing. Gradually, the entire clientele and those walking by were singing, too! And, not just singing…they were standing, shouting the lyrics, gesticulating…with great passion and pride!

Allons enfants de la Patrie

Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

Contre nous de la tyrannie

L’étendard sanglant est levé

L’étendard sanglant est levé….

Three young people were sitting just outside my window: a woman facing me and two men sitting with their backs to me. They were in the thick of it, having a great time belting out the words.

I was swept up in emotion…seeing their exuberance…all sorts of people singing together, in union, as one. I, of course, fought back tears, rather unsuccessfully.

As the crowd continued in song, the young woman looked at me and must have seen me hold my face in my napkin as I began to blubber.

As the anthem ended, she saw her say something to the two men. They both turned around and nodded to me.

Now, there was no holding back, overwhelmingly moved, I’m simply cried, loving this intimate moment I was sharing with a community of complete strangers.

Then, the three of them got up from their table, entered the bistro, turned and greeted me. They first shook my hands and then insisted I stand so they could each hug me.

It was the kindest moment…3 wonderful people who decided to welcome, and also, eulogize my sentiment.

I felt a kinship. I was a part of a celebration of France with a diverse community of strangers, with 3 people who embraced me, both physically and emotionally.

I love Paris. I love France. I love travel. I love giving and receiving compassion. I am blessed.

I spend nearly all my time finding ways to cultivate compassion. You can, too, with my 4-week, online Charter for Compassion Course: Cultivating Compassion through Travel. Classes begin July 29! Check it out!

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