I remember being told to “be nice” when I was younger.  I can’t recall the situations where I was told to “be nice”; probably when I was dogging on a friend of mine who had gotten on my nerves by showing off a new Swatch watch or Forenza sweater.  “Nice” grates on me now.  It seems so saccharine-like and bland.  Maybe it is simply because I heard it so often in my childhood, and as a grown-up, even, on the playgrounds and in the schools.

I drove over to Kroger’s this afternoon after Maria’s soccer game to get all the fixings for loaded baked potatoes for our evening dinner.  I had to park at the very end of the lot because all the non-procrastinators were there to stock up on Super Bowl items.  I hurriedly pushed my cart around the aisles grabbing all the necessities in order to get out of there under 20 minutes and back home to bake the potatoes.  For once, I even got in the correct lane – the one that moved the fastest – based on my intuition that the line with the thin lady dressed in crisp trousers and sporting a perfectly coiffed bob would never get checked out before the older gentleman purchasing four 12-packs of Diet Coke (she also brought her own bags, which is great for the environment but is an automatic sign that she will want everything placed in the bags in a certain manner (she was still there directing the bagboy when I left)0.

I scurried out the doors and hoofed up to my car at the end of the parking spaces.  As I placed my last couple of bags in the trunk, a man got out of his car in the spot beside me. He began walking towards my cart and stopped.

“Do you want me to take your cart back for you?”

I paused for a minute to fully appreciate the gesture.  I said sure and thanked him.  He swung the cart around the other direction and headed down the lot towards the front doors.  I opened my car door and plopped in my seat.  I smiled. I was so taken aback by his gesture.  Granted, he was heading that direction anyway but he could have just slipped by me and went on his merry way.  I am sure I have done that on many occasions – busy in my own head with what I needed to get, rushed to get home.  Also, even though the cart lot was only four cars away, it always seems like such a burden to return the cart to its lot.  It’s like that added 30 feet is a mile.

I called my mom to tell her the story.

“Wasn’t that so nice of him” I asked her.

“Yes”, she said but then continued to tell me how my Uncle Terrance would say that it was a “kind gesture.” She told me that when he experienced a gesture like I did, he would always respond by thanking the person for their kindness.  I loved that story, and love the word “kind.” Kind is more genuine, more lasting.  I feel like being told you are “kind” would resonate on a much deeper level than being told you were “nice.”

I made some amaze-balls twice baked potatoes for the family.  We sat down at the dining room table and ate together – the first time we have done that in a while.  I told the kids and Jon my story about the man taking the cart.  I told them about using the word “kind” to describe his gesture rather than “nice.” They nodded their heads and smiled at me not quite knowing what to say.

I thought of my Uncle Terrance and gave him a nod, continued to dig into my potato.



Be Kind

If this isn’t the truth. I try to remember this passage when I’m standing in line at the grocery and the woman in front of me is fumbling for change and taking forever; when a colleague snaps at me about an issue; when my friend forgets to return my call; when my neighbor walks by me without smiling; when my kids scream and yell; when my hubby fails to take out the trash.
And I am usually able to reset and look at the bigger picture (except with my hubby – I have to try harder at that!). As my stepmom and I discussed on our walk this weekend, we are all just trying to hang in there through what can be a very trying and difficult life. We don’t know where anyone else is on their journey so why not take a more loving approach and when someone is an a–hole, move on with a smile on your face and hope their day gets a bit better. They obviously are dealing with something much bigger than you. My daughter lives this passage well. Nearly every time I complain about someone, she interrupts and puts perspective on the situation.
“How do you know she didn’t just get in a fight with her mom?”
“How do you know that her dog isn’t sick?”
“How do you know she didn’t just receive really bad news?”
(And these have all come out of Ri’s mouth).
Kindness can smooth the edges. Kindness can bring a smile. Kindness can turn a crap day into a semi-crap day and heck, sometimes we need to accept that’s simply the goal we need to aspire to for the day.

Sibling love

The kids and I have been walking to school in the morning since Jon is gone and it allows me to get a bit of fresh air before I head to work. Ri rides her scooter. She is a machine on that thing – she maneuvers over cracks and bumps like a pro and when she does hit one too hard and loses control of her scooter, she falls down, brushes off the dirt, and keeps going.

Mario, on the other hand, is not as adept at maneuvering the scooter. He prefers to run or bike. Today, he chose to bike (the other days he sits luxuriously in the stroller until we get close to school and then he runs at the last minute so no friends make fun of him!). He is getting more confident on his bike, even standing up as he pedals, which makes him very proud. He also does a great job stopping at the crosswalk and looking both ways (funny how he does not do so good at that when walking across our street to Quinn’s house). This morning, he had Ri and I in stitches when he stopped to try and look at something on the curb and fell right over on his bike. He plays dead when he does this and waits for Ri and I to come up and tell him he’s crazy. We got about three blocks from school when I saw him pedaling fast and coming up to a telephone pole. He couldn’t quite cut over to the left to avoid the pole and it clipped his handlebar and caused him to fall. He got a nice scratch on his knee with blood dribbling from it. He’s not one to typically shake this injury off. He sees blood and he freaks. Not as bad as when he needs a splinter out but almost as bad. But there was Ri by his side saying “come on buddy, be strong! Push through the pain!” I reiterated Ri’s support and told him to be like Ri and shake it off (a little competition doesn’t hurt). And so he got up and started biking – very slow – but at least biking. Maria proceeded to cheer him on the remainder of the way; “you are a biking monster, Mario! You are incredible and so strong! Nothing can stop my little brother!” She is his biggest cheerleader.
We got to school and he asked me and Ri to take him to the nurse. That made her happy. After we got his band-aid, we walked down the hall toward the stairs. I asked if Ri could take him to his room since I had to get his bike. I expected a loud “no” from him but he surprised me with a yes nod of his head. Ri was ecstatic and took his book bag.
“Come on buddy, I will hold this book bag so you don’t have weight on your knee.” She grabbed his hand and headed up the steps. I watched them turn the corner, and I began walking towards the exit door very aware of the giant grin on my face.


Be Kind and Bring Joy

I just finished reading an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s autobiography Life Itself on Salon’s website.  I had no idea that he was such a thoughtful writer; I only remember him from my childhood when I watched him and Gene Siskell rate movies that I would either see because of them or completely avoid because of them.  Now, he has survived thyroid cancer and the inability to eat, drink or talk.  My dad has always reiterated to me the mantra “Life is crazy” and he couldn’t have spoken a greater truth. 

Mr. Ebert reflects on religion, dying and lessons he has learned as he moves through his ever-changing world.  It is a beautiful piece of writing.  Mr. Ebert’s thoughts on kindness struck me in particular tonight.  He writes:

That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

It struck me for two reasons.  The first and obvious one is because I believe strongly in this tenet of kindness, also.  The second is because I had just witnessed Maria and Mario walk three houses down to our neighbors to deliver handwritten get well cards to one of them whose mother was ill.  I had mentioned that our neighbor’s mom had to go to the hospital last night.  Today, Maria drew a picture at school and one after school to cheer our neighbor up and to tell her we loved her.  Mario followed suit.  If there is one value that Jon and I have worked hard on instilling in these kids, it is the value of kindness, and through their actions tonight, it looks like we are doing something right. 

Thanks, Mr. Ebert, for reminding me of the simple beauty of kindness.