My weight management system gives me articles to read every day. Over the weekend, there were two that I took notes about, as well as making a note in the ThinkyThought Incubator. The first was about emotional outlets – the people and activities you turn to our the skills you practice to help you deal with your emotions are your Outlets. The second was about the emotional assets you use to help you purge your emotions. That song that kicks you in the feels? The movie you always watch when you’re sad? Those are your emotional assets. We had homework to provide examples of each of these things. I said that I have a Kudo’s file on my work laptop that contains complements people have given me about my work that I consult when I’m feeling low. And I have a different file – similar but different – for other aspects of my life (a friend in the group calls hers the Smile File). I said that I do pretty good at collecting things into the Kudo’s file, less so to the SmileFile, and I was going to foster that. Another person in the group used my idea as a reminder to give people compliments more often. And, as always happens, about 12 minutes later, I came across a business card from my son’s (former) high school, St. Benedict. It says B Kind, and it was the Benny’s motto.
You know how, when you’re ready to receive the lesson, the teacher arrives? Apparently this weekend, I was in need of some Kindness Coaching. I mean, I didn’t have a hate-on for anyone in particular. All things considered, it was a pretty good weekend (with some binge watching WandaVision and some virtual Sanibel Shell show, and some creative time cooking and sewing). I mean, who am I to question the logic of the Great and Powerful Oz… erm… Universe, right?
So, yeah, in addition to the Asset/Outlet articles, and the Benny’s business card, the internets (re-)served up to me a story about an older woman in a book store who turned to the university student behind her, and spontaneously decided to pay for his armload of university text books. He tried to convince her that it was too much – text books are crazy expensive, but she would have none of it. She paid, and as the student was trying to find words to express how grateful he was and the clerk was trying to find words to express how thoughtful and gracious she was, she said that her son was a homeless addict. She looked around and could see in other boys the man her son could have been, if only someone had been kind to him at just the right time. The whole story seemed too crafted to be legit. Regardless of the legitimacy of the origin or the quality of wordsmithing that went into it, the fragment “if only someone had been kind to him at the right time” has stuck with me.
A while ago (eep! it was 2013 – 8 years ago), George Saunders gave a commencement speech and said that what he regrets most in his life are failures of kindness. “Moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded… sensibly”. That stuck with me too. I can relate, on both sides of that equation. Some days, too many small unkindnesses does feel like death by a thousand papercuts. And sometimes unkindnesses aren’t even deliberate malicious acts. Sometimes, they’re just ambivalence; a vacuum when a kindness – any kindness – is sorely needed. A friend made a comment on a post a while back that said “You don’t know what crap someone is going through, and being kind may not really help in the grand scheme, but it also never hurts.” Mr. Saunders went on to say “as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder” Of all the things with which he’s arming graduates as they move on to the next chapter of their lives, it’s about being kind.
This Lent, may my inevitable failures not be because I forgot to be kind. Or worse, decided not to be kind.
I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!