Nicole J. Phillips
My friend's father-in-law recently died. It came on suddenly. It wasn't supposed to happen that way. They weren't prepared. I wonder, when it comes to losing someone we love, if we're ever really prepared. The hole that's left while we are mourning seems like an endless chasm, and yet it's the perfect size for kindness. Kindness shown through phone calls, flowers, shared memories and stories that come to life only after the living are gone.
Walt Disney once said, "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." That works well for amusement parks, but it also works well in the realm of kindness. Alicia Stewart is a mom who feels frustrated with the way girls sometimes treat each other. When she saw it happening in her daughter's second-grade classroom, she decided to put together a retreat for girls that would focus on their self-esteem and compassion toward others.
I really should have kept a list of all the people who helped me during my battle with breast cancer. It would be filled with the names of family and friends who delivered meals and picked up kids and sent cards. But it would also be filled with the names of strangers who helped me get through each day after my surgery when I was desperate to return to my routine. Friendly people seemed to come out of nowhere when I needed them most. Just like the two boys who helped my friend Teresa when she was dealing with a painful rib injury.
One of the great lessons cancer taught me was the importance of getting my thought-life in order. There are way too many things in this world that could go wrong. If we allow ourselves to think whatever thought pops into our heads, we risk being dragged into a black hole of despair. But how do we replace those negative thoughts with something more positive? What do we think about instead? Kindness.
"Whoa! People work this early in the morning?" That was my first-grade son's reaction as we passed a garbage truck recently at 5:30 a.m. We were heading out on a family vacation. The men in the truck were hustling in the rain to pick up bin after bin of trash. "Yes. And I'm grateful they do. How about you?" I responded. That led to a brief conversation about many other things people do to earn money to support themselves and their families.
Every once in awhile, Saul and I play "Who would you most like to have dinner with?" Jimmy Buffett is high on Saul's list. Mother Teresa is high on mine. I imagine we're both out of luck. A little boy in Fargo will long remember a recent meal he got share thanks to a side helping of kindness. His grandfather, Harvey Laabs, sent me this story.
Twenty years ago this month, people along the Red River in Minnesota, North Dakota and southern Manitoba experienced the worst flood of the area since 1826. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Lives were swept up in a torrent of emotional and financial ruin. An entire geographic area was collectively exhausted. Yet, when the river finally returned to its banks, along with a path of destruction, we discovered a trail of kindness. Laura Carley of Fargo vividly remembers the smell that permeated the house when her basement fuel tank filled with flood water.
I didn't think time travel was possible until I was sitting at a track meet the other night. It was my daughter's very first meet. I thought it would be my very first meet too. I was told ahead of time that it would be a test of endurance — not for the student athletes, but for their parents. In anticipation of the four-hour event, I brought along my chair-in-a-bag, a football and a thermal tote full of snacks for my younger boys. I found the perfect spot in the sun to settle in and watch the action. I wasn't sitting there 10 minutes when I started having flashbacks.
My friend who is a teacher showed me a very funny poster. It has pictures of two owls. One owl is looking wise and well-tailored in his round glasses and cap. The other owl looks like a deranged lunatic with a torn shirt and frayed feathers. The caption on the poster says, "Teachers at the beginning of the school year" and "Teachers at the end of the school year." As a classroom volunteer, I've had the privilege of seeing students up close all year long. I have to say, when spring is in the air, something strange happens to those little bodies.
A whole new language arises during the month of March in the house of a college basketball coach. We use words like "seed" and "bracket" in daily conversation, but even more curious, in my house at least, is the way my husband begins to use the word, "March." In the midst of a tight game on TV, Saul will yell out things like, "It's getting awfully Marchy in here!" or "It smells like March!" I've even heard him say, "I'm feeling Marchy." That one makes me a little nervous. It's sort of like living in a land of Smurfs. It's Smurftastic!