Monday, March 24, 2014

Kindness Matters

One of my students asked me last week what I wanted for my birthday this Thursday. I told him that I honestly didn't know. He suggested a Duke trip to the Final Four, but even I knew that was a pretty desperate wish. I'm sad at just how right I was.

But I did think about it all weekend. It's so great to be a kid with a birthday coming up. The world is your oyster, and it's just about the only time that you get a pass for being selfish with your wishes. No sharing. No watching your back for that creepy elf. No costumes. Just you, a big sugar rush, and a pile of presents.

As an adult, though, it's lost a little bit of its magic, and I find myself needing fewer and fewer things in my life. So I've been thinking instead about all of the richness I already have.

I have been blessed with a meaningful career that challenges me every day.

I am honored to work alongside some of the most dedicated teachers I've ever known, and I have been for 14 years now.

I have money in my bank account. I cannot always say this, but I can right now. So there, I said it.

I have a home with cuddly kitties who snuggle and comfort me no matter how awful or great my day has been.

I have a home.

I watch, each day, my former students and campers grow up to change the world. And I get to say I had a tiny part in it.

I am relatively healthy, even if there's more of me than I'd like there to be.

I have a family who has always wanted me to be more than I ever dreamed I could become, even if it meant letting me go in order to have it.

I am surrounded by friends who loved me when I had nothing to give them but my friendship. And they haven't stopped yet.

And, this year especially, I've found myself surrounded by kindness. From the smallest moments to the biggest struggles, I've been met with nothing but encouragement and support and kindness. In a world that often feels so negative, I constantly am astounded by how much light there truly is.

I have always believed that kindness matters. I even keep a small sign in my classroom to remind both myself and my students of this. I believe it's circular; what you give, you will one day receive. I believe that it's contagious. And I believe that it is intentional. 

Certainly, I think there are some people in this world who are just more naturally inclined to being kind, but I don't think it happens accidentally. All of us, at some point or another (perhaps today even) has been faced with the choice -- to be or not to be kind. The chances and opportunities may be random, but the choice is not. I wish I could say that I always make the right choice, but I don't. The very best thing I can hope for is a chance to make the choice again, and I can.

Kindness is one of our last renewable resources. Yet it's only renewed by each of us.

This year, I don't want a sugar rush. I don't need a pile of presents. And I've already had the very best birthday party I could ask for, out in the wild West Texas wind with my most beautiful, wonderful friends.

All I want is for you to put a little more kindness out into the well. You don't have to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, but do it. Think about the nicest someone ever made you feel and, over the next few days, try to give that to someone else. 

Here are some of my favorites:
  • Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store.
  • Go over to a new mom's house and hold that baby while she sleeps or showers or folds clothes.
  • Sneak attack hugs (or high fives)
  • Donate to a local shelter. Call them first. Ask what they need. Hit the Dollar Store.
  • Allow your significant other to sleep in. Especially if you have kids or animals.
  • Pick up the tab for the person at the next table (or behind you in the drive-thru)
  • Spend an hour at a nursing home.
  • Take a bouquet of flowers to the hospital and tell the nurse to give it to their most in-need patient.
  • Clean out your bookshelves. Donate your favorites. Old books need new lives.
  • Bake some cookies for your secretary or custodian or local service people.
  • Leave a nice note for your waiter or waitress (along with a generous tip).
  • Leave a nice handwritten note for ANYONE (words matter too!)
  • Drop off a bag of food or litter to an animal shelter.
  • Make copies or run an errand for a coworker when they least expect it (thanks again, Mandy, for the copies last week -- one of the best gifts you could give me: time!)
  • Smile or tell a joke. Tell your dumbest one. Even if people say they don't like it, they probably do.
  • Call someone who made you angry and forgive them. This is a tough one. Or forgive yourself.
  • Send an email to your boss and brag on someone they may have overlooked. Teachers, pick a kid to brag on. Send 'em to the office on a POSITIVE referral.
  • Pray. Pray for someone who doesn't ask. Pray for someone who may not know how.
  • Notice the strengths of others. Thank them for it. Let them know how their gifts matter to you.
It doesn't have to be big or expensive or even well-planned. But when the opportunity presents itself, grab it and fill the well. You might just find yourself a little renewed, too.

Thank you, yet again, for visiting this space this past year. Whether you left a comment or whispered a prayer or just had a little chuckle, somehow I felt it. And it's lifted me up.

That's more than I ever could have wished for, friends.


  1. You always kind of blow me off whenever I mention that letter/poster you wrote to me my first year at Nichols. You're either too embarrassed to believe I'm sincere, or really believe I'm just blowing smoke. This post proves that now you get it. There are a few things that I have carried with me from classroom to classroom, office to office, state to state. One is that little brass bulldog with the red and blue ribbon collar on my desk. That was given to me for my birthday by my Sicilian mom, Dovie, while I was in college. I love her more than words can express, Naz. Another is the picture Locke's students created of me for me. Then there is that letter that I finally had laminated this year. It means more than you could know. I swell with pride when other teachers come in my office and read it. The same with students. It reminds me that I'm worth something on my job. It reminds me that I'm more than a lady with a referral and a telephone. Thank you, Naz.

  2. Never in a million years would I think you were blowing smoke. That's one of the things I like best about you, Tracy. Your absolute inability and refusal to bullshit the ones you care about.

    It's the small things, the seemingly inconsequential moments, that save us, I believe. Like clinging to a piece of driftwood as the entire ocean rages around you. It doesn't feel like enough; it cannot possibly keep someone alive. But it does. Somehow, against all odds, it does. I know the power of that poster. It's why I gave it to you. It's no different than what your comment did for me this morning. I'm just glad you finally protected it against the elements.

    Thanks for the float, my friend.