Monday, August 15, 2016

Choosing Kindness

I didn’t realize how affected I was by hatred and anger until I stopped following the election so closely and started watching the Olympics. Suddenly, instead of knotting up with anger, I was bursting with pride. I was shedding tears of joy, and I was watching opposing athletes show incredible class, congratulating each other, acknowledging the others’ skills, and celebrating. There was so much celebrating!

It reminded me of something important. I knew this, of course, but I appreciated the timely reminder. I can choose what I want to feel, and I can decide how I want to behave. And as simple as this is, I feel it’s important to say it. I am choosing kindness.

As I’ve mentioned before, a huge part of my childhood was spent with my best friends, Jackie and Janet. Their house was my safe place. I always felt welcome. I knew I was loved unconditionally. And their house was a place of joy and respect and laughter and kindness. A lot of the good in me came from all the time I spent there. This awkward kid with zero self worth became better because of their family’s kindness, not just to me, but to everyone.

I have realized over the years that the people who inspire me the most are the people who are kind. They can be friends who are lovingly raising stepchildren, ex-husbands (yes, that’s what she said) who were kind and patient with their children and the teams they coached, mamas like the one I was lucky enough to have, preschool teachers who still call my girls every year on their birthdays, volunteer firefighters who are out in the middle of the night racing to help people while I’m snug in my bed, a boss who knows you learned from your screw-up and doesn’t feel the need to chew you out, caregivers and medical professionals who give of themselves to help others who are hurting and scared…

How nice is it that I could think of so many kind people in the space of a few minutes? That says a lot for my world, a world I need to always remember to appreciate.

Recently someone I know wrote something cruel and insensitive on Facebook. I questioned her because I was so stunned. She got back in my virtual face, and then as I was “leaving” I said something snarky that I regretted not long afterward. It wasn’t terrible, she certainly was deserving, and I am still horrified by what she wrote, but I didn’t need to get caught up in her anger. She has the anger issue, and I have the freedom and the ability to walk away. I can choose kindness.

Dee Brown, the former Illinois basketball player who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest athletes of all time, demonstrated kindness at every turn. He was an incredible point guard, the “one-man fast break,” but the thing I truly loved about him was the way he always picked up a player he had collided with. It was the way he showed class and respect and yes, kindness, that put him above the rest.

My friend, Mindy, who fought against a very aggressive leukemia, was always kind. Even after her diagnosis, she was always kind……and funny……but always polite and kind. And my inspiration, Ashley, who is fighting breast cancer, demonstrates every day that she has kindness and gratitude in her heart. You know there have to be times when she feels kicked and beaten down, but she never lets it take over. She chooses kindness and joy, so she can give her daughter the best life possible, because that’s what matters.

With Ashley setting such an amazing example, how can I get pissy over silly things? How can I react to being offended by a comment that doesn’t really matter? I have had a good reminder recently as I celebrate Team USA, that the small stuff is just small stuff, and I can walk away.

So I will continue to say please and thank you, to hold doors for others, to wave other drivers ahead of me. As my mama liked to say, “Take a piece of the world and make it shine.” I don’t have to move mountains or break a world record. I can, in my own small way, make my piece of the world shine.

This doesn't mean I will be a doormat. I will always stand up for what is right. But I will do it while being kind. That is something I control, and I’ll do my bit to make the world nicer.

I am choosing kindness.