Mighty kind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Kindness is the mightiest force in the world,” according to One Day at a Time (299).

In the past, I didn’t feel kind. I didn’t even feel like being kind. I felt like stabbing my ex-husband’s eyeballs with a handful of forks. If you know me now, you may be laughing and trying to imagine me doing this. You may be thinking, “Now Bethany… surely you’re exaggerating!” No. I am not.

That anger and resentment masked my disappointment, bitterness, depression, anxiety, sadness, and fear. I was in pretty sad emotional shape a decade ago (and in the preceding years as well). Thankfully I chose to reach out, get help, and get better.

I have learned I have a choice in every situation. The truth of this notion made me sigh (or gag) for a few years. Martyrdom had become a way of life. I couldn’t see the efficacy in changing my ways because it was tough to take actions and let feelings follow, and I was afraid to admit my part in problems, particularly in relationships. It was much easier to let men, bosses, or relatives take the blame, allow all of you to feel very sorry for me, and go on with life.

I didn’t just omit the truth of my mean part in situations. I also behaved in mean ways. Just ask one of my exes. I’ll spare you the details, but trust me… I’ve been cruel, cold, and calculating.

I haven’t just struggled with being kind in intimate relationships. I still find it tough to be kind—even courteous—to family members who don’t live life the way I do. When someone interrupts me repeatedly, or when a relative tells racist jokes in front of me, I absolutely do not feel motivated to treat them as God’s precious children or want to pinch their adorable cheeks and bless their little hearts. It’s really my problem because “when I am disturbed, it is because I find… some fact of my life… unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 417).

Kindness blooms from acceptance.

Acceptance really is the solution to all my problems.

Another root of kindness is gratitude. “When I focus on what’s good today, I have a good day” (Big Book, 419). Three long years of creating detailed, original gratitude lists helped instill this principle in my heart, but it’s still easier when I feel disgruntled to focus on the problem rather than the solution. When I choose to focus on the solution, I feel better. Many times the quickest way out of a grump is to create a gratitude list. Sometimes I write the items on paper. Many times I pray aloud and say, “Thank you, God, for the chance to stay home and spend time with Maggie right now. Thank you that she cared enough about my reaction that she asked me to quit writing and to come see her new space heater. Thank you for the 30 minutes to write this morning before James left for work.” Hearing myself express gratitude verbally brings me back to where my hands are; the present is where I find the solution.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I am thankful, I treat people around me with kindness and compassion. When I am thankful, I am more likely to accept others as they are. And lastly, when I am thankful, mindful, present, and accepting, I like myself. This is something I struggle with but am willing to grow toward today. In moments when I like myself, I’m kind to myself. I don’t lash out in my head with judgmental and critical statements. I smile more often. I relax. I listen well. I laugh. And when I love myself, I love others well.

And kindness and love really do cover a multitude of sins.

Dear Momma

This letter was written by Gabrielle Holmes, one of my students, as a tribute to her mother.

Dear Momma,

I want to let you know how thankful I am to still have you in my life considering all the obstacles we have faced in life. Since Pawpaw died, you have stepped up and really showed me there is life at the end of the tunnel.

mother-429157_1280I want to thank you, Momma, for helping me with my children even though I know it’s a hassle for you. I want to thank you, Momma, for always inviting me and the kids over for dinner even though you don’t have to. Thank you, Momma, for being my biggest fan through every single stage of my life. I just want you to know I couldn’t have ask for a better cheerleader.

Thank you for becoming my best friend and being my biggest confidant. You always answer your phone with the same friendly attitude every time I call no matter if I call ten times in a row. You have shown me how to respect people and treat everyone with kindness no mater what. You let me know it wasn’t okay to judge people at a young age, and I respect you for that.

You have been my rock through breakups, life decisions, and new chapters. Thank you for teaching me the importance of hard work and the importance of getting your education so  I can have something in life. You have always told me if I wanted something in life, I have to work for it. Thank you for making me independent and telling me to never rely on anyone. Every single day I become more confident in myself.

My hope this Christmas season is for you to find joy, peace, and happiness, and let’s not forget to still cook! I just want to say I love you and thank you for being my backbone.

-Gabrielle

To my loving husband

Today’s blog post is by my student, Ladonna Williams, as part of a brief writing assignment celebrating her marriage.

To my loving husband:

I want you to know that you have been a great inspiration in my life. Putting our friendship with love, we created our marriage. You accepted life’s responsibility and turned it into a blessing.

img_1345There are great benefits of being your wife, including unconditional love. We look upon ourselves as under no obligation. Being your wife has been amazing. Not because of the things that you do for me, and not even because of how much love you have for our family. Just because you are someone special. I am so thankful for the little things that I may have taken for granted. Washing dishes, grocery shopping, and even taking care of me on my late nights. Those days when I didn’t say thank you, count it to my mind not my heart.

I strive to have a heart as big and warm as the one that you share with me. I value the kind heart that has brought sunshine to my life. I thank you for the love and kindness you share with me on a daily basis. I thank you for being my umbrella on the rainy days. When you felt as if I weren’t happy, there was joy pulled from within your heart to share with your wife. I thank you for the encouraging words when situations got a little hard for me. Always there to keep pushing me to the next step in life.

I can’t express enough of how special I feel to get to spend my life with someone as great as you. Someone who always has the next person’s concern on their mind. Standing there ready to do your best to brighten up their day. I thank you for sharing your love with people who may need a kind word. I want you to know I am always grateful for the things  you share. I love you!

-Ladonna

 

Valor

My friend, former coworker, and confidante Debra Dickey wrote today’s blog post. I never stop learning from this woman. Thank you, Debra.

In my experience, valor is a prevailing and significant part of kindness, faceted, inextricably entwined.  Kindness, by definition, is a perfectly generated act; designed especially and wholly specific to its purpose and direction; genuinely presented, without distinction, qualification or condition, expecting nothing in return.  Valor described as an act of bravery, never counting the cost, steeped in gallantry, graciousness, conviction, heart and spirit, is kindness with a noble twist.   Therefore, by interpretation, kindness and valor incorporate the self-same characteristics within their disposition. Benevolence etched in valor. Parallel objectives; peerless outcomes.   

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARenowned acts of kindness in their character and dispensation continue to deserve distinguishing mention in the journals of my life. Inscribed with valor, often jagged and irregular in my plebeian existence, friendly kindnesses have always been around me, typically crafted in the form of benign pleasantries and considerations.  Yet in shining moments, there have been more imbued magnanimities.  Only a matter of degree?

Maybe.  Perhaps solely the ‘knight in shining armor’ psychology?  Who’s to say!  But I do know that once in a while, there have been notable and remarkable, made-to-order, selfless acts of kindness extended to me unsuspecting, some requiring momentous valor, others only requiring love, but all totally unexpected, indubitably unsolicited, yet perfectly tailored to fit, and indescribable in what they meant to me, because . . . .  they were meant for me.

Easily recalled:  once, a concerned stranger with particular insight; again, more than once, a relative with a huge heart; many times, family generosity; friends, too, with no agenda other than my well-being; and most recently, my children, giving from their hearts, from their own resources, gifts designed for no one but me.   Each a pure act of kindness, but none which could happen without their own special brand of valor when choosing to listen with their hearts and act.

Nothing touches me more profoundly than genuine kindness, authentically offered, with no strings attached.  Masterpieces in eloquence!  Uncommon gems of great value – beautiful, melodious symphonies upon the heart-strings.  Not accustomed to such grand gestures, I’m always moved to tears, rendered speechless, and have no words worthy of adequate response to these magnanimous altruisms.  Gifts of supreme kindness with actions in valor . . . ‘their price far above rubies’.

Most people do not consider their kind actions meritorious, but I most assuredly do!  Valiant, unhesitating, chivalrous, bounteous, without equal – timely gifts perfectly given – nobility at its finest.  I am humbled and grateful to be included in this honorable gift exchange program directed by the Almighty!  Considering how very little I have to offer in return, it always feels like winning the lottery!

How did they know?  How do I express their incomparable value and great importance?  How can I explain their incredible significance for me?  How will I ever manage to repay them all??   God chooses a few folks and endows them with uniquely wonderful talents as cannot be described, His Wonders to perform.  These truly are my ‘knights in shining armor’.  I am so grateful for each and every one.

Sometimes

Today’s post is written by my friend (and regular guest contributor) Debra Dickey. Thank you, Debra, for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

Sometimes……the slow person in front of you is in front of you to remind you to be patient.

Sometimes……the end to your lucky streak is to remind you of how fortunate you have been and still are.

Sometimes……what you perceived as an ‘error’ actually happened because it was the better option.

Sometimes……the change that you are not happy with is an incentive to better the situation.

Sometimes……a face that you didn’t expect to see just makes your day!  Or was that a cookie?

Sometimes……when you are outside viewing the colossal sky filled with the vast number of stars and constellations, some of which you cannot identify, your son will suddenly say, “I have an app for that!”

Sometimes……in the middle of January’s 20 degree temperatures, it warms up to 55 degrees!

Sometimes……you cannot even imagine the program that is running in the background of your life, until the beautiful evidence is illustrated.

Sometimes……the kindnesses that you send out into the world come back to you, and you are humbled.

Sometimes……you have nothing to hang on to, but you do.

Sometimes……the blessing are truly in disguise.

Sometimes……the puzzles are not puzzles at all.  (Vera Nazarian)

Sometimes……it’s not what was accomplished, but rather, if His Will was done.

Sometimes……the universe aligns with such clarity, that there is no mistaking Who is in charge!

Sometimes……the wonder and awe of His Presence is so infused that mankind cannot behold it.

Sometimes……now, the grass is too tall to take the path less traveled.

Sometimes……these treasures, in their own right, allow us an audience with God.  The whispers, the roars, the accomplishments, the defeats, the soldiering, the shouldering, the hidden, the luminesced, the white sands, the black shadows, the great and the small, each a brushstroke from His palette, details of essence and life.

Cosmos 2Tiny specks in the Cosmos — that which we are not privileged to view the entirely of — we are finite beings on our portion of this journey.  In unexpected ways and unforeseen places, may we recognize Him, within each discovery, each vivid contrast and fluent extreme, and at every impress.

Sometimes….. all that we have is not enough; all that we offer is.

Sometimes….. the seemingly insignificant is the supreme task.

Embodying the spirit of giving

With MIdge on My Wedding Day*Today’s post is written by contributor Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, one of my former professors. Dr. Murphy is a fabulous writer; I’m thankful that she regularly contributes to my blog and still takes the time to mentor me as a writer, demonstrating to me the true spirit of giving as well. Merry Christmas, Dr. Murphy!*

Christmas is just around the corner, and I know of no one who embodies the spirit of giving more than my aunt, Midge Brewer.  I’m grateful to her, and I can say without reservation that many other people have also benefited from her acts of kindness – not just at Christmastime, but all year around.

One of my favorite stories about Midge happened when I was fifteen.  For Christmas that year, Midge gave me a beautiful turtleneck sweater from Neiman Marcus.  She had spent the fall taking an extensive training course in Dallas, but she took the time to go Christmas shopping and find a lovely gift for me.  I had never had such a fancy sweater before, and I wore it for years.  On that particular Christmas, the sweater was the perfect present because it provided a beautiful cover for the back brace I was wearing for my scoliosis.  She probably had no idea how much that sweater meant to me, just as I’m sure she has no idea how much her kindness has meant to me and to the other people she has come in contact with over the years.

Another Midge story occurred one day while I was waiting to have my hair cut in my hometown of Batesville, Arkansas.  Even in a small town, it’s rare to overhear perfect strangers engaged in a conversation about someone you know, but on that day I overheard a man and woman talking about Midge. Of course, I listened in.  They were discussing a wedding shower she had given for someone at the church they all attended and remarking on what a wonderful job she had done. I’m certain that Midge lost count years ago of the number of showers she has given as well as the number of weddings she has directed.

In addition to giving showers and directing weddings, Midge is also skilled at making wedding cakes and has made dozens of them.  Several years ago, she made a wedding cake for a relative and placed it in the church kitchen so it would be there for the reception.  In the meantime, a man broke into the church and helped himself to some of the food in the church pantry, including a slice of the beautiful wedding cake Midge had made.  When the mother of the bride discovered what had happened, she called Midge.  With no time to bake another cake, Midge whipped up some frosting and filled in the space the thief left behind with a Twinkie.

Midge is generous and resourceful, but she is not one to call attention to herself, and I will probably get into trouble for writing this post.  I’ll take the risk.  We live in a culture where sensational acts of heroism are celebrated.  While that’s important, people who quietly practice acts of kindness and generosity on a daily basis rarely get the recognition they deserve.  Midge has spent her life in service to others, and this Christmas I’d like her to know that I am grateful for all the things she has done.

Just a moment to say thank you

Today’s post was written by one of my English Composition II students, Crystal Riley, on the topic of the motivation of gratitude. I have known Crystal since junior high school. When God allowed our paths to cross again and for me to serve as her instructor, I felt truly privileged and have enjoyed watching her grow as a person and as a writer. I have learned at least as much from her as she has from me–isn’t this the beauty of teaching?

We all have had someone to wait on us and say thank you for your patronage. Have you ever really said thank you back to the person who waited on you in a way that was meaningful?  In my life I have had several jobs that required me to wait on people.  It is not a gratifying experience.  Sometimes I wanted to say, “Here is your crap, please don’t come back!”  I never did; I always took the time to force a smile and say thank you. I got so good at the routine that I caught myself sending off my unwanted family guests in the same way I thanked the unwanted customers who left the store.

There was an old man who came to the gas station every morning at 4:30. I made his coffee and waited on him every day.  I thought he sat in that booth sleeping until his friends came in shortly after.  All the old men would drink coffee and share stories.  My shift ended at 7:00.  Every morning just before I closed my drawer, he paid for his breakfast and told me I was a good ole’ girl or told me how good the gravy was.  He always said something nice; he even commented on how well I had shined the floors!  I never thought much of it.  I always just thought he appreciated that I personally filled their cups instead of making them get up to get their own coffee.  It was a small thing.

Later I worked at a video counter in the local grocery store and missed the old men from the gas station.  One night my old man came in, and I waited on him and his granddaughter.  He had been left to babysit.  I helped them select a video, and as he was paying for it, he thanked me.  He had a genuine smile and kind eyes.  He patted my hand and told me he knew I was a nice girl.  It is a crazy thing that the way he said thank you to me just made my day even if the praise didn’t come from my boss.  I told him I just loved waiting on him and how nice he was.  He responded that it costs nothing to let someone know that they are doing a good job, but it could mean the world to the person doing the job.

I thought about him often and what he said.  I’ve had some of the worst jobs you could imagine, and I think about my co-workers at times, and how awful things are for them. I make it a point to say thank you when someone helps me, to take that extra moment to let them know I appreciate them.

It only takes a moment, and it may be the only kind word that person hears all day.  If we all just take a moment to offer a word of encouragement or take a moment to simply be kind, we could all make a world of difference in how someone’s day goes. I never knew that old man’s name, and he never called me by my name, but I think about him because he was so nice, and his extra words of encouragement made my day nearly every day.