Being Kind

This blog is probably going to be shorter than most. Read on, Faithful Readers.

At the end of her show, Ellen DeGeneres always says, “Be kind to one another.” This is coming from a woman who doesn’t just say to do something, but one who leads by example, by constantly helping people she doesn’t even know. She doesn’t have to do the cool things she does for people. She does them because she truly believes in kindness and loving your neighbor.

I met a person not too long ago who believes the same things, to do right by others, even when those people don’t appreciate your efforts, to be kind to one another, to help where you can and without seeking compensation, rewards, or notoriety. We were discussing this very aspect and she made an interesting statement that puts everything in perspective: I also learned that people not stuff are much more important.

People are important. No, not just your friends and family, but ALL people, including (and not excluding anyone at all) the homeless person on the street, the co-worker you can’t stand, the neighbor who comes in at three in the morning with his radio blaring, the woman with the two screaming children in the restaurant you are trying to eat at, the person on the other side of the counter at McDonald’s, your brothers, your sisters, folks of different color, sex, sexual orientation and religion and political views than yours.

This is not a matter of being kind to one another so others can see you do it. No, this is much deeper. It’s doing something good and not bragging about it, and not seeking recognition.

And here’s the great thing: you don’t have to let the person you are doing something nice for know that you are doing it. Yes, it is like the paying it forward at Starbucks (you know, when someone buys the drinks for the person behind them in the drive thru window). I don’t know of anyone who has ever paid for someone else’s coffee and then waited for that person to get it and said, ‘Hey, look at me, I bought you that drink. Praise me.’

You know that mom in the restaurant with the two bad kids that are getting on your nerves? What if she were a single mom, but not by choice? What if her husband was in the military and deployed overseas? Worse, what if her husband (or boyfriend) passed away? What if she just lost her job or a relative or her house just got repossessed? You see, we don’t know what is going on in people’s lives. We don’t know their circumstances. And you never know when something nice that you do for them could be the one thing that keeps them from teetering on the brink of depression. It may be the point that helps them have a good day. You could be their sun during the storm.

This person I was talking to did something very nice for me, well really two somethings. And she asked me not to make a big deal about it, not to tell folks who did this awesome thing. Sure, I could tell people that someone did something nice for me, but she didn’t want folks to know it was her. I also told her there was no way I could thank her enough for her kindness. Do you know what she said? ‘A thank you is all I need.’

A thank you is all I need…

How often do people say that after doing something for someone? She didn’t want anyone to know she had done this kind thing and she only wanted a thank you. Let’s go back to her statement: I also learned that people not stuff are much more important. She didn’t just say people are important, she showed it and she wanted nothing in return.

People, this is something we need to learn. Be nice, be kind and don’t expect something in return. How awesome would our world be if more people would adopt that mindset?

And there is one more thing: when you do something nice, the person who benefits the most isn’t the recipient of your kind deed. It is the person doing the kind deed. Yes, that’s right. When you do something nice for someone, it gives you a boost, just as much as it gives the other person one.

Like this person, and like Ellen always says, be kind to one another.

Paying it Forward, In its Purest State

Today I want to talk about paying it forward. Okay, I heard the collective groans out there, but stick with me. Don’t I always take you on a little journey that sometimes goes around my hand to get to my thumb just to make a point?

We’ve all heard the term ‘paying it forward.’ You hear about it happening a lot at Starbucks. I’m not sure why it happens so often there, maybe it’s because Starbucks is a coffee-type place, and for some reason, folks need their coffee in order to keep from killing people. I don’t know, but that is a possibility. Before I continue, let me clarify: Starbucks is not a coffee shop. You see, coffee shops sell, well, coffee. I don’t know what that stuff is that Starbucks sells, and just because they use coffee in a lot of it does not make the items they sell actual coffee. My blog. My two cents.

At any rate, you often hear that people will pay for the frappe-crappo-cino-latte-vanillo-grande-caramello-drink-o for the car behind them. Then the next person does the same and so on and so on until someone finally says, ‘Cool, I get a free frappe-crappo-cino-latte-vanillo-grande-caramello-drink-o.’ Most people don’t want to be the one who breaks that chain, but there are those who will. I’m not sure if that’s a good for you or a shame on you.

Paying it forward is simply you do something nice for someone without wanting anything in return, and hopefully, that person will do the same for someone else, and so on and so on. In the end, paying it forward is kind of like rumors—they come back around, and usually not in the same manner as when it started. In the case of rumors, that sucks. In the case of paying it forward, well, it’s often a good thing.

So often in today’s society, paying it forward or just being kind to one another, isn’t such a popular concept. It’s all about me, me, me, me, and giving someone money or buying something for a total stranger is considered crazy and somewhat stupid by many folks.

Not one person, at least.

Let me tell you a story real quickly:

I was perusing Facebook this morning. Yeah, that great worldwide killer of time. I wasn’t feeling all that well and was debating on going back to bed. After all, it wasn’t even seven a.m. at this point and I really didn’t need to get up earlier than eight. I was about to click off when I saw a post from an author friend of mine. The post was about his wife, Linda.

Let’s break this up or we’re going to have one really long paragraph here.

Linda had been at the Wally World (Wal-Mart, for those who don’t know that term) and she overheard a young couple talking about wanting to buy their son a kiddie pool. It wasn’t one of those ginormous fifteen foot in circumference, four feet deep ones. No, it was your standard plastic kiddie pool with little fish designs on it.

The pool was eighteen dollars and the young couple couldn’t afford it. Having been a young couple at one time with my wife, Cate, and wanting to buy something for my children and not being able to, it’s a bad feeling. As the parent, you feel guilty and sad and like a bad parent who needs to be put in the corner or spanked (no, not that type of spanking). It sucks.

So what did Linda do? She walked off, ignoring them.

No. No. I’m just kidding.

Linda pulled out a twenty dollar bill and gave it to them and told the young couple, and I quote, “Get the pool for your son.”

Wait, it gets better. You see, their son was with them, and the mother was holding another child. So, the son saw this act of kindness. They thanked her profusely and Linda watched as they went and paid for the pool.

She cried as she told her husband this story.

Okay, did you picture any of that? Can you see the young couple? They wanted to do something for their son, but they couldn’t. I can see the kid—probably somewhere between the ages of two and five, maybe six, his eyes turned down and sad. I can almost hear his thoughts. Summer’s coming, Ma, and all we got is an old radio flyer wagon for a pool. Or something like that.

I can hear the man’s voice as he says, ‘We can’t afford it.’

I can almost hear the collective of three hearts breaking after that statement. I can almost feel the boy’s tears, and probably the momma’s, too.

But then, out of nowhere, like a knight in shiny armor on a white steed, a woman walked up holding the magical green paper that makes everyone happy. Okay, that was a little too much, but you get the picture. Linda walked up. Let’s just assume Linda is like any other woman, doing her shopping, minding her own business when she overheard this conversation. Instead of walking off, she showed compassion to the young couple, and more importantly, for the young boy. She gave them the money to buy the pool. No, she didn’t give them eighteen dollars, but a full twenty, which would cover the taxes as well.

This woman—Linda—gave money to total strangers so they could do something for their kid. Here’s something to think about: Obviously, the young couple were overjoyed at the sudden act of kindness. They were probably overwhelmed a little. The boy was probably excited—he was going to get his pool and not have to play in a rusty old radio flyer wagon. Okay, sorry—flashback, 1978. There’s no rusty radio flyer wagon.

Now, as much as Linda touched the lives of three—possibly four—members of a family, she also touched her own life. What? How? Simple: she cried when she told the story. Her own compassion moved her in such a way it made her cry. Why? She was probably happier than the parents and the child combined. Seeing their joy probably lifted her heart more than her giving that money to them lifted theirs.

I’ve learned that by doing things like what Linda did it can have a positive impact on others, but it also can have a positive impact on you. It can be uplifting for the person doing the giving. It can change how you feel about life and people and money and things that we take for granted, like how mindlessly we blow twenty bucks. We don’t think about it, we just do it. I don’t have a lot of money. I barely get from paycheck to paycheck, but guess what? I’ve blown more than twenty bucks at a time without thinking about it. I’m sure many of you have, as well. There’s nothing wrong with that. You earned the money, you get to spend it, right? Absolutely.

Linda paid it forward. Do you think she will ever get that money back? I don’t. And I don’t think she cares if she does, either. What she received in return was the joy of seeing how much happiness her compassionate deed brought to that young family. And there is nothing like that feeling. Having done something similar, I can honestly say the joy of seeing someone’s face light up and hope surface in a set of eyes, it’s a better rush than any drug and it last longer because it hits you right in the heart—and that’s where it matters.

Here’s the clincher: Linda wasn’t going to tell anyone else. She was going to let her good deed be known to her husband and no one else. Not only was she compassionate, she was humble. She didn’t shout to the world, ‘hey, look what I’ve done.’ No, she whispered it to her husband and she cried while doing so.

Pay it forward. It isn’t all that hard.

I’m not going to give the name of the writer. I don’t think that is necessary. But, he and I chatted on Facebook briefly about this today and he was gracious enough to let me use this story for this particular piece. I learned a lot about him and his wife in that brief conversation, and in the post that he shared with the world. They’re my type of people.

I mentioned he is an author, didn’t I? Yup, right there and there and, yup, there, as well. I like to get to know writers before I purchase anything from them. I like to get to know if they are cool or jerks just out for a buck. I don’t want to support writers who are jerks. It’s just that simple. But this dude and his wife are not jerks. So, now…now I want to purchase one of his books to see if I like his style. He has several books to choose from, so when I head over to Amazon I will have to choose carefully. No, I’m not paying it forward by doing so. I’m doing what I always do: buy books from someone I would hang out with if we knew each other in person, from someone who would do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. My type of people.

Before I go, I want to say one more thing: Thank you, Linda, for being a light in that family’s life, and an inspiration to others.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

Quiet Reflection

Quiet reflection. Some folks may have seen the title of this blog and decided they didn’t want to read it, thinking that this is just another one of those posts about someone reflecting on the year that has passed. Well, quite frankly, they are right…and wrong. Yes, this piece is about reflecting on the past, but it’s also about the future, about a goal we all have: living life.

You’ve heard me say this before, so stick with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

Our world today is a very negative place. We hear about tragedies day in and day out. It gets kind of old. Cops shooting people. Terrorists beheading innocent people. Schools being shot up. Men beating and raping women. People hating others because of skin color or sexual preference or religious or political differences. People killing others because one didn’t like the other’s favorite sports team. Drugs and greed and divorces and suicides and crime. Just turn on the television and you see it in all of its overhyped glory.

But it’s not just tragedies that make the world such a negative place. There are people—a lot of them, by the way—who are not happy unless they are miserable and unless everyone else knows about it. And don’t let someone else have it worse than they do. So many people have poor pitty me syndrome. Misery loves company and all that. It’s mind numbing.

I want to do something positive. I want to do something that doesn’t bring people down, but lifts them up.

But before I can do that I must reflect on my life, on me for a few moments.

I’m not perfect. In God’s eyes I’m a sinner, though redeemed by Jesus’ blood. But I’m not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes, both accidentally and on purpose. What? How can a mistake be on purpose? That’s simple: if you choose to do something even though you know it is wrong or that it can hurt someone, then that is intentional, and it’s a mistake. I’ve done this. I will make many more mistakes during my lifetime. I will be selfish. I will be angry. I will be judgmental. I will, from time to time, be lazy or obstinate. I will intentionally not do something someone has asked me to do (I will also unintentionally do the same thing). I am human. It’s the one quality every person in the world shares, no matter race, religion, political standing, religious beliefs, economical status—we are all human.

When I was younger I didn’t care what people thought of me. I spoke my mind, regardless of someone’s feelings. I held grudges for a long time. If I didn’t like you, I let you know. I was all about loving some me. Man, what a jerk. But I’m older now and I’ve watched the world change, just as my parents did and their parents before them and so on. I can honestly say not all change is good, just as not all change is bad. I have changed. Just ask anyone who knows me. Some of it has been good. And other things, well, not so much.

For the record, I’m not setting goals for myself. I think most goals are set ups to fail. Why? Because a lot of goals are so lofty attaining them is near impossible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think setting goals is a bad idea, as long as you work to follow through with them. But let’s face it, most people make New Year’s Resolutions to be better people or to lose weight or to find a new job or to not be so danged lazy all the time or whatever. By the second week of the year, for the most part, those goals are wrecked and often times we are left feeling as if we failed and that we can’t start back over and try again. Two things: You can try again and you can start over. Yes, they are one and the same. Thank you for noticing. There is always that whole, ‘it’s just a New Year’s resolution, and no one keeps them’ mindset.

One more thing before I get to the gist of this. As I mentioned earlier, I am reflecting quite a bit on my life right now. Over the last few months I have learned something about myself I don’t like: I’m very negative. I have a negative attitude on a lot of things, and I do not like that. Look, I used a negative in that last sentence, but that’s not what I mean (oo0, look, another negative). I’ve never really had a positive outlook on things. I’m always thinking the worst about things, and let me tell you, that is a bad thing. Why? Because people pick up on that negativity and it can rub off on others.

Now, here’s the deal:

I’m going to do something and I hope others will get involved with it. It’s called the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign. What is the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign? Well, I never thought you’d ask, but since you did: The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is taking a day and living it for someone else. No, not literally–you can’t live someone else’s life, unless you’ve murdered them and stolen their identity, but that’s frowned upon in society, so let’s steer clear of that. Okay?

The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is simply living your life every day. Living. Do you understand? So often we wait for tragedy to kick-start our lives. So often it takes a death or near death experience for people to open their eyes and see that life is a gift that we so often take for granted. The people in our lives are gifts that we also take for granted. Our health, our jobs, our homes, our abilities, the things we have both earned and been given. These are all gifts. Sometimes life sucks. I know. I’ve been there and probably will be there again. If I’m honest with you all, there is one part of my life that sucks right now and has for the last couple years, and I’ve let that suckage control a large part of the rest of my life. Again, if I’m honest, it’s a gift. One that I may not always want, and one that I definitely need in order to support my family, but one that I haven’t been happy with for a couple years now. Sometimes we just have to make the best of a situation we don’t like, and I haven’t done that, and that, folks, is on me. I have had a negative attitude in that aspect of my life and it affects everything I do.

It affects how I have lived.

Living…Let’s take the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign just a step further. We’ve all known someone or heard of someone who has passed away or who struggles with various issues in life. It is for those people that we live for. To take a moment during the day and say, ‘hey, I’m going to live my day for this person,’ and then remember that person as you go through the day. The thinking behind this is simple. If I had to live one day of my life for someone else I would want it to be something that person could remember. It’s like a dedication page in a book. I dedicate this book to Gramma Haygoode and so on and so on. Only, this isn’t a book, it’s a day of your life. And what better to dedicate to someone than a day of your life in his or her honor?

I know, it sounds cheesy, right? Wrong. How often do we see an athlete dedicate a game or a season to someone? How often do we see someone doing something nice in honor of someone else? How often do we hear someone say after accomplishing something, ‘this is for…?’ So, why not dedicate a day to a person?

Or, why not dedicate each day to someone different? This is what I want to do: I want to dedicate each day to someone. I want to live life, not live the mundane. No, I don’t have to do anything special each day. No need to jump out of planes or try to mark off things on a bucket list (which I do not have one of). That’s not the point. The point is to live life happily, to live life with a smile and appreciate every second of every day. The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is about enjoying life, and if living a day or a series of days or even a year’s worth of days helps us live life happily, then why not do it?

Today, the first day of the year, I have chosen to live life, not just for myself, but for others as well. Today, the first day of the year, though I have not felt well, I have chosen to live this day for my son, Logan. He is my little buddy, and yes, sometimes he drives me nuts, but he, like my little girl, Chloe, is awesome, and today, I lived for him, not feeling well and all.

One more thing, try this: do a random act of kindness for someone you don’t know and expect nothing in return. Don’t boast about it. And be humble when you do it. Not only will you make someone else’s day, you will make your own day as well. I believe if we, as a people, did one random act of kindness each week, the world would be a better place.

I’ve always ended my blogs with ‘until we meet again my friends.’ Well, that’s changing. Why? Because I love Ellen Degeneres, and I love how she ends her shows. Going forward, I will end my blogs like this: Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…