Tag Archives: kindness

A Heart Walking Around In a Body

So.

I’ve been quiet lately.

I can’t get one thing written before another something happens and then I have to sit and think about that, but before I can get my ideas to line up next to words, something else happens. Kap. Tulsa. Star Spangled Banners. Syria. My own backyard. Charlotte.

Today, I found myself in a simple story that summed up some of what I’ve been trying to say. I had a moment in the basement of the hospital that opened my heart to how pervasive racism is in my world.

Part of my job is to share good news. When one employee wants to recognize another for a kind deed or superior service, it’s my privilege to hear those stories and share them with the whole health system. What a delight–I get paid to make sure good people and good work get recognized! I get a front row seat to watch people being their best–the people who are being thanked and the people who are taking a moment to thank others.

Yesterday, I received a recognition note from a nurse up on the floors. She had witnessed a pair of transporters (the people who move patients from one area of the hospital to another) go out of their way to care for a patient. While the patient was being wheeled back to her room from a procedure, she confided that she didn’t have any family nearby who could visit her. Naturally, she was feeling low and lonely. The transporters, a young man and a young woman, decided to cheer her up. They went down to the gift shop and bought her a flower and a balloon, wrote her a kind note of encouragement, and let her know that they cared. The nurse reported that the patient had smiled all day long thanks to their kindness.

Their hearts were filled with love. With the best kind of kindness–kindness to a lonely stranger.

Heart with seeds. Image courtesy Pixabay. Kindness

Heart with seeds. Image courtesy Pixabay.

A few hours after I read this gracious story, I walked over to the main hospital to run an errand. As I turned a corner, I almost bumped into a man in black scrubs–the transporter uniform. I glanced at his name tag and saw that it was the same man who had been recognized for great kindness to a lonely patient.

I had knowledge of this man’s heart.

But my first response to him–the first thing I registered–was his body. He is a tall, broad-shouldered, young Black man. He wasn’t carrying a rose with a balloon tied to the vase. He wasn’t even smiling. In the second before I saw his name tag and realized this was the gentle heart of kindness, I saw his skin and his frame and I reacted as I am programmed to do: you are other; are you dangerous? Should I be afraid of you? In less than a second, I was assessing him based on his body.

What I often forget is that he has been programmed to have the same reaction to me. He almost walked into me and probably went through the same assessment: You are not like me? Are you dangerous? Should I be afraid of you? As a middle-aged white woman who has grown up in Georgia, I know that I am the most dangerous thing a young Black man can run into when walking around a corner. Fifty years ago, he could have been lynched if I had walked into him and knocked us both down.

I wanted to apologize to him for not looking where I was going, and all of that history that neither one of us caused but that both of us carry. I wanted him to know that I knew he had a kind and caring heart. To meet his eye. To strike up a conversation. To represent all white people everywhere and prove that I’m not one of the bad ones.

Then again, I wanted to leave him alone to live his own life without my whole internal narrative being projected onto him. Maybe he was just walking down the hall, doing his job, and didn’t need a bleeding heart white woman all up in his space trying to save the world because the world can’t be easy for him right now. Maybe my feelings about his feelings aren’t central to the story? Maybe I should keep walking and do my errand. Just like with my writing these days, I was thinking so many thoughts that I couldn’t find any words. I missed the chance to say, “Hey! I heard about a really nice thing you did! That was cool.”

Instead, he went his way; I went mine.

I walked away thinking, “What must it be like to be him, walking around in this country today? Where no one knows his heart but everyone sees his body? Does he live in genuine fear of people like me because of his body?” Yes, I think.

I guess what I learned today is this: We live afraid of each other because we don’t have a way of seeing the heart that’s walking around in the body. We have to learn to lengthen those seconds that we spend seeing each other. That which is holy in me honors that which is holy in you.

I didn’t have time or words to get there today, but for a moment I imagined what it’s like right now for that gentle heart to live this life, walking around in that body.

Superhero Day

man-1082887_1280

Today was Superhero/Disney dress up day at Carlos’ school. There he sat in his “big boy car seat” in a Batman shirt…but we had a problem. The buckle was stuck. Stuckity stuck stuck stuck. I had pushed and prodded and cussed under my breath but it wouldn’t budge. I started to panic–thinking I would have to drive him to the fire house and have them cut him out of the dang thing.

Then, over my shoulder, I hear a friendly voice say, “Hey!” There stood Troy, father of one of Carlos’ classmates from last year and all-around cool guy. Who happens to work out many hours a day and has giant arms. I asked him to take a shot at getting the buckle unstuck and a couple of tries later, Carlos was free. Troy had swooped in and saved the day.

Troy’s superpower?  Strong thumbs and persistence. And kindness.

The classroom was boiling with excited kids–three Batmen, two Spidermen, a Super Mario whose sixth birthday was today, two sparkly princesses. And my sweet friend, Jayla, by herself in the back of the room with her thumb in her mouth and a heartbroken expression on her face. When I waved to her, she shuffled over to me, still sucking on her thumb. I’d never seen her do that before.

“What’s up, buttercup?” She mumbled something that I couldn’t hear. “Here, let’s go over here where it’s quiet so I can hear you….” I sat down at a table in the back of the room and she climbed onto my lap.

“I didn’t dress up.” I was about to tell her how pretty she looked in her flowered shirt and jeans, but it didn’t feel right. Instead, I wrapped my arms around her and she melted into me. Her face tucked under my chin. My body started that mom-rocking thing that bodies just do when a little one needs comfort. We sat there together, her getting all my attention in the middle of the crowd of excited superheros and princesses. We rocked and rocked and rocked. She snuffled and I clucked to her and patted her hair. I did my best to save the day.

My superpower? An expansive lap and a body that can bend itself into a mama shape when that’s the only thing that will do. And kindness.

Miss Carri saw us sitting there and came over to check on Jayla. She patted and clucked too then her face blossomed with an idea. She went over to the dress up center and pulled a Rapunzel dress out of the cabinet. Et voila…Jayla had a princess costume to wear.

Miss Carri’s superpower? A quick mind and giving heart. And kindness.

Once again, I found myself sitting in the parking lot for a few minutes to process the morning before I started on the day. I sat with the kindness that I had given and the kindness I had received. I let myself feel sad for the kids who don’t have a costume to wear on dress up day. I felt gratitude for the teachers who work so hard to make things even out as much as they can. But it can’t ever be 100% wonderful for every kid, all the time. I sat with that for a little while.

Just before I cranked the car, my phone dinged with a text. April, my friend and coworker, said, “Hey! I read your blog about the school parking lot. Do you think Carlos’ school could use those superhero capes we had for the NICU reunion?”

13006574_10207814994325831_4890924677889596472_n

Seriously? A bag of capes so that no one is left out on superhero day?

April’s superpower? Reading minds. And kindness.

Most of us are never going to have laser vision or freeze breath or Spidey Sense. Shoot, we aren’t even going to have a Batmobile or an invisible plane.

But every one of us has a superpower–kindness. Seeing each other when we are in need and stepping up to say, “Well….I can fix THAT.”

The Least of These: Refugees and Thanksgiving

I went to bed last night filled to weeping with what I’d seen on social media about the governor of my state, along with many others, declaring that we would not accept any Syrian refugees after the Paris attacks. I thought of my friend Robin and how she once explained Jesus to me: she just shut her mouth and spread her arms open wide.

That’s what love is supposed to look like. You need shelter, come to me. You need safety, come to me. You need to know you are loved, come to me. We’re becoming a frightened nation with our arms clasped tight. What happened to Lady Liberty–a gift from the French, no less–holding her torch high to light the way?

I am proud to be an American because we are the place of refuge. Our population–unless your folks were First Nations or brought over on a slave ship–is made up of people who sought out America for shelter, or safety, or freedom. Many of those new-made Americans were fleeing horrors. Maybe pogroms or the potato blight or poverty.

I remember going to Ellis Island and walking through the process. Through the long line for validating papers. Up the stairs to the medical check. Then summoned before the desk of the final questioner who made the call as to whether you would proceed forward to the door that led to America or whether you would be put on a boat back. What must that have felt like, to come so far then have the door slammed in your face? No room at the inn.

A family on the road.

A family on the road.

Brace yourselves–the atheist is about to start talking about the Bible and we all have Grandmama Eunice to thank for that. I woke up still thinking about refugees and the verse that came to mind was “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Sorry for the high language. We were raised King James Version, #KJV4Lyf.) Here’s a more modern rendition:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Drop the mic, Jesus. That’s some topical stuff, yo.

What if a terrorist gets in among the refugees? A wolf among the lambs? Yes, that could happen. Or a terrorist could fly in on a student visa. Or take a boat and come in through the coast. Or grow up in Iowa. Or Charleston.

If we slam the door on the people fleeing the very extremists we fear, we aren’t shutting out the terrorists. We’re shutting out the next generation of Americans. The ones who ran for shelter and found it. In my lifetime, that’s included Sudanese, Somalis, Serbs, Iranians, Vietnamese…and a whole lot of our great grandparents and grandparents.

The next part of my day really brought home this idea that America has to keep its arms open. There are two little girls in Carlos’ class who speak Arabic at home. I don’t know how they got here, I don’t know what country they are from. They are here now. They are quiet and watchful. They understand far more English than they speak. After many weeks of hugging them and talking to them and making a fuss over their drawings or puzzles, they have just begun to use single words when we talk. One said, “green” and “yellow” and “whhhhhite” last week when I pointed to colored blocks in the tower she had built.

I won’t use their names because I don’t have permission. I looked up the meaning of each girl’s name in Arabic and I swear Grandmama Eunice thumped me on the head again: one name means “mercy” and the other means “angel.” Angel and Mercy, these little souls I have been lucky enough to meet.

(Jesus picked up the mic and dropped it AGAIN.)

My baby and his turkey hat.

My baby and his turkey hat.

This morning was the Thanksgiving sing-a-long at PreK. I watched Angel and Mercy sit with their classmates in a nice straight row on the gymnasium floor. Each child wore a construction paper turkey hat made from their own handprints. Mercy’s eyes sparkled and she waved when I took her picture. Angel sucked on her finger, like she does when she is nervous.

What are they learning about Thanksgiving? What have we taught them about this quintessentially American holiday? When we are grateful for the bounty we appreciate here. When we remember how the native people of America helped our first set of refugees, fleeing home all those centuries ago.

I may not believe in angels, but I sure believe in mercy. And I open my arms and heart to the least of these, because I am an American.

Sunday Sweetness–“Start the Day In Happiness, In Kindness”

Here’s a beautiful sunny day kind of poem by Mary Oliver, read by the author:

Want more of her work? Follow this link:

 

Want to read a classic Baddest Mother Ever story about kindness? How about:

Panning For Gold Atop Lookout Mountain

Mother Each Other

I’ve started doing this weird thing. When I hug someone, I don’t just do the hug and the pat on the back–I put my hand on top of their head and give a gentle pat. It’s such a mothery thing to do, the pat on the head. As if I am hugging them horizontally and vertically at the same time. OK that sounds weird. You know, the way you cradle a baby’s head when you’re holding them close.

baby-539969_1280

I did it a few weeks ago to a total stranger. Heading down the hallway at Vivi’s school, I passed a young woman who was wiping tears behind her sunglasses. She was ducking her head and sobbing. I could have given her the head-tilt-sad-face combo and kept walking, but I stopped a few steps in front of her and asked, “Are you OK?”

“I just got some really bad news. These girls I went to school with were killed in a really bad wreck.” I wrapped her up in a hug and started mother-clucking.

“Oh, honey! That’s awful! Oh my goodness!” I patted her on the back of the head and let her cry for a few moments before letting go. “Are you OK to drive? Can I get you anything?”

She waved off the offer and said she just needed to get home. I told her to be careful then went on my way. Found out that night about the horrible wreck on I-16 that killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern.

Earlier that same day, I had sat in the sunshine with a friend whose life has been blown up in the last six months. I listened to him and told him what I knew about getting through hard times. When it was time to go, I hugged him and rested my hand on the back of his head. Held him close.

That instinct towards mothering the hurting–it put me in mind of a story my college sister Sally told about a moment she had at the school where she works:

“So yesterday I accidentally stabbed myself with a tiny screwdriver while changing the battery in my watch. (pretty par for Miss Graceful, here) I had to ask the school nurse for a band aid. Last night, as I was taking the bandage off, I flashed back to the moment with Mrs. F, the school nurse. She didn’t just hand the band aid to me. She opened it and carefully placed it on my wrist. Like a Mom. Then patted my arm and smiled. Like a Mom. And it struck me that as little girls we get “mothered-on” a lot. But when little girls grow up, we become mothers or mother figures to others and, for many of us, miss out on being “mothered-on.” Little boys get this attention as well, AND it continues into their adulthood. (If you don’t understand this point, you aren’t’ married or haven’t been long enough!) I think we can do better, my grownup girlfriends. Now go get a band aid and find a woman to “mother-on!” We all deserve this kind of love.”

bandageAmen, Sally, amen. Maybe my kids are so crazy about those Doc McStuffins bandages because they aren’t just a cool sticky thing with a picture–they’re visible reminders of how much they are loved. How their boo-boos will always be patted and kissed and fixed right up.

It’s the subtle difference in meaning between “loving someone” and “loving on someone.” One takes heart and the other takes heart and hands. One is an intransitive verb and one is very very transitive.

For Mothers Day this year? Let’s mother each other. Go find someone who’s hurting and love on them a little bit.

 

Hi, Excuse Me…You Sound Like an Ass.

donkey-441230_1280

Image courtesy Pixabay

I am just about ready to jerk a knot in some jerks around Facebook. What happened to being NICE? Or just shutting the hell UP? I’m not even talking about posts about touchy subjects–I’m talking about things that are personal celebrations that get shat upon by people who cannot resist sounding like an ass.

For example, a friend who really loves Halloween shares an adorable picture of her inflatable Frankenstein’s Monster and a super spooky giggling ghost with the caption, “Halloween decorations are up!”

First Commentor:  It’s not October yet.

Original Poster:  I know, and I’m already seeing Xmas commercials on television.

Commentor:  Time to quit watching television. I do my Christmas shopping locally in December.

Well, pin a rose on you! Everyone stand up and clap for this person who remains seasonally chaste, has eschewed television, AND shops locally.

Hey, Gwyneth? You sound like an ass.

donkey baseballTonight’s example. My friend posts a sweet video of her adorable daughter getting her first hit in softball. This child has played a whole season and never connected with the ball. She has stayed with it and never given up on herself. Tonight, she felt the crack of the bat and her mom caught it on video and it was a lovely, lovely moment.

Until some jackwagon comments:

“Are you sure it was scored as a hit or as an error? Looks like second base bobbled the ball and missed the throw.”

Hey, Ty Cobb? You sound like an ass.

I ignored those two and kept my mouth shut…because I didn’t want to sound like an ass, right? But one happened last week that made me set down my manners and straight up call out a stranger.

My friend’s son was murdered fourteen years ago by a burglar who was robbing their house. This golden-haired boy will always be a teenager, even as his friends turn 30. My friend posted a meme last week that mocked the laxity of laws governing gun shows. I don’t care what you think about the 2nd amendment–you treat the mother of a murdered boy with some KINDNESS.

The first comment? A person–a friend of hers who KNOWS HER HISTORY–said, “Lies. Damned Lies!” When she disagreed with him, he badgered her about “changing the subject” and “not admitting he was right.” On and on and ON.

That was when I lost my cool. I said, “I think M******* gets to say whatever the hell she wants about gun control and the rest of us can either nod our heads or shut up and move along. I’ll be standing over here with the “Parents Who Haven’t Had a Child Murdered With a Gun” support group. I believe the podium is currently occupied by “Mother Who HAS Had a Child Murdered With a Gun” so you speak your piece as long as you want. And I will be glad to loan this C***** person a copy of “How to Disagree With People Without Sounding Like a Total Ass.”

Dude thanked me for “chiming in.” Oh. Hell. NO. If I had been Aunt Esther, I would have hit him with my purse. He got a Talkin’ To.

And he withdrew his original comment with an explanation but no apology. Then he shut the hell up.

Hi, Charlton Heston? You sound like an ass.

Yes, Facebook is a place where people come together and whenever we come together we will find our opinions differ on some things that matter. And sometimes that matters and sometimes it doesn’t. As my grandmother would say, “There’s a time and a place for everything.” Guess what…a mom celebrating her daughter’s achievement is NOT the place for asking for a review of the tape. If you don’t agree with Halloween decorations in September, don’t put them up, but please don’t piss on Frankenstein’s Monster.

And if you have something to say about guns to a mother who held her child as he died from a gunshot wound, it better be, “I am so sorry for your loss.”

eeyoreBe ye kind to one another. Don’t make me stop this internet and come back there.

Be Somebody

Encourage someone today.  Remind them of their potential.  Tell them something you appreciate about them.  Share a sincere compliment with a stranger.  Look at yourself in the mirror and remember that you are a somebody.  

Be somebody who makes everyone you meet feel like a somebody.