I’m a sucker for a feel-good news piece or a heartwarming story. Just recently there were articles about a little four year old girl who made friends with an old man in a store. It was adorable, and awesome. Old people + kids = a whole lot of feels.
I like seeing the pictures of kind notes left by waitstaff, telling of brief encounters where a family (usually a mom) is treated well by a stranger, usually when her child(ren) is/are having some sort of epic meltdown. In this world full of strangers, it’s nice to see people acting neighborly and really looking out for the well-being of someone they don’t know.
My favorite stories are the bystander stories. Someone who witnessed the incident telling the world about it. These stories make me feel real good. Sharing someone else’s kindness. Let me emphasize: SOMEONE ELSE’s KINDNESS.
I am a skeptical person by nature. I’ve known too many phony people and, to my fault, distrust people I do not know. I have never given money to a person carrying a homeless sign. In this area, the trend now is to stand at the exit to a shopping plaza, right on the median, holding a sign. One day, while just waiting in the lot and people watching, I watched a woman leave the Dunkin drive-through, park her car across the plaza and walk to the exit with her sign for help. Now, I’m not saying this woman wasn’t in need. I know that there are plenty of homeless that do have cars, and phones and nice things, but something didn’t sit right with me about this situation.
There are two groups that collect on the streets that I don’t ignore. Firefighters (fill-the-boot for muscular dystrophy) and veterans.
Am I a horrible person for not trusting that others are in need? Or questioning the motives of those asking for help? I hope not. But I have learned to keep my mouth shut. I hope that my girls don’t inherit my skepticism. I really do. I’d rather them give a dollar to someone undeserving than to not give at all. And one of my goals as they get older is to really let go of some of these apprehensions and help others out without questioning their need or motives. It’s a work in progress.
But this brings me back to my original point. Being kind.
There are not enough kindnesses in the world. And I think hearing about or witnessing someone else’s kindness can sort of rub off on you. I remember one time reading about a fast food restaurant of some kind in which customer after customer paid for the person behind them. I’ve done it twice. Once at a Dunkin and once at a Dairy Queen. It was awhile ago and I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. I’m only saying it now to make a point. I love that people are doing nice things for each other, and that kids especially are doing kind things for others. It inspires me to be kind.
But it doesn’t inspire me to post about it. This is where I think people are getting the message mixed up. Because being kind isn’t about the public pat on the back. It isnt about being proud of a kind act you or your child did. Be proud that you made your Halloween costume by hand, or rocked a new Pinterest project (hey, that stuff is hard!), but not about a gesture that should be so commonplace that it doesn’t even need to be mentioned. Teach your child that kindess is a daily thing, and that it’s not bad to feel good about doing something kind. But also teach them that expecting accolades, real or virtual, for something that EVERYONE should be doing, is not good.
Your kindness (or your child’s) doesn’t need a worldwide platform.
And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Because kindness spreads. It’s like a really cool infectious disease. Maybe talking to your child about the boy who brought two lunches to school for a friend in need would inspire him or her to help hungry families. You know what title I would have loved to read in this mom’s post? A copy of a letter she sent in to the school urging them to be more aware of their student’s needs, with a sideline about kids looking out for friends as her son did.
Do you remember that story a while back about a waitress who forged a note on a customer’s receipt to make it seem like she got no tip because she was gay? Yeah. There are people like this in the world. And reading all the breastfeeding horror stories floating around the internet make it seem like no one supports nursing moms. My best friend nursed in the middle of the zoo and not even one eyebrow raised.
The need to go viral is certainly turning into its own disease. I call it, “me, me, me, me,” (sung like a vocal warmup) after a music teacher I once worked with who was apparently the most important person in the world and she wouldn’t let anyone forget it.
It’s not always bragging. And it’s not always ill-intentioned. Sometimes we just need validation that we aren’t a completely screwed up human being. Moms especially, I think. Sometimes it can just take one like to turn your day around. It has for me. I got a really adorable shot of the twins yesterday in Minnie Mouse onesies. And then the one that A was wearing was thrown in the trash because she pooped right up her back and there was no saving it.
Maybe if we just tried sharing a story about someone else that inspired us. Like that person who gave a bottle of water to the man collecting money outside of Target while you were thinking about how he should be working instead of asking for handouts. Because that non-judgy person is who I want my kids to be like.
Not the one send a skywriter across the east cost to tell about something nice they did for someone else.