Learning from Babies

Q15 lost his passport coming home from Mexico over spring break. He claims he gave it to Guy, Guy doesn’t remember ever receiving it, neither can find it. We need a replacement since Q leaves on a Scouting canoe trip in Canada next week.

Within a certain window of time and requiring both parents meant we had to go to the Federal Passport Office in San Francisco. We had an 11 am appointment for the first full day of summer (bummer for the kiddo—we made it up to him with lunch of his choosing).

Apparently, you make an appointment to stand in line to gain access to a room where you stand in another line. More than an hour later, you talk for approximately one minute with someone who gives you a number and asks you to be seated (another line). When your number is called, it takes about ten to fifteen minutes of paperwork. By the time you have completed the process (sans passport, which we made another appointment to pick up), you have spent less than 20 minutes interacting with an official and more than 2 hours waiting.

Lots of parents had littles in tow. Poor babies, stuck indoors, waiting (curiously, I saw no parents pull out books or toys). One young mama seated next to me had a daughter of about three and an eight-month-old son. The daughter quietly entertained herself (remarkable, as my boys for sure would have made a scene). Mama dandled the baby in her lap.

Baby made eye contact. I smiled and he cautiously, then fully, smiled back. He looked away, and when he again turned to me and I smiled, he beamed. He extended his little fingers and I gave him my pointer finger to grasp. He gurgled gleefully. We played this game repeatedly.

Later, another mama sat next to me with a slightly older (maybe thirteen to fifteen months?) curly haired little girl. This darling was not afraid to make her voice heard! She squawked for joy as she stared intently into my eyes.

Another baby peeked over her mama’s shoulder at her sisters seated in the row behind her. She quietly cooed at them and squinted her entire face with her smile. She looked distressed when they looked away and delighted when they gave her attention.

While Q stared intently at his phone, I took pleasure in baby-watching. At least they made the inching minutes pass more enjoyably than similarly staring at my phone (let’s be honest: I did some of that, too).

It was easy to “chat” with the babies. I made a little effort to engage with the first mama, but she barely responded. She smiled but didn’t make eye contact. She answered my question without elaboration (hence, I know her son was eight months old).

We should learn from the babies. These healthy and well-loved babies didn’t hesitate to make eye contact, smile, and talk in their way. They trusted in the goodness of those around them. They wanted to see and be seen.

Why do we lose that openness? Why do teens and adults prefer to stare down, or away, engaging with no one and keeping their thoughts to themselves?

How might life be more fun and the world a better place if we looked at one another with the unsuspicious joy of an infant who has just learned to smile?

 

Stay Human

Cautious of the time-sucking danger of social media, my Guy has intentionally cut back. A few months ago, though, he saw a post from a friend selling two three-day VIP tickets to BottleRock, a music festival in Napa. He immediately expressed interest, except the cost was a sad-but-immediate deal-breaker.

Someone who cares for us all witnessed the interaction and arranged to anonymously buy the tickets for us. I overheard Guy echoing our friend’s giddy enthusiasm when she called to share the news. Wide-eyed, I felt loved, plus a wee drop of trepidation–an extrovert and an introvert head to a huge venue with thousands-upon-thousands of people, and the introvert handles it…how?

On the arm of her Guy, of course. I love him, and he thrives on energetic crowds. This was a too-good-to-pass-opportunity. We said yes, with gratitude.

I spent the entire Memorial Day-after the concert weekend in my pj’s, tired and happy. We found friends we haven’t seen in too long. We made new friends. People shared drink tickets and food. We helped one another to good seating/standing, especially the shorter folks, and exchanged numbers to share pictures and, maybe, keep in touch.

We saw incredible artists, some whose music we knew, others we’d only heard about. Names became faces, and acts on a stage became artists to follow. It’s one thing to hear a song or several on the radio; it’s another thing altogether to see an artist at their craft. BottleRock was all about the artist, and we were there for it, in all meanings of that phrase.

Have you ever been to a silent disco? You put on headphones, tune to your DJ’s channel, and dance. Take off the headphones, and you witness a crowd jamming in relative silence. When more than one DJ spins on the same stage, you flip between stations–especially when you see, say, the red headphoned folks go crazy while you’re on a mellow blue jam… I feel hip in new ways (so. not. hip. Hah!).

Meandering through the masses–some of the best people-watching imaginable–we discovered art at every turn (including the art of delicious food/drink–yum!). Even better, we witnessed kindness, starting with our Good Samaritans who provided the tickets.

Our friend raved about Michael Franti: “He’s So Fun! Don’t miss him!” As we waited I casually chatted with a young woman next to me, incidentally the age of our older son, who confessed that she’d probably heard Franti “like, about 500 times? He’s the soundtrack of my childhood.” Which intrigued me: I must have heard his music, since her childhood and my son’s surely shared music?

Our friend was right–he’s so feel good, so positive. We made sure to see him twice! And of course we recognized his music. I bet you have, too, even if you don’t know his name.

A couple songs in to his VIP set, a boy about 10-years-old with Down Syndrome came on stage. Welcomed, amidst smiles and high fives and dance moves. They gave him the mic: he spoke, sang, danced. He took pictures with the crowd. I cried. I suspect Guy did, too.

Franti’s ethos: Stay Human. He stands for equality, all-abilities, kindness. Over and over, he invited children of different ages, abilities and colors to the stage and to the mic, to dance, to be themselves.

Before he introduced her, we noticed a female vocalist who had only half of her right arm. Franti had seen one of Victoria Canal’s Instagram stories, playing piano and singing with her angel voice, and invited her to Nashville to compose a song together. They spoke of being unlike anyone else they knew, bullied, and yet able to create space to be the heroes they and others need.

The things we think might keep us out of contention might be the very things that put us in the race. What we–or others–consider weakness might be exactly what we and others need.

Let’s stay human, friends. Let’s be kind. Let’s give others the benefit of the doubt. Let’s stop competing and start promoting others, rejoicing when anyone does well, knowing that as we come together, we can make the world a better place.

Boomerang

For Mother’s Day, I received two bouquets of flowers: one from my in-laws and another from my kids. I posted pictures on social media because I have a thing for flowers.

The next day, my neighbor and her young daughter stood on my doorstep holding a beautiful bouquet of homegrown roses. Mom had shown my pictures to Daughter; Daughter led Mom outside to pick a bouquet from their garden, carefully choosing one by one the flowers she wanted to share with me.

My former neighbor and friend planted and nurtured those roses. This simple gift felt like it connected more of us than were present in beauty and friendship.

Later that day, another neighbor dropped off a gallon bag of lemons from her tree. Two days later, still another neighbor brought over a bouquet of fresh herbs with an invitation to snip more from her front yard garden.

Humbled by these generous gestures, I wondered aloud what I could share.

Northern California has experienced odd mid-May weather: a cold front dumped rain on us. My just-blooming roses had become so heavy that I feared they might snap their stems. During a break in the weather, I ran outside and quickly cut as many blooms as I could. I shook them dry-ish and brought them inside.

As I considered what to do with them, I realized that evening would be the last gathering for our middle school group where I have served as a leader for the now-8th grade girls during their three years of participation. My two co-leaders are high school students. I set about tying up two bouquets with white satin ribbon to present to these darling girls.

One of the 8th graders pounced on the bouquets and took it upon herself to present them to the high school girls, who both choked back tears of joy. One said that she had given flowers to her teachers last week, and now she understood how they felt: honored. Loved.

I told Q15 this story at breakfast the next day and he said, “Of course. Boomerang.”

When I asked what he meant, he explained: “It’s the boomerang effect. We talk about it at Boy Scouts whenever there isn’t something else to talk about. When one person does good for another, so that person does good for another, and the good keeps flying around…”

I’m grateful they talk about such things at Boy Scouts. We should all talk about it more often.

The night after I presented the girls with bouquets, the church had a scavenger hunt/end-of-year party for the 8th grade students. I couldn’t go because I had to work. So the girls came to my workplace, and one of my high school co-leaders handed me a jewelry bag; she had purchased matching friendship bracelets for all of us. My turn to choke back tears. The love keeps boomerang-ing.

Earlier that evening, my co-worker had told me a story about a BART worker he chats with when he takes BART late on weekend nights. This middle-aged gal does a great job in an under-appreciated position and often has to deal with the last-car crazies, those who have over-imbibed or are trying to hide so as to sleep overnight on the train. He said to her, “Perhaps only you and I in all the world actually know what goes down on nights like these.” She sighed in agreement.

On Mother’s Day, our wine bar gave away flowers to our guests. At closing time, he wrapped up a few blooms for his BART friend, who was genuinely moved. A few nights later, she presented him with a $10 BART pass a tourist had given her since he wouldn’t be able to use the remainder. The love keeps boomerang-ing.

Last night I trimmed a few more roses and brought them to a friend who plays piano in the bar a few nights each month. She lives alone, is facing health issues, and I thought she might like them. She smiled and exclaimed, “Oh! These are the roses I see on Facebook!” Yes, they are.

Personally, I’ve never played with an actual boomerang, but I sure am having fun watching the love fly here and there!

Sunday Sweets – Debbie’s Ginger Snaps

I don’t anticipate that Sunday Sweets will become a regular thing. However, I thought–could not believe it wasn’t–that our family’s all-time favorite cookie recipe was on the blog… And I was Wrong!

Many years ago, a church friend discovered that Teen enjoyed Kitchen Time. Mostly because he was food-motivated, which propelled him to find his way around to satisfy his occasionally odd teenage cravings. I think what happened (so long ago I don’t accurately remember the sequence of events…) is that she made the kiddo some cookies. He loved them, raved about them, ate most of them without sharing. So she shared the recipe, and they became his signature cookie.

They’re hers through and through, but I’m not sure we’ve made another cookie in this house since. Tween loves most things his brother likes, so brought these as his class birthday treat all through elementary school. Both kids have made them every year for their Scout summer camp (and most years the kids don’t get them because the adults eat them first!). And now Teen and Nephew will receive them in college care packages.

Nephew’s box prompted this post, actually. We didn’t have just the right box to mail the water bottle he left at our house and the cookies, so we went to the post office with both in hand. Business was slow and two friendly postal workers offered to help find the best box for the best rate. The cookies were in a Ziplock bag and one of the gals commented that they looked so good they were making her hungry.

So here you go, kind postal worker, and all who enjoy a hearty, spicy, crunch of a cookie.

Debbie’s Ginger Snaps
Makes 3-4 dozen

3/4 c butter-flavored shortening
1 c sugar
1/4 c molasses (unsulphured–I use Grandma’s brand–not blackstrap)
1 beaten egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 t each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
1/4 t salt
granulated sugar for rolling

In a stand mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Roll into walnut-sized balls and coat lightly with sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet space 3-inches apart. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cool on pan 2-3 minutes, then remove and cool on paper bags.

P.S. At church this morning, I introduced myself to someone who already knew me. She reminded me that, one morning this last year, she had been sitting in front of me at a women’s program; she struggled to get her sweater on, and I gently reached forward to help her with it. She had said to herself, “Who is this kind woman?” and I suppose asked around to find out.

Such a quick moment, such an easy act, but apparently it was meaningful to her then and meaningful to me today.

Kindness is easy, friends. Let’s all spread a little more Sunday sweetness, through cookies or other simple and generous acts.

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The Journey

Our minds play tricks on us. We’ve had so much fun that we think if we can just stack all the same blocks in exactly the same order, we can recreate that fabulous experience. But, the next time round, we aren’t the same people. Even if we manage to stack those same blocks in that same arrangement, the experience will not be recreated: it will necessarily be something new, and we may decide it doesn’t measure up. Perhaps we teach our children to stack their blocks just so, but they are not us, they don’t relish the experience the way we’d imagined. Other times we stack–and stack and stack–those blocks, making ourselves sick because we need to step away, turn our backs, and make something new. Creation, and recreation, may require toppling unsafe or no longer helpful structures in order to build something better. Thanks, Jessie, for leading us in your vulnerability!

re:create recess #8: Jessie Colburn

As I sit back and consider this post, I can’t help but feel a little sad. These guest posts are supposed to be about “re-creation” or “recreation” in a fun and life-giving way. It’s a way to shine a light on what’s happening in our everyday lives that’s good and silly and maybe, at times, a bit unexpected. I wish I was in a place where I could’ve written about my newfound love for hiking—a practice that makes my backpacker husband look at me with eyes of “I told you so!” muddled with “Is this for real? Does she really like this or is she humoring me?” I assure you, the love is real. Being out in nature has opened my heart and mind to God’s beauty and spirit in fresh and healing ways.

But instead, I feel compelled to share about the dysfunction of re-creating in unhealthy and damaging ways—even with the best of intentions.

Have you ever had an amazing experience—so amazing, in fact, that you’d do almost anything to experience it again? Have you ever legitimately tried for a re-do?

I have. Multiple times. And truthfully, it’s never quite worked out the way I’d planned.

I’m not talking about re-reading a book that’s brought you great joy, or re-watching a favorite movie that stirs up nostalgia and good feelings. Those instances almost always invite a do-over. When we re-read or re-watch, we’re not expecting to feel the same things we did the first time around. We aren’t surprised by events or plot twists that we now know are coming; we don’t laugh as hard at the same joke because we already know the punch line.

But the knowledge of what’s in store allows us to reframe the book or film—and look for the new amidst the familiar. I love that moment when you recognize the foreshadowing of impeding doom (or romance!) that you somehow missed the first time. Or the dramatic irony that occurs when you know that two characters will embrace for the last time (especially when they don’t know it yet). Or the feeling of inclusiveness that happens among friends when a situation outside a movie theatre demands the recitation of a famous line from a shared favorite film.

This type of do-over is near and dear to me. I relish it.

But there’s another kind of re-creation that’s altogether different.

There are some things in life that aren’t meant to be re-done. In fact, trying to re-do them almost always invites heartache.

Here’s a sort of trivial example: One summer when I was in high school, my brother, best friend, and I attended a theatre camp.

We had no idea what was waiting for us. No expectations. Extremely high hopes. As the days drew nearer, all three of us were filled with joyful anticipation and high anxiety. Who would we meet? What would we do? Would we love it? In addition to the promise of fun and laughter—we’d be away from home for a whole week. That’s right—it was sleep away camp.

Does this sound like the set-up for a Disney Channel original movie? I hope so. Because that’s basically what it was. Turns out, camp was completely magical. We laughed harder than we ever laughed. Met incredible people. Learned so much about ourselves. And—gasp!—there was even a camp crush that turned into a budding relationship by the time the week was over.

When next summer rolled around, I knew that WE HAD TO DO THIS AGAIN. “Remember last year? We need to go back!” I couldn’t fill out the application fast enough. Couldn’t put it n the mail quick enough.

So, of course, we returned. Only this time, the experience was very different. Honestly, camp that next year… was pretty disappointing. And it wasn’t the curriculum or the kids or the camp itself that was lame. It was me. (By the way, did I mention that this was an IMPROV theatre camp? The irony of trying to re-create an IMPROV experience, which, by its very nature is spontaneous, is not lost on me. But, I digress.)

My expectations were so high for the next year that there was no room for reality in the daydream I’d re-created. And as a result, the memory of the first camp experience started becoming better and better in the wake of my disappointment.

Sadly, I don’t just do this with camp experiences. Sometimes I do this with relationships. Often times, I do this with my own childhood. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to re-create experiences for my kids that I’ve remembered as “magical” or “life-changing”—only to be rebuffed and disappointed by my kids’ lack of enthusiasm.

For example, I played a lot of soccer when I was growing up. Like a lot. Like I started when I was five years old and played straight through until I was sixteen years old. NO breaks. No other sports. I played on multiple teams at the same time. I loved it. I lived and breathed it. It was my thing. And a big marker of my identity in my fledgling teen years.

I’m now in my thirties. My soccer days have long passed. But now I have little people who look like me, and obviously, they will like the same things that I like, right? Wrong.

Enter my sweet, unsuspecting three-year-old.

My older daughter had recently started gymnastics and, so, I was feeling guilty about not having an activity for my little one. (We’ll come back to the insanity that is mommy-guilt in another article.) Naturally, I signed her up for Mommy & Me soccer! What could be better? Being sporty! Active! Outside!

We went to the Sporting Goods store. We bought shin guards and cleats and a pink ball and a bunch of athletic wear. We went to our first class and… it was a complete fail.

Not only did she hate it, but the coach made a point of telling the whole class that we DON’T need cleats at this age. And he even pulled me aside after to say, “Um, sorry, but, could you not bring the pink ball next time? I have all the equipment already, and the kids’ll just fight over yours if you bring it again.”

Greeeeeeeat. Turns out I’m that mom.

So, for ten weeks, I forced her to go to this stupid class (because I was determined to bond with her over an activity that I loved in my youth). And for ten weeks, she put up with it—not because she loves me and wants me to be happy, but because we went to the coffee shop right after and she got to have cookies and chocolate milk.

I guess, in the end, it wasn’t a complete loss. Although she may hate soccer forever, in my heart of hearts, I know she enjoyed the special mommy-time. And thankfully, I’ve now learned her preferred “activity” is the park swings.

Unfortunately, it’s not always the happy times I’m anxious to re-create.

If I’m being honest, a lot of the time I re-create or re-do the hurt I’ve experienced. Do you know what this is called?

Resentment.

It’s when you hold on to feelings of being wronged or hurt (whether real or imaginary) in such a tangible way that, quite literally, you re-live your pain. Over and over.

This is not a healthy practice and I don’t recommend it. When we give resentment a foothold, it can take over our hearts and minds. Take this blog post as an example. Here was a chance to share about the things I take delight in! But my little heart has been so infected with this weed, I’m taking this precious time to talk about something so yucky. But there’s a reason for this. I’m hopeful that by sharing my experience, I can serve to enlighten others about how self-destructive this practice can be.

One of the many tricky things about resentment is that it’s often linked to unexpressed pain.

Somewhere deep inside, at least for me, I fear rejection or being disliked. Rather than expressing the truth about how I feel (or how a person has hurt me), I keep quiet. Letting the bad feelings grow. Letting my anger fester. Venting to people that aren’t those who’ve wronged me. And so the cycle continues. I carry around this bitterness—not confronting the person(s) who (in my eyes) has wronged me. And as a result, I look for additional transgressions in future interactions to bolster and justify my pain.

Much like my failed second camp experience, in essence, I continually re-live and re-do the hurt. And in my mind, it’s almost always bigger and more unfair than what actually happened. It’s like I’ve created this alternate reality that ultimately exists to fuel my anger. And for what?

Anger is so seductive. It’s one of the few emotions that lets us feel powerful and in control—when in reality, we experience the exact opposite. When anger takes hold of me, I’m its slave. There’s a flash of power, as it makes most people (especially children) stop, take notice, and try to make it stop. But all I’ve really accomplished in that moment is managing to hurt feelings… and often they belong to the people I love most.

The thing about anger and pain is that these emotions need to be recognized. Even when we stuff them down and try to keep them under wraps, they find a way of seeping out. Think about your physical pain for a moment. If you touch a hot stove and get burned, you’ll cry out! You’ll look for relief. You’ll take proper precaution next time, but you’ll also give the wound the treatment it deserves.

I think our emotional pain is similar. If we don’t acknowledge it and try to make it better, there’s no chance for real healing. In fact, the more we ignore our emotional pain—much like physical pain—the greater the risk of infection, complication, and further trauma.

So how do we break this cycle of re-doing? Of trying to capture past joy (or pain) at our own peril? Of re-creating in an unhealthy way?

Actually, I think it’s similar to how we re-do joy with books and movies. We don’t look to physically re-make the experience. That time has come and gone, for better or worse. Instead, we aim to learn from it. If we can shift our expectations, we can let our past re-shape and re-mold our present into something new amidst the familiar. We can take baby steps toward healing, and slowly watch our past pain melt away into forgiveness, reconciliation, and ultimately, redemption.

And so, I say to you—readers of the interweb, a place that feels both personal and anonymous—I am in therapy. I’m trying to learn from my past. I’m trying give myself permission to feel. To be honest with myself and those around me. There is a way to be kind and still speak your truth.

I’ll admit, I’m still learning how to speak mine. At times, I wish I could just magically be rid of this resentment. This thief in the night. This robber of joy. This sinful behavior. But the hard truth about being an adult is that sometimes you have to work for it. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want to. Even when old habits feel more comfortable and “OK for now.” It’s in these times of critical self-talk and self-doubt that I remember the ancient wisdom of a well-known Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I am on a journey toward healing. Toward forgiveness… of others and myself. I will get there, in time. For I know that God, who began the good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished.

God’s blessings on your journey.

Jessie Colburn is wife to Chris, mom to Kate & Charlotte, and a general lover of books, friends, family, and wine (not necessarily in that order). You can usually find her on a hike with her kids, in her kitchen preparing a meal, or near the teen fiction section at her local independent book store. While most of her time is spent raising her babies, she’s also a freelance children’s book editor. Her favorite activities include laughing, eating, reading, and talking.

Kindness Counts

I’ve been thinking about kindness lately.

scatter-kindness-kindness-quoteKindness matters. Being friendly, courteous, generous – yes, those small but gentle acts matter.

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you It’s golden—and a rule—for a reason. C’mon, who among us wants someone to be short and snippy to us? Who thinks it’s acceptable, tolerable, even funny, for someone to be downright rude and mean? So we treat others as we like to be treated. It’s not that difficult.

So why is it that all too often we feel bruised by others’ unkindness? I guess the other saying is true as well: hurt people hurt people. We all deal with some of life’s aches and pains, and in turn we inflict those on others. Yuck.

Some kindness quotes:

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” –Seneca

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” –J.M. Barrie

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kindness doesn’t mean squishy-sappy-soft. Sometimes the kindest words can be difficult to say and even more difficult to hear. Sometimes we have to tell people uncomfortable truth; not telling them would be unkind. And yet, even the hardest kind words can be uttered in friendship, with gentle courtesy and great generosity. With love’s nudging motivation.

Earlier this week, I went to the pharmacy to pick up three prescriptions for three family members. The line felt uncomfortably long. I forgot my phone = no easy distraction. I studied the aisle in which we stood: adult-strength low-dose aspirin. Muscle relaxing pads. Athletic tape. I waited patiently.

Finally the man ahead of me was called to the counter. He asked, “Can I pay for this here?” An extra-large bottle of alcohol, cobalt blue, maybe vodka.

“Sure, yes,” the response.

I waited some more while a new staff person clocked in and, then finally, my turn. She had to pull up each of our accounts separately. And as it turned out, my doctor called in the wrong prescription.

Meanwhile, we heard: “Sir, why you look at me like that?” The pharmacist at the next counter sounded agitated.

Big Blue Bottle Man responded brusquely: “What are you talking about?”

“You throw your hands up. Your eyes look mean. I’m just doing my job.”

“What are you talking about?” His anger increased in volume.

“I’m doing my job. I’m not sure why you treat me with rudeness.”

My pharmacist gal and I, we made BIG eyes at each other. She glanced down the counter at her co-worker. I stared downward, not wanting to make eye contact with the guy only a few feet away.

“You’re an idiot. You call me rude, I call you an idiot.” He stormed off. She called Security. He blustered back, yelled some more, and stomped away again.

Later, while Bridget sorted the prescription confusion, I noticed the blue bottle behind the counter. Perhaps his prescription and liquor didn’t mix—was that the problem? Either way, the employee appropriately confronted him for his lack of kindness. His response lacked all human kindness.

Bridget did her best for me, and ultimately was unable to get me what I need. At least for that day. She smiled and made eye contact. She asked questions and listened. She put forth maximum effort, and it showed.

As I left—without the prescriptions I came for—I saw the manager. I grabbed his attention and made sure he knew that Bridget had done a great job. Flustered, he responded, “Oh, yes! Yes, Bridget is great. Um, thanks.” Clearly an enthusiastic response from a customer had not been his managerial norm.

I got in the car, my mind instantly returning to the day’s festering worries. Suddenly, they didn’t fit. I turned on the radio, loud, and sang along to the Modest Mouse song, Float On. Kindness will help us float on even if things end up a bit too heavy.

Yesterday Tween and I went to the Town Faire. He spun the wheel at one of the booths and won a rubber bracelet. The guy working the booth asked if Tween wanted to sign the iKind pledge, which started as an initiative at Tween’s middle school a few years ago and is now spreading to a community-wide message. Because, not just middle schoolers, but we all should be kind.iKind

The guy asked me to sign, which seemed both unnecessary and obvious: Of Course I will sign, because of course I intend to be kind! I don’t understand why it’s not obvious to everyone, why there needs to be an initiative. As we walked away the man said, “Thank you for supporting kindness.”

Seriously? What are we coming to when we need to sign a pledge to support kindness?

Kindness Feels Good! And kindness is contagious.

I don’t want to be Grouchy Blue Bottle Guy. I want to be Bridget, doing her best. I want to be Me, accepting Bridget’s best even when it didn’t produce my desired result. I want to be kind!

Which reminds me of another song, Natalie Merchant singing: You’ve been so kind and generous. For your kindness, I’m in debt to you. For everything you’ve done, I’m bound to thank you for it.

Sing it loud!

“There are such nice people in this world…”

…says Tween, as the lady burying the Target conveyor belt with items notices our simple three items – a pack of lip balm and two shower scrubbies – and invites us to jump ahead of her in line.

Of course he’s right. There are such nice people in this world.

This week we met fantastic doctors and nurses, office staff and techs, who extended extra care to a nervous kid and his on-edge parents. Friends have shown up with cards, hugs, ice cream, meals, more hugs, and lots and lots of prayers. Kiddo is back to school and we are inches away from solid steps forward. We feel overflowing gratitude for the loving kindnesses that have come our way.

As I reflect on human kindness, on the miracles God does through us connecting us to one another, I want to share with you an overdue story of incredible kindness:

In our small town, a Small Wonder fights a big Cancer in a little body. Her sweet Mama Bear calls her a “Gladiator in a tutu.” As this tiny Gladiator began to lose her hair this summer, Mama Bear sent out a Facebook plea for folks with leads on kid-appropriate head scarves.

We were supposed to be on vacation, yet we didn’t go on vacation. We saw the post. I prayed. Guy went into action.

Guy contacted a family who had participated in our church’s Mexico house building trip. This particular family has a fashion company, TART Collections. Gorgeous, beautifully designed, high-end women’s fashion worn by celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and Sofia Vergara. They generously replied “Of course!” they could pull together some head scarves.

They called Guy back: could he arrange for Gladiator & Co to come to production headquarters? Why, yes, he could. Perhaps God kept us in town for this very reason.

Guy arrived at TART a few minutes before Gladiator & Co, who arrived to a rousing welcome from the whole company. A prominent “Welcome” sign hung in the lobby above a wrapped pink box, atop which sat a stuffed pink monkey. She unwrapped the box to discover a bedazzled pink backpack chock full of head scarves and little girl art supplies. She got a company tour, and got to touch and “ooh” and “aah” at the luxurious fabrics.fabric

When the tour stopped at the photography studio, Gladiator was presented with a custom-made Just-for-Her TART dress: they would do a fashion shoot with her. As she emerged from the dressing room, Gladiator appeared uncharacteristically timid. TART employees lined the long back wall, waiting to cheer her on. They encouraged her: “C’mon! Strike a pose!”

Long, dramatic pause, as Gladiator looked from one end of the room to the other… Suddenly, she bounced into pose, and the whole company erupted in applause! While she twirled and twisted for the camera, folks were off in another room, hurriedly making skirts from fabric Gladiator had admired.Gladiator

Gladiator got a turn behind the camera and found herself in a quandary: might she someday want to be a high fashion model or a photographer? The world filled with new and glorious opportunities! And all this so soon after her sixth birthday, in a week when she was both losing her hair and being made to feel less than by peers unable to understand this new reality. God knew His little beloved needed a boost.photog fin

Balloons, cupcakes, and a party ensued, and before it all concluded, Mama Bear received a TART catalog and pad of sticky notes. “Let’s get to YES! No is not an option.”

Of course Mama Bear wanted all eyes on her Gladiator, on The Fight, and not on the support team. TART folks knew, though, that a loved-on support team makes for a stronger Gladiator.

And so Mama Bear adopted Gladiator’s timid pose: “Well, let’s see, hmm, ooh beautiful, well, maybe I could choose… Oooh, what about That One?” Choosing one made choosing more easier.

The extravagant acts of kindness continued as TART offered Guy the Secret Code for Guy’s Wife (Me, an uninvolved and undeserving bystander) to also order “Not just one, but what she wants” items online. Seriously? When have I ever enjoyed a high fashion shopping spree? (Never!). I must have looked at each item at least six times before I made any selections, overwhelmed and overjoyed at the opportunity.

Mama Bear wrote:

“Oh, Cancer, how I hope you were there watching! The smile on her face lit up the room. For a few precious hours, she was not a kid with cancer…she was a model. A photographer. The birthday girl. The complete center of attention. And it was all made possible by the generous spirit and love of perfect strangers with huge hearts. The joy in that room was SO MUCH BIGGER THAN YOU, CANCER. My family cannot thank those incredble people at TART Collections enough for making magic happen in that studio yesterday.

“It seems like every time you succeed in getting us down, God sees and does something amazing, something real, something tangible, to turn it around and lift us all up. You can take her hair, you can take her immune system, you can take her kidney, but you cannot and will not take her spirit. She gets more beautiful each and every day. Her body may be getting weaker, but her spirit is getting stronger. You. Are. Losing. You picked on the wrong kid.”

Friends, doesn’t this just light you up? Doesn’t it change your perspective on human kindness, on what One can do for Another? Every time I have the privilege to share this story, which is way more than every time I have the privilege to wear my new and beautiful Tart clothing, I watch as faces change, attitudes change, and people see how they can do more, be more, love their neighbors more.

“Extravagant” is one of my favorite words. By definition it means: “exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate.” May I never be accused of extravagant spending in wasteful ways. May I always attempt extravagant love!