2016: A Year of Kindness

When 2016 rolled around, I decided deep in my heart that I wanted to make kindness a central priority in my life. There’s been so much cruelty and pain in the news, that I want to do my best in my own little way by making the world a better place. Even if I’m only able to do small things, sometimes those can make a difference, right? I hope so.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve been having to explain a lot of troubling things to my children. We see the heartbreaking news of the refugees from Syria who are fleeing for their lives and politicians here who say loudly that they are not worthy of our help and compassion. We see presidential candidates talking about building walls and shutting people out because of the way they worship or who they love. We see armed men breaking in and taking over public property waving guns and then bulldozing over archaeological sites and damaging fragile habitats. We’ve seen young people gunned down because of the color of their skin.

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind. – Cleveland Amory

It’s been a lot to take in. And it’s hard explaining all of this to the girls. They have friends who are many different faiths and we are lucky enough that they go to a diverse school and preschool. For the Grasshopper especially, it’s hard for her to understand the cruelty directed at her friends. Quite honestly, I can’t understand it either, and I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that some people have ideas that we know to be very, very wrong.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

How do we solve all of this? I don’t know. Obviously, there aren’t any easy answers.

I think, in part, the solution lies within each of us. I think each of us, in our own small ways, can make a difference. I think it starts with realizing and admitting when you’ve done something wrong and apologizing for it. I think it starts with a word of support when you see a parent stuck in a tough situation with a tantrum-y kid. It means standing up and speaking out with compassion if you see someone mistreating another person because of the color of their skin or their faith or who they love. It’s taking the time to ask someone how their day was and really listen to them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
― Kahlil Gibran

Either way, I think it all of this has to add up somehow. We can do better than this. We have to choose to be the change we want to see. We have to choose to live with kindness.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. – Margaret Mead

This is why, in 2016, I’m choosing kindness as my word to live by.

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“Bless Your Heart”

Okay y’all, I’m going to get a little southern here for a minute. I was raised in Central Texas (which totally counts as the South), and growing up I used to hear my grandmother bless people all the time.

“Bless your heart.”

“Well, bless your soul.”

And she always meant it with all of her heart.

This is why I was surprised to learn as an adult that there is a “southern” thing wherein people apparently bless other people but really mean, “What a dumbass.” Or “I hate you.”

Guys, please. This isn’t a Southern Thing. This is a mean thing. I’m sure there are some passive aggressive people from the south out there, but I’d hate for anyone to walk away with the impression that Southern women are, as a whole, mean people who just fake being friendly until they can turn around and talk about you behind your back. Meanness is something that happens everywhere. It’s not a “Southern Thing.” I think those folks that bless people’s hearts in a sarcastic way would find ways to be nasty no matter where they are from.

I grew up surrounded by Southerners. East Texas Southerners. My maternal aunts could put more syllables into a word than you would believe. My mother can, too, but she’s pretty good at keeping a lid on it. What she’s not good at keeping a lid on is being friendly to folks. Everywhere. No matter who they are. This Christmas, we were standing in line to get tacos in a gas station (because this is Texas and that’s where you get good tacos), and my mom turned around and struck up a conversation with a couple of construction workers behind us. She chatted with them about their day and the delicious tacos we were all about to eat, and then she stuck out her hand and introduced herself to them, shook hands and learned their names. I guarantee you that if she sees them again she will remember them by name and ask after their children. Probably by name. Because she is kind and genuine and really cares about those two guys and how they are doing.

Now that’s a Southern thing.

But it’s not only a Southern thing. Just like mean folks live everywhere, so do kind people.

So if you ever hear me say, “Oh, bless your heart.” It doesn’t mean I hate you or think you’re stupid. It means I love you and I wish you happiness.

This year is just getting started. Let’s all work together to spread a little kindness.