She’s fretting about everything — her hair, her dress, her shoes. Should she wear a flower in her hair or not? Should she wear sandals or black flats? Are black shoes with a white dress too boring? Shouldn’t she have “some” color? Why does her hair have to be so big and thick? Why can’t she be thinner? What will they think of her? Why can’t she just be perfect?
It doesn’t matter what I say, I’m wrong. So, eventually, I refuse to take the bait and stop responding. This, of course, just earns me rebuke.
“What, you don’t care? Why aren’t you answering me? Why won’t anyone ever help me???”
I grit my teeth. Dan grabs a glass to make me a drink.
She gets like this when she’s anxious or worried. She torments herself (and me) by obsessing about things she can’t change, picks herself apart, and assumes everyone is judging her (and, of course, finding that she doesn’t measure up). This despite me constantly reminding her that most of the world is concerned only with themselves, not her.
But, she doesn’t get that yet. She’s still in those self-absorbed, anxious, worrisome teenage years when Everything Is Monumental. She is a bit of drama queen about it all; most girls her age are.
When we finally get in the car, she sulks most of the way to her choir concert, unhappy with pretty much everything.
She and her friend do their solo, er, duet. I take pictures and hold my breath. She hits all the notes right and they get a much-deserved standing ovation.
A smile bursts across her face, a mixture of relief and sheer joy. She grabs her singing partner in a hug, lifting her off the ground. They giggle and soak up the applause and admiration of their classmates.
After the concert, we gather in the halls, taking photos with family members. Friends and audience members tell her she was amazing.
A charismatic, popular, and handsome senior boy—who has literally been the star of their high school stage for the last several years—looks her in the eye ( her…a lowly 8th grader!) and says: “That was awesome, Kelly!”
She beamed brighter than ever.
If you’ve ever been girl in Jr. High, you know how monumental this is.
He knew her name! He talked to her in front of everyone! He complimented her voice!
His four words and two seconds of kindness lifted my girl ten feet tall, improved the whole atmosphere, and changed the entire tone of the day.
That is what a little kindness can do. I’ve witnessed it time and again.
- The jury coordinator who calms an increasingly irritated jury pool with an empathetic ear, respectful tone, and cheerful professional demeanor.
- The customer who notices the last person in line forgot a bag and rushes out to find her, saving her a trip back to the store.
- The police officer who chooses a soft and respectful tone that disarms rather than a harda**, authoritative stance that encourages angry defiance.
- The runner at a race who congratulates his or her strongest competitor for inspiring and motivating them to run harder.
Kindness is the greatest superpower we have and yet, we’re all so reluctant to use it lest we look weak.
When did kindness, humility, and humanity cease to be noble virtues?
Sadly, we live in a world today in which ruthlessness, cunning, and intolerance is commonplace and, in many cases, richly rewarded by our patriarchal and materialistic society. (Though all the money in the world won’t make a person “good” or happy).
So many tear each other down and climb over one another and work hard to keep the ones below them down in an effort to get a little higher themselves. It must be exhausting and frightening and stressful (so much to lose).
The irony is that they’d get much higher in life (emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise) by lifting others up.
About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”