Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Do The Kindest Thing

Good morning, everyone...I am surrounded by a buffet of knitting projects that, while I have been making an effort to finish, I cannot talk about all of them. One is for an afghan pattern that I am designing, that will be entered into a contest, and another is a shawl pattern that I can't decide if I should submit or self-publish. Any and all suggestions welcome.

There are also two St. Baldrick's hats and two baby hats here. The baby hats are gifts, and the St. Baldrick's hats are for me. I am shaving my head for St. Baldrick's on Sunday, and of course March is still in like a lion so my head will be cold. More on that later.

I told myself I would not write unless I had something to say, and if you read this post and disagree, then I apologize. However, I feel the lesson of always doing the kindest thing has been lost in my life lately, so I wanted to bring it out in the open and maybe encourage others to look in the mirror and do a self-check. I haven't written in nine months because everything I have had to say, has gone straight to an individual and did not necessarily benefit the masses. But here I am, and all I can think about is an impact an individual can have if they choose the kind path over the unkind one.

Sometimes, shit just happens. It does. Pets die. Neighbors get robbed. You get a flat tire. Someone called you a name or took your baseball cards or said mean things about family members or destroyed your book on purpose. There is always, always someone who has it worse than you do, but then again, things can always get better.

That said, I am not a parent. I am an accessory who spends quite a bit of time with two kids in particular. I feel my job as an accessory is to show them what happiness and integrity looks like, above all. Happiness and integrity are intertwined, and both are necessary if you want to be a good grownup. So when something bad happens, neither extreme can be an acceptable approach; there is no winning in playing the " think that is bad!" game, and there is no winning in playing the "Suck it up, buttercup!" game. You need to find balance. Yes, see how it can be worse so you know how fortunate you are that you are not dead, and find a solution to make things better so you feel how fortunate you are that you are not dead. You cannot find this balance without looking upon both the fortune and the misfortune of others.

This is where kindness comes into play. Kindness is economic; sometimes you have a little extra to give, and sometimes you need a little extra to get by. If you live in the mindset that you never, ever have enough in your life to be happy, you will not be kind because you will constantly be taking from others. If you live in the mindset that you have enough to be happy, but that you can be happier, you will find yourself with more than enough to give others. Seriously! You don't have to have everything in order to ask yourself what you can do to help someone in need. You need just enough, plus a little bit. That's it.

After the seven-year-old ran into a situation which had him in tears, his dad and I tried to think of a way to show him that he can turn lemonade from lemons. In the past, he has dropped off food at a food pantry, raised money for the American Heart Association, enjoys doing chores when he feels like he is contributing to the house (and they are not just jobs so he can get his allowance), and asked me all sorts of questions about why I give blood every couple of months. He wants to help. We decided to hold a St. Baldrick's event to raise money for childhood cancer research. Here is the link to the event:

We are encouraging people to donate five bucks by skipping their lattes once this week, as every dollar makes a difference. Kids had a 20% chance of survival from cancer fifty years ago, and now they have a 20% chance of dying. In other words, their survival is now 80%, compared to 20% fifty years ago. All because of donations for grants that help find kid cancer cures.

Kindness does not have to be money. None of us know what someone else is feeling, even if it is our best friend and they have rehashed the situation ad nauseum on our messenger windows for days. We never truly know. But what we do know is that everyone is going through something, and that they are feeling something. Ask yourself what you can do to make someone's day better. It very, very rarely backfires.

Donate to a charity where you know the money goes to something you believe is good. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. Go through your closet and donate a bag of stuff to a thrift store. Organize a prayer circle at your church. Write an "I'm thinking of you!" postcard every week and mail it. Surprise your spouse by washing his or her car, taking out the trash, or something they generally do for you on a daily basis. Knock on a neighbor's door with a plate of cookies and say, "I just wanted to see how you were doing." Walk dogs at the local pet shelter for a few hours. Knit a hat for a NICU baby. Offer the crying stranger on the train a side-hug and a Kleenex. Read a book out loud in the activities room at a nursing home.

I know I have talked about kindness a ton here over the past several years, but it really is that important. Some people you perceive as the worst people in the world will benefit from you being kind to them, even if they are assholes back to you for it. Don't let one unappreciative person cloud all of the times you did something nice, and the other person was grateful. Keep at it.

Kindness also does not have to be outward. If you are listening to someone talk, and all you can think of to say is, "Shut up, you money-grubbing, fake little bitch!" then the kindest thing might be to just smile. If you see someone bleeding, the kindest thing is not to preach to the person who hit them. It might just be to tend to the victim somehow.

I would love for you to use the Comments area for suggestions on little things human beings can do to be kind. The recent presidential election has brought out quite a bit of anger in us, not to mention the trials of our own lives. Channel your Inner Mister Rogers and just ask yourself a few times a day, "Who can I help right now, and how?" Yet another benefit of being kindness:  that anger dissipates at a pretty direct ratio to how much you return kindness to the world. At the very least, it will not hurt.