Saturday, May 15, 2010


I, not so lovingly, call mother-in-law's clutching grasp "the claw". Her strength is remarkable for someone 90 years old. Her clasp is so powerful that I've occasionally had to ask her to release my arm because her hold actually hurts me. I'd like to say that I compassionately understand that at her age, she's merely trying to hold on to me to prevent herself from falling. Yet, at times I feel she's really trying to hold on to dear life and possibly steal some of mine.

I respond to her hugs similarly; with the chill of a winter breeze and with the same abruptness . She hugs and kisses me and too often tries to prolong embraces, which I mechanically and begrudgingly return. My goal at these times (good morning greetings, good night farewells, holiday wishes etc...) is expedience - I'm too busy to rest in a hug - and so I quickly terminate my hypocritical attempt at weak affection.

The dynamics of these exchanges may cover many interesting factors - but if nothing else they point to the fact that my attitude and behavior can be classified as mean and above all unkind. This thought led me to consider the importance of kindness, not random but intentional and not to strangers, but to those close to us.

"Practice random acts of kindness
and senseless acts of beauty."

attributed to Anne Herbert

The "Kindness" movement seemed to be more popular in past recent years, but it is still going strong. There is a kindness foundation and there are tons of websites devoted to the sweet and self-rewarding activity of being nice, and although we are forewarned that kindness should be practiced any day or every day, there are days that are specifically designated for the celebration of kindness:

April 29 - Pay it Forward Day
November 13 - World Kindness Day
November 8 to 14 - World Kindness Week
February 14 to 20 - Random Acts of Kindness Week.

I thoroughly agree that kindness should not be limited to any one day, just as mother's should not only be honored one Sunday in May. But, if it takes a commercial reminder to stimulate thoughtfulness , I'm okay with that too.

I love being kind. It activates endorphins, which decreases physical pain. Did you know that just by witnessing a kind act, you can benefit physically and emotionally? Imagine, influencing not just the target of your kindness but anyone who's watching as well.

Nope, I don't think anyone can be against kindness. It makes us feel great, it gives us a rush. We can even experience what's called a "helper's high" after bestowing kindness. I for one, feel great after I give that dollar to the homeless man at the corner, or after I send in a donation to a good cause, or when I pay for the stranger behind me at Starbucks. And if someone is watching, all the better. Hopefully, they feel good too. It's great to disperse a little happiness. My ego doesn't suffer much in the process either. It loves congratulating me on what a wonderful person I can be.

Haphazard acts of kindness are fun. It's the intentional acts of kindness to myself and family that give me trouble; refraining from a sarcastic remark, doing a little extra to make a meal really special, taking a minute to really look into my husband's eyes, to give myself the luxury of a bubble bath, to walk my dog and yes to not just allow mother-in-law's hugs, tugs and kisses, but to return them sincerely. It's so easy to rush through the day and, I'm finding, to forget that love is the reason we call our loved ones, loved ones.

So, I'm learning that like many other things, kindness begins at home - where it may be more challenging and where it is more necessary to reach deeply into our hearts. And this kind of kindness truly cannot wait for a specific day. It requires our presence Now.

"Be kind. It's hardly ever the wrong thing to do."


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