Yesterday my daughter Carrie called to nail down some specifics about Christmas. We chatted for a while and before she had to go she asked if she could tell me a nice Christmas story. Who doesn’t love a good Christmas story this time of year?
Carrie works in the service industry and over the weekend there was quite a wait at the restaurant where she works. A couple coming in for dinner decided to wait in the bar until they were alerted by pager that their table was ready. But even the bar was full with just two empty stools that were not by each other. Before they could even ask another couple moved down so that they could sit together.
So they bought their dinner for being kind enough to move. When the pager finally went off they decided they would be just as happy at the bar and found someone who had a terrible wait ahead of them and gave up their table.
Finally the meal was over. They’d sat at the bar the whole time and had eaten their meal there. The bartender who had served them received an inordinately high $50 tip.
Nice. Very, very nice.
Carrie talked about how much fun it will be when she’s in a position to be that generous. I thought about that and realized we are all in a position to be generous regardless of what means we use to do so. It doesn’t have to cost any money at all. Think about it. The chain of kindness began with the couple who moved aside for someone else.
This started me thinking about kindnesses that truly altered my life. Here are ten acts of service that rendered me deeply grateful:
1. On a day when I was so lonely and so desperate as a single, working mother, a woman from church went out of her way to help me with a project. She had no idea how my day had gone, making her simple act of service even more touching. Every time I try to tell someone about it I tear up but can never truly express what it meant to me.
2. On a similarly difficult day, I received a card in the mail from a friend. I didn’t know that day was going to turn out so bad, so how could she? But there it was in the mailbox, a card that told me how strong she thought I was, how inspiring it was to see me work through that time. I saved the card, but what stays with me today is that the words made me stronger. If someone else thought I was inspiring, I should at least do them the favor of trying to be inspiring.
3. While Aaron was away at Rock & Roll camp, I was at home trying to fight the good fight. My kids were at home trying to pretend life was normal, which of course, it was not. Every day I saw them make sacrifices and push down natural childhood behaviors in order to lighten my load. It was humbling to be so lovingly served by my children.
4. It is not a one time event to watch my husband take on a role or obligation that should naturally be my responsibility. He knows what I don’t like (I like to write to people, but talk to people, not so much) and will talk to other parents to arrange things, or go to a meeting I am dreading. That is what makes marriages wonderful. Daily acts of kindness.
5. When Aaron was in the hospital this last May, I was fine. I was strong. I had it handled. But my sister knows me sometimes better than I know myself. She and her husband drove for hours to come spend the day with me when I didn’t even know I needed them to.
6. One time my heart was broken in a way I didn’t know it could be broken. I think people around me didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t the kind of thing I talk about (again, comfortable with writing, not so much with talking mostly). So when an acquaintance dropped by my house with a paper bag full of chocolate and a few words about how some times there’s nothing to say, there is only chocolate. Well… that’s what I’m talking about.
7. I don’t want to name a specific time, but on many occasions when I have felt self conscious or unattractive or simply “average”, and someone has kindly complimented my shoes or my hair or told me I looked pretty. Thanks for that. I needed it.
8. My granny tells me I am wonderful every time I see her. I know she is biased. Of course she is biased, she is my granny. But just hearing her say how wonderful I am, bias and all, still makes me feel wonderful. Words, especially those spoken with love, are powerful service.
9. This last summer when I was getting ready to go to my first art show, Zoe was frustrated with me because I didn’t tell her when it was. It was a private show, and only one evening and I thought she was busy. Hello-o, she’s a twenty year old young woman with quite a lot going on. Because I didn’t tell her when it was, she had to make last minute arrangements to be there. “You’re busy,” I told her. “Don’t worry about it!” Nevertheless, she left her job several days early and made the 13 hour drive home just so she could be there to support me.
10. And last, but certainly not least, are the tender mercies of a loving God. The “coincidental” moments when life comes together to serve you in the simplest, and most elegant ways. The sunsets and the sunny days. The people you meet, just when you need them. The moments of transcendence that happen in the most banal of times. Now that’s an example to follow, all the days of our lives.
I know I can never give as much as I’ve received, but why not try, right?