Just Be Nice

I was in the grocery store the other day and a disgruntled woman kept running into me, literally. First, she rammed her buggy into mine because I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough through the cookie aisle. Our next encounter happened in the produce section. I was trying to find a ripe avocado (I have a thing about not being able to get that brown bag trick to work at home). She rudely reached directly in front of me and grabbed 2 avocados almost elbowing me in the chin. I said, “excuse me” in a loud and obnoxious tone which she ignored and huffed and puffed on her way. Lucky for her Bronson had slept through the night and Morris had actually brushed his teeth and gotten dressed that morning without me telling him to 100 times. So, I was in a pretty good mood and hadn’t been forced to open that can up on her yet. The final straw came when I was heading for the checkout line. I was trying to steer my buggy (of course, I get the ONE shopping cart with the wheel that wants to go to the left while the other 3 are going to the right) and maneuvering into the newly opened checkout lane when you know who rushes over like Michael Johnson sprinting for gold. She cuts in front of me. WOW! I couldn’t believe it. I was livid. Just as I was about to let her have it, Bronson made the cutest gurgling noise and flashed his beautiful toothless grin. In that moment, I decided to take a cue from my son and flashed her my biggest impersonation of a red carpet smile. I even managed to tell her have a nice day, and for some reason that just made me feel better. The checkout clerk even commended me for my patience (definitely something I’m not known for).   

As I was driving home, the incident reminded me of an email I received over 5 years ago. I don’t know the origin of it. I don’t even know if it’s true, but it has a great message. It reminded me that you never know what kind of personal issues a person is going through. Especially as parents, it’s hard to channel our frustrations from a bad experience with the kids. Sometimes I tend to get so overwhelmed it’s easy to snap at someone or something that has no relevance to my anger. They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, it’s ironic how one simple act of kindness can change someone’s mood.  As a mother of 2 kids I always try to be conscious of the fact that they are learning just as much from my actions as they are my words. I strive to teach them to be kind and compassionate individuals.  But every once in a while I need a gentle reminder to restrain my irresponsible reflexive actions and dig deep in my soul and just be nice. This email helps to take me to that place. It’s a long read, but definitely worth the time. 

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”  I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.  As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.  Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation.  I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.  He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.  Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. 

I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.  “Thanks,” he said. As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends… I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”  I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.  “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”  I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize it’s depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse.  God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for Good in others.

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” 

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.

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