Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Be Kind"

I had to deal with an uncomfortable situation between my work and family life today. It's been one of those weeks when the gloves must stay on, a challenge for someone like me who dislikes contention. This was for my teenage girls, and I had to advocate for them. The outcome was just as flat as I expected; I left the meeting emotionally drained, with a confirmed view of their perception. "How can I let this not ruin my day, and my week?" I thought to myself. Then, as I drove from the bristly meeting to my twice-yearly dental exam I realized it could very well get worse!

Thankfully, Dr. Miyahara is the most caring and thoughtful dentist. He's the one who answered his office line a few years ago at 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, not flinching at my broken-tooth emergency which he handily repaired the following morning. Instead of freezing up, tightening my grip on the arm rests, and reliving the meeting at work, I looked out the window from the examination room and forced myself to notice the changing color of the leaves. (Yes, there is fall
, even in California).

Dr. Miyahara gently worked his tools to smooth out my teeth; I started to think about the good things in my life, rather than certain people with whom I can't seem to gain much credibility. I remembered one of my coworkers, Carolyn, who strives every day to improve her surroundings, and to make us laugh at ourselves. She had visited earlier in the day, asking
us to do a special favor for one high school parent: "Please go the extra mile for this mom, she needs our t.l.c. right now." Thinking about the impact of those who make life nicer lifted my spirits just enough to relieve the emotional drag from earlier unwanted confrontation. I left the dentists office with more than intricately cleaned teeth and gums; I felt energized by the care of others.

Like Dr. Miyahara, my daughter Sheridan is a mild and sensitive soul. She has always been one to nurture and reach out to others. She is more than a daughter, she is a good friend to me. Our weekend phone conversation had been a rare disagreement, and I was still reeling from it today as I proceeded to run the household errands. Three days in a row, I've had to deal with people being upset with me. "When will I ever get a break," I thought. Just little while later, in Sheridan's usual sweet way she sent me a text: "I'm sorry about our convo the other night...I got really worked up. I love you." The frustration was getting harder to hold onto; I was softening regardless of the hardness around me.

With only one more stop to make before arriving home, I received a call on my cell from some young missionaries with our church. "Are you ready for us to help put in your sod this afternoon?" Willing hands, gentle souls, and kind demeanors; all have lightened my load with their compassion today. The favor was further augmented when a friend called to tell me she understood some of the struggles I'm going through--I know she truly does, we've been in the same shoes. She reserved judgment and compassionately allowed me to vent the frustrations of single motherhood.

After talking with Suzanne, I felt more peaceful and able to bear my burdens. I walked to the fridge to get my special Hansen's soda as a personal treat for dragon slaying, and noticed the lime green polka dot magnet that a darling gal named Heather had made a few years ago. "Be Kind." When she first gave these to us at church, I thought, "Well, of course, that's not very profound." But as the days, months, and years go by, with ever-increasing pressure to keep up in a harsh world, I realize that Heather's words were the only thing that really count. It doesn't matter at the end of the day if I completed all the to-do's on my list, or even if I won the battle of the hour. Sometimes letting the other forces have their way leaves room in our hearts and minds for greater wisdom and understanding; even as we rush about we can remind ourselves to practice the art of kindness. Given the fact that my day started with irritation and ended with the examples of Carolyn, the dentist, Sheridan, the missionaries, and Suzanne, I think Heather's "Be Kind" magnet is here to stay.

Mercy, n. 1.) kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness; forbearance and compassion 2.) the power to forgive or be kind.
Syn. tolerance, favor, compassion.

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