Since my mother passed away, I have been downright shocked by the kindness and support that has come from everywhere. Some people knew my mother. Some only know her through my vivid stories about her. I’ve heard from childhood friends who have such touching memories of her. I’ve heard from friends who I haven’t spoken to in years. And of course, I have heard from so many of you.
I’m back at work this week, and one of my coworkers left me a huge jar of exquisite homemade granola and the following note:
Some might think granola as a gesture of sympathy strange, but honestly I adore it. it’s a small token of kindness, and I will take it in any form it comes.
I’ve been fixated on this idea of kindness lately. Not only because I’ve been on the receiving end of it so much lately, but because it is a trait my mother intentionally and persistently taught me to value.
One of my strongest memories is from when I was 14. Oh, that awkward, weird age… I was stuck between being a child and scrambling my way toward adulthood. It wasn’t pretty. But adolescence rarely is.
Along with school, I was a dedicated Girl Scout. At the time, I was riding high in my troop. I was a patrol leader, and generally liked by all the girls. I had two best friends who were the appropriate mixture of responsibility and mischief. There was one girl in the troop, Scarlet, who didn’t enjoy my same social standing. If my adolescence was awkward, Scarlet’s was ten fold. She was overweight and pimply. She had frizzy hair, and a desperate need for braces. Worst of all, Scarlet was aware of all of this and tried, perhaps too hard, to overcome it. She was too eager to please anyone, which is the first and deadliest way not to make friends with teenage girls.
At some point, I was telling my mom about Scarlet. How she was a little weird, no one wanted to hang out with her or wanted her in their tent on trips…
“Then you have to show her kindness. You have a responsibility to be kind to her.”
My mom went on to explain that I was a leader. The older girls respected me, and the younger girls looked up to me. More importantly, I was a human being and so was Scarlet. We are obligated to be engaged in our world and community, and extend people every ounce of compassion we have.
Obviously, I thought my mother was out of her mind. But then again, I was 14 and she was suggesting social suicide.
I would love to tell you this story ended with Scarlet and I becoming best friends. This would be untrue. All the superficial differences aside, Scarlet and I had nothing in common and didn’t get along. But from that day forward, I always made sure that there was room for her, that she had someone to talk with, that she wasn’t forgotten or left out.
My mother loved the outsider. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to discover a new face at the dinner table. Perfect stranger or not, we welcomed them to our house, and showed them warmth and hospitality. I don’t mean to imply that she pulled people off the street– she had an open heart, not a delusional mind. But if someone was new to town, low on friends, or had no where to go on Thanksgiving, there would be an extra setting at the table.
A warm meal, a jar of granola, or a comment on a blog. These may be small in the grand scheme of things, but they accumulate. They make us feel less alone. Knowing that someone cares takes the edge of things in life that are hardest.
I started this blog because I needed to let out all the frustration, disappointment, and deep sadness I felt at being infertile. I never expected anyone to read it, and certainly never expected the support I’ve received from all of you.
To those of you who have offered your sympathies, I’m so appreciative. I’m sorry if I haven’t always commented directly. Know that I am grateful beyond words.