Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Grace

photo by via googleimages

She was young but her spirit had already walked many, many miles. Her voice was rough, her eyes were tired, her body dragged. I saw her in the hallway after she brought her little girl to school and before she headed back to the projects where she and her three children lived. It was November in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997.

“G’morning, Tina,” I said to her with a gentle smile.
She looked up at me with a softness I hadn’t seen from her before, as if she needed kindness so badly, as if without it, she didn’t know how she would make it through her day.
            I reached out to touch her arm, to give it a little squeeze. “I don’t have anyone in my office right now,” I said. “If you have time, I’d love to talk to you.”
            She nodded and swallowed hard, trying her best to hold back tears.

            I moved my hand to hers and held it tightly as we walked back to my office. “It’s gonna be alright," I whispered. "It’s all gonna be alright.”

She told me her story that day, a story of hope and disappointment, abuse and tragedy, love and loss.
            “I apply for jobs when the kids are in school but preschool is only a few hours and I need a job to pay for childcare, but I need childcare to have a job. I am so tired, Miss Brynne, so tired. And it feels like no one cares a thing. I go to the store and no one looks me in the eye, no one pays me any mind. It’s like I’m invisible, something no one wants to see. I might not’a gone to college, but I ain’t bad. I love my children just like the other lady does, I just didn’t never get any help. I been doing it all on my own since I was fourteen.”
We talked for a long while that day and lit a few candles in that heart of hers to lighten up the darkest places. Tina cried and she cried and she cried. And I listened and held her, hard, the best way I knew how.

A few weeks later it was nearing Thanksgiving. I knew Tina and her family wouldn’t have much but I didn't say anything. Until one day, the last day of school before the holiday break, I had to.
“Tina?” I said to her, after she watched her little girl run into the classroom to play with friends. “I have something for you,” and I motioned for her to come with me.

As we walked to my car, I told Tina a story about an old lady who had a lot of money. I told her how the old lady was angry and hurt because no one needed her, not even her money. But after a while, that old lady realized that for people to care about her she needed to start caring for others, first. Maybe if she gave, maybe if she smiled, maybe if she looked someone straight in the eye with kindness from her heart, maybe then, what she needed herself, would be returned.

            Tina listened and smiled to herself, thinking as we walked.

“So this old lady,” I said, “she knew I worked in the projects and decided that she’d try caring right away. So she gave me some money and told me what to buy.” I opened the trunk of my car.
Tina looked in at a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. She covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she said. “Really? For me and my babies? Well, I never—”
            My own eyes started welling up, too. “She asked me to give all this to someone who was in danger of thinking no one cared. And for me to tell you she did. She didn’t want any thanks, she just wanted you to keep believing that the world is a good and kind place. For it is, Tina. It is.”
We hugged that day in the cold, dirty parking lot of Raleigh’s toughest neighborhood. Around us there was anger and ugly, but the two of us, together we were our own little island. And that was all that mattered. That, and that Tina never felt indebted to me for buying her Thanksgiving dinner that year.

*          *          *

Happy Thanksgiving, dear Readers.

I am grateful for you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Wish (137); Have Hope

photo by markus gebauer via

There’s a pulse. Do you hear it? With your hand on your chest and your ears turned inside, a deep breath will take you there. Down to the truth. Your truth. Where your life energy flows. Some days it may be quiet. Other days it may beat out of you like a stormin’ high school band. And most days, if you’re like many of us in this modern fast paced world, it may be tired and even a little bit sad, as if some part of that life energy flew away, never to be heard of again.

But it’s there.
I promise you.
Hope is still there.

Have you ever heard the power of a whisper in silent church?
Have you ever seen the brilliance of a candle in a pitch-dark wood?
And what about a single smile lovingly shared on a terrible, painful day?

Hope doesn’t have to be big.
It doesn’t have to be loud.
It doesn’t have to be everywhere

… to change your day.
… to change your life.
… to change … the world.

It just has to be real.

*          *          *

He is only seven and she is only six. And the two of them are inseparable. They laugh together. They tumble together. They build legos and cardboard libraries and slides for their stuffed animals and dolls. And sometimes, he likes to hold her, to be a little man to his little woman friend. So he picks her up to show her and anyone else watching, how strong he is. And she lets him. She adores his strength. And he adores her love.

One day, as he was carrying her, he accidently stepped on a piece of stray cardboard. His foot slipped out from under him. And down they started to fall. The seven year old boy had no choice but to be himself and that Self said to save his six year old girl, before himself. Her bottom never hit the hard ground.

He didn’t think of himself. Of the pain he might feel with a broken ankle or a broken wrist. He didn’t think of what others would say. Of the ‘why were you’s’ or ‘why didn’t you’s’. He was just his raw, real Self. And that raw, real Self, loved, first.

*          *          *

Hope doesn’t have to be big.
It doesn’t have to be loud.
It doesn’t have to be everywhere

… to change a day.
… to change a life.
… to change … the world.

It just has to be real. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Wish (136); Lead with Kindness

image by via googleimages
It wasn’t April 15th or December 26th or any other nationally recognized sad day, at least as far as I could tell. The New England sun shone down with its trademark smile and the crisp cool air played with the new shades of blue. I watched the Fall leaves twirl and spin as the cars ahead of me blew them up and into the air.
            “Look at the leaves,” I said to my daughter, “they’re dancing!”
            And together we laughed. Together we sang. Together we drove home from school with a fresh kind of happy in our hearts.

And then, as if finding an unexpected letter in the mail, we cocked our heads with a curious feeling.
            “What was that? Who’s honking?” she said to me.
            I turned down the music to try to see.
            It was the car in front of me.
            “Someone is unhappy. Someone is impatient. Someone isn’t being as kind, as kind as we wish they would be.”

We turned with the honker (and the honkee) still curious and wondering, wondering what’s and why’s and how we might help. Yes help, my little girl and me.

He was following her very closely, his red van hovering behind her like an angry bee. She didn’t speed up. She didn’t slow down. She just kept a steady pace, a law-abiding pace, and he didn’t leave her alone. He just kept honking, yelling, screaming at her with the power of his angry horn. When finally, he turned away.

            We breathed a sigh of relief.

A few minutes later, we came to a stop light. With more than one lane. So I pulled up beside the honkee and rolled down my window.
            “Excuse me!” I sang out, my hand waving, trying to get her attention. “Excuse me!”
            “Yes?” she said in return, as she rolled down her window, her face gentle, her eyes seemingly afraid.
            “Why was that man so angry and honking at you so meanly?” I said. “I want you to know that I saw how awful he was to you and that you had a stranger not far behind, rooting for you and caring about you!”
            And her face? It softened even more. And her eyes? They looked as if they might burst into tears. “I think he was mad that I didn’t turn fast enough, but really, I’m not sure.”
            “Well, don’t you dare worry!" I said to her with love. "He was just having a bad day. An unkind day. And you just happened to be the one who got in his way. I’m so sorry.”
            “Why thank you,” she said through her smiles, “thank you so much for caring. You made my day.”
But it was kindness. Kindness that made both of our days. 

*          *          *

I read a recent article that said that marriages only succeed when one crucial piece is ever-present—kindness. So if a marriage, for many of us, the closest heart connection of all, is only able to succeed on a steady diet of kindness, wouldn’t that also hold true for every other relationship in our lives? What then, would the world look like, how would it change, if we let kindness be our mantra, if we let kindness be our speak, if we let kindness guide our days and direct our every step?

How would your day change if you led with kindness for yourself?
How would your day change if you led with kindness for everyone around you?
How would your heart change?
How would the world change … if kindness was more important than any other bottom line?

Let’s imagine. Let’s imagine and then try it on to see…