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What does kindness look like

Advent is upon us, and I realized I didn’t really know much about it.  My friends M, J, & S have an Advent wreath with four candles, and B has an Advent calendar in the form of 26 small cubbies behind tiny little doors in which I have typically stuffed candy.  When I was small, growing up in a Methodist church, I remember celebrating it, vaguely, but it’s meaning?  Yeah, gone.

So, I did some very light research, enough to decide that Advent was intended as a period of deprivation towards cleansing in preparation for welcoming newcomers into the Christian faith, and later to prepare for the coming (first or second) of Christ.  As with so many things, I wondered how we’d gone from a month or more of giving meaningful things up to getting something each day.  I decided that I didn’t want to change the candy-in-the-calendar tradition because mythankfulboy really looks forward to the treat, but I wanted to add a little meaning.  So, I borrowed and adapted from Childrenchalice.wordpress.com (which I found through the Alice the Chalice facebook page) a series of questions designed to ask kids at dinner each night of Advent.  I wrote one for each day on a thin slip of paper and tucked one into each box.  I asked him to respond on the back (tiny paper means wording doesn’t have to be elegant) and to deliver it to our evening chalice lighting for a bonus piece of chocolate.  Yes, a bribe – I mean, a reward.

Yesterday the paper read, “What does kindness look like?”  Mythankfulboy’s response was “It looks like going out of your way to make people happy.”   He delivered it to me while I was putting lights on the Christmas tree, which is a two-evening process because I wrap each branch (I know, I know, but it makes me happy!)   He sat in the red, cushy chair beside the tree and watched me wrap lights while we talked about his answer.  His first thought was that it was a hard question to answer without mixing “kindness” with “happiness”.  I said I thought that was because happiness – specifically someone else’s happiness – is usually central to kindness.  We talked about times that making someone happy wasn’t the goal of kindness, and our examples were usually around supplying something that fulfilled a need instead of a want, which came around to happiness again because, when you step up and help someone get what they need, they are relieved and happy that someone cared enough to help them.  He also brought up that kindness doesn’t have to mean going out of your way – that it can be something that barely takes a moment, but has a big impact, and maybe a bigger impact than you’d ever imagine.  He said it was easy to be kind to me, because it’s easy to make me happy.  At the time I just smiled, because it’s true for the most part, and it was sweet to hear.  Now that I reflect on this, though, I think I’ll go back to him and ask him about being kind to people who may not be easy to make happy, or to people who may reject our attempts at generosity.  Things worth spending time thinking about, right?  Thank you, Advent.

We revealed a favorite snow globe from his collection last night – a light-up Santa with a glowing globe in front of him, a long scroll to which he’s referring, and swirling glitter.  B has a sizeable collection, and this year I thought we’d get one out each evening instead of plunking them all down at once.  In the glow of the snow globe chalice, B said he was thankful for a good day.  I was thankful for having gotten lights on the bottom half of the Christmas tree…

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Persistence

Yesterday was a gym run (no ladies), home, and then I finally managed to get all the lights off the Christmas tree.  When you put 2500 lights on (perhaps more?), you have to wait until you can take the tree outside to take them off or you’ll have the whole tree, in pieces, on your living room floor.  Today was the first time since the New Year that I was home when it wasn’t snowing, raining, or frigid for a long enough chunk of time to do it.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day.  I asked B to come out on the deck and do some shoveling.  He did so, sullenly.  After a few minutes, he threatened to go on strike.  I suggested it wasn’t a great idea.  He went back to shoveling.  He cleared a path and said “There!”, waiting expectantly for me to say he could go in.  I said, “Looks great.  Do a little more.”  He asked, “What’s the point in doing more?  It’ll either melt or get covered, but it’s not in our way.”  I glanced over at him and went back to my work on the tree.  That is usually enough to get him to return to what needs to be done, but this day he said, “Mom, seriously.”  So, I explained that it was a rare warm day and there was a bit of time before night fell, that the snow was likely to refreeze and be really difficult to remove it he didn’t do it then, and that it was a good time to do it because the dog and I were out on the deck to keep him company.  He yanked up the shovel and got back to it.  When he finished another section, the bulk of the deck, I said, “Looks great.  You can go in if you want.”  He said, “Thanks. I’m sorry I complained.”  I said, “I appreciate your working through it.”  He kissed my cheek and headed in.  When B was very little, my father told me he thought I explained too much to B, and that he should just do things because I told him to.  I thought about

When B was very little, my father told me he thought I explained too much to B, and that he should just do things because I told him to.  I thought about that, and adjusted my thinking a little, but not a lot.  A few years later he (my father) told me he’d been paying attention, and that he thought my explanations really worked.  What a gift, to have your father swallow his pride to tell you you’re doing a good job as a parent.  I don’t know if my approach would work with a child of a different temperament, or if there were more to focus on that just B and me, but it does seem to work for us.  Information, plus steadily-applied (persistent) expectations, plus not getting riled, plus genuine gratitude.  Don’t we all wish we had this from others.

Studying for the spelling bee seems to have become linked to our chalice lighting.  We usually spell for a while, and then thank for a while.  Tonight I had B walk around the house and review the sticky notes with the words that had previously been difficult.  He missed the one in the fridge, so I sent him back for that one (“epicurean”).  Tonight’s difficult words:  “pusillanimous”, “milieu”, and “ancillary”.  We stopped spelling when his eyes got droopy, and I lit the chalice.  Tonight Mythankfulboy raised up my persistence (his word) in helping him study.  I was thankful for having gotten the lights off of the tree.  Persistence paying off.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Lights

I have an obsessive, um, tendency, shall we say, when it comes to the lights on my Christmas tree. I wrap every branch individually with lights, starting at the trunk, following a branch out and then up and back each offshoot, then back down the branch to the trunk to the next branch. Needless to say, this takes a lot of time and a lot of lights. B tried to help this year, but was quickly frustrated (I tried telling him it was a job skill he could market for decorating famous trees like the official White House tree, but he wasn’t buying it). So, instead, he’s been sitting in a cozy chair next to the tree, feeding me the string of lights as I wrap branches. We have Christmas music going on the stereo, and snacks handy. So far it’s been three evenings, about 6 hours, and 1700 lights. One more night should do it. Luckily we’ll then have garland and ornaments to tackle, because this evening “work” has made me so happy!

At the evening chalice lighting, B was thankful again for Dobby, the Christmas Elf. I was thankful for lights.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Firefly field

On a drive through the country close to dusk this evening, we passed a field we have lovingly dubbed The Firefly Field for its spectacular display. In June, at dusk, the lightning bugs nestle down in the tall grass and weeds and occasional small tree, and they twinkle like a million Christmas lights. The crickets chirp and cicadas buzz, and, now and again you’ll hear a horse whinny, but otherwise it’s just B and me, breathing deeply. We look forward to it every year, and mark the arrival of summer with its progress. Tonight the fireflies were our chalice light, and we were thankful out loud for them, and for each other.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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