At the end of the year my family and I were recovering from a messy stomach flu. Messy as in projectile “stuff” from both ends for four out of six family members over the course of five days.
This stomach flu is not to be confused with THE FLU. You know, the one that has a death toll on the local news. The urgent care nurse set us straight when we brought our son in. With a lack of fever, his illness couldn’t technically be classified as THE FLU. After three Otter Pops (blue vomit, green vomit, yellow vomit), he whispered to the nurse, “No more popsicles”. Thankfully an anti-nausea tablet halted the vomiting and a four hour nap the following day had him feeling better.
My son was the last to get hit with the bug. Earlier in the week, we’d already been to urgent care with our toddler daughter (Otter Pops & an anti-nausea tablet did the trick for her too). Both my husband and I had gone through the ick and now, our 6 year old guy was getting hit hard. We’d debated going to the urgent care, but he’d been sick all day and wasn’t keeping down any liquids. We got grandma to stay with the other kids and put him in the car with a trash can, just in case (yes, he needed it).
My husband and I were worried. We were still recovering ourselves and feeling edgy. It was late in the evening, when we usually had the kids in bed and we were headed to sleep soon ourselves. Our minds were distracted with our son in the backseat, holding on to his trash can and saying his tummy felt okay right now. So when the car in front of us tapped his brakes after turning a corner, we were startled.
“What’s wrong with his car?”, I said aloud. “Who brakes like that after a turn?”
My husband shrugged. We went down several blocks behind the car until we both came to a red light. As my husband slowed to get behind, we saw someone open the driver side door and turn to face us. My husband immediately stopped our van about 20 feet back.
The man took a few steps towards our car and then stood for a moment, his body lit in our headlights and then he screamed, “TURN OFF YOUR HIGH BEAMS! YOU’RE BLINDING ME!” Then he turned swiftly, got back in his car and drove away through the green light.
My husband fumbled with the knobs and gears on the dash. He’d only driven our van a few times after dark and didn’t realize that the high beams had been bumped on. I was able to help him turn them off and we were on our way.
My husband was surprisingly calm. The shock of what had happened soaked in and he said, “I thought that guy was going to come to the window and punch me in the face!”
I was decidedly more livid. I could feel the anger of that man’s delivery bubbling to the surface.
“Why did he have to get so MAD?! Couldn’t he have handled that in a different way? Seriously, all he had to do was say, “Your high beams are on, buddy”, he didn’t have to scream like that”.
I was riled up. For weeks the memory of that man and his aggression for what was purely a distracted mistake bothered me.
The Kindness Challenge
My kids are all celebrating “Kindness Week” at their schools this week. Similar in tone to “Red Ribbon Week” there are organized activities, like “Crazy Sock Day”. The kids are working on classroom projects that revolve around kindness. There are assemblies and contests that focus on being kind. My kindergartener has a checklist of kind things he needs to accomplish this week including smiling at others and helping at home. I did notice that without prompting he cleared his dinner dishes and was helpful with his little sister.
The event is THE GREAT KINDNESS CHALLENGE. I love the idea of incorporating more kindness. Naturally I encourage my kids to be more kind with each other, but spreading that ripple of kindness to others outside of the circle is more important. I like how the challenge gets kids to think of others in a positive way. Less of “what do I get out of it” and more of a “how can I help” attitude.
Another Test of Kindness
Yesterday morning I was driving my kids to their respective schools in the family minivan. It was just after 7 am and I stopped at a 4-way stop along with another vehicle. We’d both reached the stop at the same time and paused. I was turning right, so I turned around the corner and was met by a blaring horn.
I glanced back in my mirror at the owner of the horn, the man in the other vehicle. He’d just started moving straight through the intersection and was apparently peeved that I’d moved through the intersection first. He was gesturing and yelling (thank goodness we couldn’t hear what he was saying!)
I hadn’t cut him off. He was still 2 yards back from me. We’d both gotten to the intersection at the same time. Why was he so angry that I’d turned before him?
He was still posturing when we reached the next stop sign. I looked at his face in the side mirror, still hollering at me. I mouthed, “It’s not a big deal”. To which I was greeted with an inappropriate hand gesture when I turned the corner and he flew straight through the intersection.
My teenage son, in the front seat was witness to it all and I vented.
“What in the world is he freaking out about?! Seriously. It’s not like I cut him off, we both got to the intersection at the same time”. My son laughed and nodded. It was all stupid, that was obvious. A grown man having a temper tantrum because a woman in a mini-van with 4 kids went ahead of him.
Putting Kindness Into Play
It’s easy to be kind to someone when they are being kind to you. So easy to smile at someone when they hold open the door. Easy to say, “Thank you” when someone offers you a treat. Easy to compliment someone when they are clean and nicely dressed.
What’s hard is putting out kindness when it may never be reciprocated. Hard to be kind when someone flips you off in front of your children, though you’ve done nothing wrong. Hard to offer forgiveness when someone screams at you for an unknowing mistake. Hard to give a compliment when the person on the receiving end might say something mean back to you.
I realized that during both of the recent interactions my kids were present and watching. My reaction to those types of encounters are obviously shaping the children I’m raising. I needed to show them how we can deal with people in kindness. Yes, even people who are mean. Yes, even people who are inappropriate. Yes, even when you did nothing wrong and they’re mad about it. And yes, even when you just want to be mean and angry back. That’s the most important time to be kind.
Making a Choice to Be Kind
I could have had some choice words for these guys in their vehicles. I could have flipped them off too. I could have jumped out of my car to confront them, screamed back, freaked out. But instead I put kindness into play.
I said, aloud so my kids could hear, “He must be having a really bad day already! Maybe something is bothering him and he’s taking it out on us. All we can do is pray for him”.
I was able to take the strange, tainted experience and paint over it with empathy and kindness. I can’t say that I do that in every situation but it’s definitely my goal. I’d like to take the kindness challenge and make it more of who I am on a daily basis. Allowing myself to get swooped up in someone else’s anger only makes me angry. And I can honestly say I don’t need more anger in my life.
National Random Acts of Kindness Day
I had no idea there was such a thing, but National Random Acts of Kindness Day is observed on February 17th. The day is celebrated by individuals, groups and organizations nationwide to encourage acts of kindness.
So what random acts of kindness could you do each and every day to improve not only the life of another, but your own?