Archive for ‘Goodness’

March 22, 2011

Parade of New Neighbors (March of Kindness, Part 2)

With all this talk about kindness I have been seeing more of it around me. Enough so to warrant a second post!  And the world’s longest blog post title ever.

We just moved into our first home.  What an amazing, awful, exciting, terrifying, exuberant, joyful, messy, overwhelming, exhilarating, liberating, exhausting experience THAT has been.  There is stuff EVERYWHERE.  Boxes and boxes of stuff.  So much stuff that my attachment to much of it has started to diminish.  If I could just get it out of here, I would feel so much better! Ah, but that is a different post! (See my thoughts on decluttering here) The point is, we have been in this new house for about 15 days now with no TV and nothing to look at but the mess.  This creates some stress and grumpiness.  But do you know the cure for stress and grumpiness?

Nice neighbors.

Now coming from a very small town, I certainly did not expect to have a better “small town experience” in the suburbs than i did in my hometown of 3000 people!  I thought I was moving to the hustle-&-bustle, no-time-for-community section of the world.  I thought our arrival here would warrant no more than a passing thought in the minds of the people living around us.  As if it were only a matter that a different car would be sitting in our driveway than the previous owners’.  Apparently, I was VERY wrong.

No sooner than we had pulled into the driveway, did the first set of neighbors appear to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood.  We had a nice chat, then got to the major task of unloading our stuff.  The next day, I received my first delivery in our new house from my friend who had sent Champagne for us to celebrate.  The UPS man knew we were new, welcomed me, told me I had chosen an excellent place to live.  The next day, I was starting to REALLY get overwhelmed by my mess– not being able to turn around in the space and having no actual idea how to begin the task of creating order.  The kids got off the bus and were stirred up and antsy due to the lack of order and routine.  Sometime in the afternoon the doorbell rang.  It was COOKIES.  Cookies which came from our new neighbor on the other side.  Cookies which. were. still. WARM.  Like magic, cookies which made me feel better, made the kids happy, and for which I may always be grateful.

And the little things really DO make a big difference.  Our next door neighbor made sure to sign for an important package when he saw the UPS man and that we weren’t there to sign for it.  The man across the street came over to say hello when my husband was outside cutting crown molding and he offered to lend my husband his tools.  A neighbor from four doors down saw the kids walking to the bus stop yesterday while he was out with his dog and stopped to make sure they were OK.  The cookie lady?  Yesterday she called my kids over when the bus dropped them off and I was three minutes late getting home from work.  Today on their way to the bus stop they came across a different dog-walking neighbor.  He brought the dog over so the kids could say hello.  Then he came over to me and told me his name and the dog’s name and where on the street he lives (like five doors down and across the street!).

These little kindnesses have made us feel SO welcome.  I know we have settled in just the right place.

March 1, 2011

As Simple As Breathing

Legacy.  A tall order to fill. A big deal.

And something maybe only the purest of heart can leave.  By the dictionary’s determination it is just a gift or some property handed down by a predecessor, but to me the word has sacred overtones of something enduring and humble.

When I think about the legacies of others, I tend to focus more on kindness than money; more on emotional endowments than professional, athletic, political or even nobel prize winning achievements.  Those stories will all be included in history’s narrative.  What interests me, are the stories that will be included in families’ stories to each other, to our children, to their children, and amongst friends.

My grandfather left quite a legacy in our family, he has been gone a very long time and still he is a constant presence in stories and anecdotes.  The man was seriously loved.  As my mother and grandmother tell it, loved by all.  A magical, almost mythic, character.  I never knew him but I know him through his artifacts; the Christmas stockings we use are made from his army parachute (the one that saved his life in a plane crash in Burma), the piece of that plane’s windshield which he lovingly carved into heart necklaces for my mother and grandmother, the piece of metal from the plane which became a heart and initial adorned bracelet for my grandmother… I have heard stories of his sense of humor (pretending to hit his thumb with a hammer and howling loudly into a cassette recorder), his charm (having friends everywhere he went; going camping and knowing all his camp neighbors’ names and stories within a few hours of arrival) of his tenderness for his children (leaving work early if there was a thunderstorm to comfort his daughter who was extremely afraid of thunder), and of his tenderness with animals– including a few unusual pets (a monkey and a tiger) while working on the Burma Road during WWII.  I may even know more stories about this man whom I never met than I do about some of my living relatives!  And the stories of his character have long provided the family standard against which all others are measured.

For me, the greatest indicator of his continued gift is the way everyone looks for pieces of him in all the other family members.  Some of us have his spatial abilities, others his quirky sense of humor, his creativity, his social skills, his affection for animals, or his devotion to family. My son was named for him. And his special endowment from his great grandfather is his tendency to befriend people of all ages, everywhere he goes, earning him the nickname “the mayor.”

My grandfather’s gift was in his kindness. Not because of grand overtures, but because of the everyday kindnesses.  The people who leave the greatest legacies do so in their ordinary interactions; in the persistence of little altruisms; as if it were as simple as breathing.

***This post is dedicated to the friends and family of Elizabeth Harkes.  She would’ve been 35 today, and her legacy of kindness and authenticity continues to inspire the people who loved her and inspired this writing.  Her light endures.***