Let me start by introducing myself again. My name is Erin and I used to write a blog. I started out writing about my kids, some pedestrian musings, and other silly things I didn’t want to forget during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Then the baby got cancer. Then the blog became a cancer blog, which was a great way to keep everyone informed about sweet Mary Hazel and her short and miraculous battle with a nasty and mean disease. When we got the great news that our youngest child was in remission, it seemed a little strange to return to writing about “normal” stuff again. I’ve thought about jotting down a thought here and there, but I never quite felt like I had the proper words to transition back to normalcy. So, if you started following this blog to keep up with Little Bug, then I hope you are not confused by what appears here from one day to the next. I started writing things down for me so I guess I will return to those beginnings and just dive right back in. Apologies over and on with the show.
Lent is upon us. I always enjoy hearing about what people choose to give up during this time of reflection and sacrifice. So far, I’ve learned that some of my friends are giving up texting, chocolate, and Facebook (gulp). Personally, I’m not super keen on giving up anything I really enjoy for 40 days. I totally understand the reason why people do and I fully support them. Everyone chooses his or her own path. I hope it doesn’t sound overly dramatic to say that my path is already full of challenges and sacrifices on a daily basis. I haven’t bought myself a new outfit since I birthed children, I don’t eat or wear animals, and I work out as regularly as my schedule allows. I don’t consider myself dependent on any one thing other than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep several nights a week. I have a husband who struggles minute by minute with pain management, balance, and insomnia. I realize that everything is relative, but I feel the Hinsons sacrifice an arm and a leg (almost literally) most days of the week. So, I’ve decided to take a different approach to the next 40 days.
Instead of giving up a little personal happiness until Easter, I want to share it with others – strangers, friends, and co-workers alike. I’ve always liked the idea of performing Random Acts of Kindness. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised just last week by a kind stranger in the car in front of me at Starbucks. She paid for my purchase and drove away without a need for acknowledgment. It completely made my day. Being a sucker for good karma, I feel like paying it forward is just a no-brainer.
I started my Kindness Project this morning. Or at least I had every intention of doing so. I returned to the same Starbucks drive-thru line as last week with the intent of paying for the coffee of the unsuspecting person behind me. I was surprised by how excited I was, like I had this little secret that nobody else knew. I waited to see who would be the lucky guy or gal in my rear view mirror. Just when I thought nobody was going to show up in time, I spotted the brand-new Lexus SUV and the teenage girl smacking her gum behind the wheel. Hum. I rolled down the window to listen to her order. She spoke rudely to the girl in the squawk box. She applied lipstick and adjusted her designer sunglasses. On top of her head, on the bridge of her nose, dangling from her pinky as she continued to hone her order. She finally decided on a Venti Caramel Frappuccino, a sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich, two slices of walnut bread, and a cake pop. Seriously? I wasn’t feeling quite so chipper anymore. Why, Seemingly-Ungrateful Girl, did you have to be the person behind me in line today? I peeked behind the SUV to see a man in a smart suit pull up in a 6-series BMW. I’m not going to lie. My first thought was, this is not what I had in mind. These people clearly are not the ones who need free coffee. My second thought was that I was passing judgement without knowing anything about these people beyond the obvious stereotypes. My experiment just got a lot more interesting. Do we do nice things because it makes us feel good or because we want to make others feel good? In reality, I suppose it’s a little of both. I was reminded of the episode of Friends when Phoebe kept trying to convince the others that there is indeed such a thing as a completely selfless act. Well, if doing something nice for someone makes both the giver and the recipient a little more joyful, then I cannot think of a reason why being kind is not a good thing. And as a bonus, the recipient usually decides to repay the kindness to another. Back to Starbucks. There I sat stewing about what to do. Is it fair to withhold an act of kindness from someone just because they don’t meet my newly-imagined criteria for a worthy recipient? I felt burdened by my sudden God complex. No, these folks didn’t need my generosity, but maybe they would be inspired by it to pay it forward times ten to folks who are completely deserving. Hum indeed. Time was running out. I was almost at the window. When the chipper part-time college student welcomed me with a seemingly genuine smile and handed me a regular coffee and my change, I decided that she would be the recipient of my first official act of kindness. I filled her tip jar generously and hoped that it made her feel appreciated. I guess the act itself wasn’t all that random. People generally expect a tip when there is a tip jar involved. Oh well, the whole process was a learning experience for me and I guess that’s an important part of this experiment that I wasn’t necessarily anticipating.
Today I learned that I should practice giving without judgement. I also realized that what I label as a random act of kindness one day might just be a nice thing to do any day. I wonder what lesson awaits me tomorrow.