I am the first to admit that I’m not a very good observer of Lent. To begin with, I am not officially fasting (more than usual) and I am not specifically practicing self-denial (more than usual). By endeavoring to spread kindness for the duration of the traditional Easter season instead, I’m afraid that I have actually interfered to a small degree with those folks who might have been trying to consciously do without. Chocolate chip cookies were a popular theme. Secondly, I will not win any awards for my observance of Lent because I have naively been operating on the notion that Lent lasted forty days. Forty days in the wilderness, right? It didn’t dawn on me until this morning (after my coffee) that Lent will officially be going on until Thursday. Oops. I did not realize that you don’t count the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Silly me. So I apologize for my ignorance and for the somewhat anti-climactic denouement of this project ending a good five days before it was supposed to. Well, since this exercise was not really in keeping with the traditional observance of Lent, I guess it’s OK that it doesn’t follow all the rules.
My gesture today was not a particularly grand one. (If I had won the Mega Millions earlier this week like I had planned, you can bet that it would have been!) I decided that instead of trying to outdo my good deeds from the previous 39 days, I would simply carry on. Carry on in a way that suggests my exercise has become habit. Something I can do every single day that doesn’t interfere with my ability to take care of my own life, my own family. Today I bought a happy bouquet of tulips and delivered them to one of my oldest and dearest friends. Even though I’ve technically known her since 1989, it wasn’t until she and I became roommates after college that we became close. In fact, we like to joke about our relationship in high school. I found her rather intimidating because she hung out with the “cool kids” and had a Polish last name I was afraid to pronounce. She remembers me as the shy girl who hung out with the honor society and never missed curfew. Once we actually got to know each other, we realized that we were to be friends for the duration. Together we have laughed, cried, traveled, raced, and dreamed of our respective futures. She was my roommate during our formative years, she was racing in Hawaii with me when I got engaged, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding, she’s been right there with me during all of life’s victories and defeats. So for those reasons and many more, she deserves tulips.
There are numerous other people in my life who deserve bouquets of happiness. Though this modest project is coming to a close, I am grateful that these acts of kindness have now become ritual. There is no reason to stop. My eyes are wide open to the opportunities. There are so many ways in which to help, surprise, thank, and honor the people in our lives. Kindness can be random. It can also be well thought out and purposeful. The one common thread that joins all acts of kindness together is the intention we have when performing them. My intention has been to become more aware of the needs of people around me. My intention has been to make a conscious effort to pay it forward. My intention has been to find joy in helping others. My intention has been to give away that which I seek.
When I got married nine years ago this month, there was a lot of soul-searching and internet searching for the perfect sentiments, the just-right quotes, to line our wedding program and highlight our vows. The one poet I kept going back to was Kahlil Gibran. Today I find myself running right back to him again. I reread his writing On Giving and felt like he was saying everything I was thinking, except with more eloquence and wisdom.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
And you receivers, and you are all receivers, assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.”
I will wake up tomorrow and not do anything differently than I have the last forty days. I will take what I have learned, mostly of myself, during these last six weeks and make it part of my new normal. And though I have loved surprising strangers with coffee and environmentally friendly grocery bags, I want to make sure I let the people I love most know how very much they mean to me. I will endeavor to have more patience, to stop what I’m doing to really listen to what my children are saying. To remember that it is not what I do but how I make them feel that really matters. My work is cut out for me. It is a lifelong goal. I am grateful that this project has given me a few more tools to use along the way.
Now, tell me, what was your act of kindness today?