Thursday, February 14, 2013

A different kind of love story

Happy Valentines Day.  I'm not the biggest fan of this holiday due to spending my daylight hours today at work watching the cruelty of high school play out into two categories:

1.  Someone loves you enough to give you a giant bear, a half dozen balloons, a vase of flowers, and a cookie cake to carry around all day

2.  You are not carrying around public pronouncements of love today for all the world to envy

**Personally I would want to sucker punch anyone making me carry around a state fair-sized bear all day.

Instead I want to share with you a different story about love. 

Back last fall as we drew closer to the holidays I was in a funk.  I couldn't really place the source to anything specific, but the funk had taken up residence in my everyday life. I would attribute some to ongoing difficulty with Ben or having an obstinate two year old in the house that defies sleep. The fullness of my life manifests itself as days that hit the ground running at 5 am and collapse asleep 18 hours later many a night face down on the couch still in my work clothes. 

It is my life and I wouldn't trade a minute to be living another.  I am blessed beyond reason and only have the faces of my boys to remind me that in the grand scheme of things the days may be long but the time short. 

Finally I figured out that part of my funk was heading into the holidays without my family.  I can't tell you how many times I said to someone that I hope they (and their kids) had a great holiday visit with family feeling a giant hole in my own heart.  Don't get me wrong, I think back to 6 hour drives on a Friday afternoon facing a weekend to be spent caretaking to my parents.  I frankly don't know how I took care of my own family during the hardest parts of a 10 year run of living that responsibility other than you just keep moving.

What I wanted and missed was the "me too" of holiday plans that included grandparents enjoying time with grand kids, going to the Messiah with my mom, making favorite meals that would be shared with extended family. After the Sandy Hook shooting I wanted more than anything to curl up with family and not let anyone out of my sight.

Somewhere in there I got a Christmas card that made me smile. From the crazy decorated envelope alone, everything about this card was welcoming.  It was from the teacher across the hall at my first school.  She saved many a day my first year of teaching by simply giving of herself, her files, her listening ear. She has continued to check in on my as I moved from being a new teacher to mentoring the new crop.

I smiled because it made me feel loved and important to someone not because I was just another name on their holiday card list, but because they considered me worthy of their time to continue to pursue a relationship long after I no longer saw them daily. 

I started thinking about how friends from years past to those I am fortunate to have as an adult have become my family in absentia. Somewhere over the new year I heard about Ann Curry's 26 Acts mission to remember the lives lost at Sandy Hook elementary.  Somewhere I read the book 29 Gifts in which the author in dealing with her own life struggles commits to doing 29 acts of kindness.  I decided that in the new year I would make it a resolution to show my appreciation to my friends as well as total strangers by passing on kindness.

I had a couple of ideas of things I wanted to do, but instead of trying to do something each day for a month, I opted just to do whatever felt right as January unfolded with many acts intentionally anonymous. Not knowing the source of a act of kindness seems to somehow change the meaning that the universe is smiling upon you for that brief moment.

So how have I been forwarding on kindness and love in a project that has extended beyond January?

-a basket of school supplies for the new 1st year teacher that I am now sharing my room with this semester.

-dinner for my new neighbors after hearing they were sleeping on the floor awaiting their furniture

-doughnuts for my department during final exams

-a good luck gift of wine and the latest Southern Living for my friend starting a new job

Even a few items that seemed strange, but oddly the right thing to do like mailing back tax documents to our home's previous owner realtor to mail on to them to a new address, sending a nice bottle of wine thanking my amazing surgeon on being a year out, or a card to my high school best friend's mom whose husband was having open heart surgery.

On this manufactured day of love I am reminded that every single day there are multiple opportunities to pay a compliment, thank someone for the smallest of acts, or choose kindness towards others over being self serving. 

It doesn't take a special day to tell someone or show them that you love them.  It takes a heart too full of thanks to be contained. 


LauraC said...

Oh Heather, this might be one of my favorite posts from you. Having lived away from family my entire adult life, I know the feeling of holidays without family. Not in the same way you feel it, but certainly Thanksgiving in California my first year at college was a hard one.

Driving back from Charlotte that day I went to see Irene, the entire drive home all I could think about was how my friends have become my family over the years and they are the ones to hold me during this difficult time.

Carrie77 said...

This is such a touching post, Heather. One of the items I wrote on my recent Mondo list was I wished my parents were young and healthy again. I think you found a wonderful way to uplift your spirit by doing all of those acts of kindness. Its amazing how when someone does one simple act of kindness, how it is so easy to remember back on it and smile. I still have the card you mailed me after I separated from my ex on my dresser and I still have the tag you mailed me (like the one pictured above) at my work to look at every day. You rock at acts of kindness!! Thank you!

Gillian said...


Katie said...

You are an angel on earth my friend. You mean so much to me! Thank you for all you do!