Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Softening my heart

Tragedy softens the heart
Source: BHLDN
People say experiencing tragedy, hardship, and heartache makes us stronger.  I'd argue it makes us softer.

When my husband came home one bright January day announcing he'd been laid off, it altered the course of my life forever.  As I wrestled with selling a home, downsizing, looking for work, moving my children out of pricey preschools, losing health insurance, and reigning in spending, deep fears about our economic security settled in, took root, and grew like a nasty weed, stretching from my heart to my limbs.  I felt lonely, angry, cheated, and scared.

But four years later, I believe my experience softened my approach to life.

I've learned to step back from the myopic daily schedule of children, work, and household tasks to enjoy the beauty around me, like the crust of frost collecting on each blade of glass in the crispy, cool mornings, or the funny slate sidewalk that gurgles every time I step on it.

I've learned impatience creates toxic energy within, so I'm no longer bothered by the old woman crawling down the street in her 20-year-old Civic or the grocery store clerk who can't find the code for my vegetables.  These people give me a chance to slow down and drink up my surroundings.

Over Christmas break, I went out to dinner with my cousin, Angie, who tragically lost both her parents over a three year period.  The heartache she experienced is unfathomable to me, yet she endured it with great courage and grace.  After dinner we went to a bar for drinks, where she and I split the bill.  After collecting our checks, the waitress returned, flushed.  "I think you made a mistake on the tip," she began.

"Oh no," my cousin waved her hand dismissively, "it's right."  Angie turned to me and said, "I'm doing this random acts of kindness thing."

Within moments, the waitress returned with free shots for the table, thanking my cousin, again, profusely.  My first reaction?  Oh God, I thought.  I'm such a cheapskate.

Then I began to reflect on the power of this one act of kindness.  Angie clearly touched this woman deeply, creating a moment of happiness and celebration.

Weeks later I remained touched by my cousin, who so beautifully repackaged her pain and sadness into an act of goodness and inspiration that night.  So, in her honor, and in honor of her parents, I decided to make a resolution this year (even though I generally abhor resolutions).  This year, I've decided to make the world a little gentler each month with a random act of kindness of my own.  And I am hopeful.  I think this may be the first resolution I'll ever keep, as it is one definitely worth having.

Did you make a resolution this year?  Do you think you will be able to keep it?

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