Easier To Say Than To Teach
Henry James said it way back when “…the three things in human life that are in important…be kind…be kind and…be kind.” If this is all I teach them in these lightening fast years, is it enough?
There is a feeling I get when I am kind. When I catch myself in the act. It’s a stop in time, where prior commitments float away. It feels like a gulp of crusty warm macaroni and cheese, a launch in spirit of triple shot latte proportions. But always the recognition after - that is how I should feel all the time. What was so hard about that??
How do you teach that to your kids?
“Don’t stop!!” my son screams when he sees that we are going to drive by Mrs. Schulz on the block. His best friend from school is in the car and he knows what happens when we stop to say hello. Mrs. Schulz has seen me - my hand instinctively went up to wave - and my gut reacted by trying to pull down my hand. Shame on me. I roll down the window and she leans in. Mrs. Schulz likes to talk. Fifteen minutes in, the boys have gotten out of the car and walked the two blocks home and I am almost out of gas.
You take the kindness opportunity when it comes. Because how else do you teach your kids when there are hygiene lessons, and basketball practices, and tables and tables of multiplication to be learned, and precious alone time prayed for? How do you live the example with your spouse when there are forms to fill out and children’s hearts to be mended, flooded basements to mop up and disagreements where no one wants to give in?
My son wants to visit a local fly fishing shop so I make the time. Fifteen minutes in I am ready to be out . He talks animately to a group of guys about tying flies. They love that a little kid is so interested and they take their time with him. “Be kind,” I say to myself, and wander about.
I find a fox fur hanging on the wall. The information card posted by it says “Each strand of fox fur floats in a different way.” A kindly man stops by me and smiles knowingly when I gasp at this.
“How do they know that?” I ask.
“We use the different strands from the fox for different flies we tie,” he explains, “different rivers, different fish, different floats…..the longest ones here on the tail stand out the most of course.” Apparently those aren’t the best for fly tying - they just look the best to the naked eye.
I guess there are different hairs of kindness. Going cross-eyed with multiplication flashcards, agreeing to disagree, and being kind with myself when I am decidedly not so kind. The long, strong tail hairs - like stopping to talk to your overly chatty neighbors- are beautiful when pulled off. The little strands in between keep us alive.