Yesterday, I had one of those slices that I found annoying and weird... yesterday...
I was driving homeward in a pretty, as in beautiful, steady snowfall. It had been snowing all morning and there was definitely a thick accumulation of snow on the roads. The snow came quickly, so the plows hadn't been out to clear them all yet, and of course the roads I was using were less than clear.
As I pulled up to a stop light, chatting with my mom on the phone, I noticed a car at the intersection to my right. As I slowed for the red light, I realized that her little silver car was running like a hamster on it's wheel. The tires were spinning, but she was making no gains. I checked my rear-view mirror, then my side mirror, flipped on my blinker, changed lanes and took the right turn. I went around the corner before I pulled over onto the snowbank (yay for my four-wheel-drive SUV that I LOVE) and flipped on my hazard lights.
I hopped out of my car and locked it behind me... ya know... just in case?! Or, better yet, hopefully it was just out of habit. I trudged through my least favorite kind of snow -- heavy, wet, sludgy snow that you instantly sink into and then slide on. I was moving slowly and carefully, but since the driver of the little silver sedan wasn't moving at all, I was still making progress. As I walked up behind the car, I knocked on the trunk, as to not scare the daylights out of this poor woman who was probably already operating in near panic-mode, just from sitting in an intersection alone, stuck, while everyone else just keeps on driving by.
The driver rolled down her window and I told her that I would push her out on the next green light. I asked her to back up a little bit and I walked around her car clearing the large mounds of snow that she had spun up from in front of her tires, and smoothing a bit of snow over the ice she had uncovered. As I returned to the back of a car, a semi-truck pulled up behind us, making me a little nervous, I will be honest. I secretly had a moment when I thought maybe the semi-driver would get out and help? Not sure why I would think such an oddity. (insert sarcasm)
On the green light, the sweet driver hit the gas. I pushed the trunk. The sedan lurched forward and slowly made it's way out into the intersection. I heard the driver honk the horn twice, and looked to be sure she wasn't in danger. I assumed it was a "thank you" since everyone seemed safe over my shoulder. I continued to trudge back toward my car, carefully -- the last thing I was up for was to wipe out and end up in the intersection outside of my car and unable to move. :)
As I approached the corner to my car, there was yet another silver sedan pulled off to the side of the road across the street. The window of said car began to roll down and I saw a man that looked friendly, and a woman that looked friendly as well. He says, "That was really kind of you."
I was a bit taken aback. I mean, really? Kind of me? Isn't this just the right thing to do? I thought I was just being a normal citizen. Then, I realized the number of cars that drove by without stopping, the semi-truck driver that watched, and apparently this couple that also watched. In the split second it took me to register that, I responded less than perfectly, I suppose, when I said, "Well, that would suck. I wouldn't want to be alone and stuck in an intersection with no help."
"Well, it was really nice of you to do that," the man repeated. I nodded and maybe said a quick thanks and kept on my way to my own car.
Upon getting in my car, I called my mom and told her my story. I ranted a bit about how frustrated I get with how ridiculous people are, and how sad it is to think that what I did was any form of excessive kindness. I re-told the story to my roommate when I got home, and again to another friend later in the day. I was baffled at how my actions even caught some one's attention, and was saddened to fully take in the fact that, apparently, that was something that I should not count on if I ever find myself spinning my wheels.
Today, however, I was less annoyed, I found the story less weird, and more affirming. Last week didn't end on a pretty note. I spent a lot of the weekend beating myself up about who I am. We've all been there... one small piece of who we are, a characteristic we are proud of and confident in, gets called out by someone else in a negative light. While logically, I could have talked myself through the situation knowing that it was a misunderstanding, I still second-guessed my ability to be kind, wondering if instead, it is intrusive, or obnoxious, or inappropriate in any way. I mean, let's face it, any and every action can be interpreted in a million ways. Have my acts of kindness been mis-read, no matter how good their intentions? I don't know. It's not likely that a recipient is going to say, "Thanks, but I really am annoyed by how you always jump in to support others. It's so obnoxious!" And yet, I do know people that need space, or quiet, when they want to be supported, and sometimes my style is more about action, so who knows! Maybe it is annoying to some... or lots... or everyone!
So, I spent a lot of the weekend trying to figure out how to know when an act of kindness is appropriate, when it is not. I spent a lot of the weekend wondering how I could exist without being instinctively kind and supportive of those around me. Don't get me wrong -- I am not ALWAYS kind. I am not perfect, by any means, but I have really learned that giving, and kindness, are gifts that God has created within me, and I love sharing them. I don't feel like it is work to care for others. I feel like it is what I was created to do -- probably a huge part of why I am a teacher, right?
Today, as I was thinking through the writing of this post, as well as my Bible Study for the week, I realized that what I needed, more than anything else, yesterday, was for a stranger, someone that didn't know me, that I didn't know, that I will never see again, to notice my act of kindness. To point it out. To name me "Kind" because it is so a part of who I am. Who I was created to be. And nobody gets to take that away from me. I would welcome any help and support in crafting this gift to know how to be kind to others in ways they need, ways that work, ways that heal and support and show love. But I will not let go of my drive, my desire, and my passion to care for others. And I needed to let this slice soak overnight to learn the lesson from a simple act of kindness.
I don't normally write about myself this way -- claiming who I am, fully, but tonight, as I listened to the speaker at Bible Study, she said, "WRITE. IT. DOWN. How can we pass along our heritage, who we are, how we live, what we believe, if we don't write it down?" Duh. That's why I blog. I write it down in hope that my future children, my niece and nephews, the coming generations, will be able to know me, to know what life was like, and to learn about and hear the stories of our family. However, if I don't share the depth that lies beyond the surface of the story, I am not doing justice to the process of passing along the truth. Therefore, we will see what happens, but I think it might be time to dig a little deeper, and share a little more intentionally, here on "Laugh Often, Love Much".