Monday, August 23, 2010

the kindness of...

Every once in a while, when I'm feeling shaky or sad or particularly vulnerable, I replay this instance in my head: me and Bean at the Phoenix airport on a layover, standing in line at Wendy's and cowering while a hard-to-believe-considering-the-way-he-was-acting fully grown adult male of the species taunted me and made me cry. My favorite part of reliving the memory is two minutes later, when I was standing over to the side of the Wendy's line, doing my best to not dribble a river of snot onto Bean's head while I waited for our order and hoped that the ground would open wide and SWALLOW ME WHOLE. Enter my favorite part: when two women, strangers to me and strangers to each other, laid into the mean green-shirted man, yelling at him and putting him in his place in front of a good sized crowd of on-lookers. HOW DARE YOU MAKE HER CRY? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID? YOU MADE HER CRY! YOU ARE A POOR EXCUSE FOR A MAN. --I actually thrill with the feeling of rescue, these two unknown women, these brave souls who said what I couldn't say in that moment, the women who just a minute before stood in front of me and offered tissue and support and a hug.) I still feel bad that I didn't go back and thank them. (I was too busy crying.)--

I think I cry harder when my misfortune is met with kindness. You know what I mean: how you are holding it all together until some person wiggles out of the background to offer you some sweetness, some gift of a tender mercy that is as close to a ray of sunshine on a dark night as you can get.

Yesterday we were at a large church meeting. Normally we attend church at a smallish building with a smallish congregation of people we know pretty well. But twice a year we meet together in a larger group to gain insight and instruction and edification. Yesterday was such a meeting, held in a different building and a little bit farther away. We arrived early, parking in a quickly-reaching-capacity parking lot and found seats next to the fantastic Wandering Nana and the stupendous Michelle. Bean ate the remains of her breakfast (pancakes) and we waited for the meeting to start. It was a few minutes in that I felt the first twinges of Neck Trouble. I tried shifting my posture, hoping to focus on Bean (finger puppets to keep her quiet) so the neck would just calm down and behave.

But it wouldn't behave. It wanted to MISbehave, in fact. Twinge, twinge, twinge.

I shifted. I stretched. I excused myself and walked around the building.

Twinge, twinge, twinge.


And then I felt the telltale ache and rumble of the muscle spasms begin.

By this time I was sitting next to Chip again and told him what was going on. My biggest concern wasn't so much the pain I was in right that second, but the fact that over the next two weeks Chip is going to be home a total of two-and-a-half days. It's the kind of thing that has me thinking Hmmm - I need to be mobile. Above all else, I need to be mobile. So when he asked me if we should leave, I took a deep breath and said yes. Get me home to ice my neck and lie down and I'll be fine for Two Weeks of Single Parent Duty.

We quietly gathered our things and tucked Bean under Chip's arm and exited, hoping we could get to our car and head for home just as quietly.

Which of course isn't what happened.

What happened instead was this: our car was inextricably barred and trapped by other cars, a little automobile quagmire right there in the parking lot. Chip dispatched me and Bean back to the foyer of the building to wait it out while he tried to move the surrounding cars with his incredible Mind Power and/or figure out a way through the bushes. While he was doing that, Bean and I stood in the foyer and spoke to the Effervescent Michelle and her adorable bud, Benjamin. He monkey-manned around the foyer and she asked if I was okay. I smiled and did something of a shoulder raise like, "Eh--- I will be fine in the long run but right now I just need to lie down." When I filled her in on our Trapped Car she was concerned, offered a ride home. By this time Chip was back inside, and barring a major bit of landscaping renovating done by our Jeep, there was no way we were getting out of the parking lot until the meeting was over.

We smiled at Michelle and quietly walked our way down the hallway, hoping we could find an empty classroom and a door Chip could stand guard over while I helped myself to some floor real estate. It seemed like the reasonable solution.

Let it be known it is never a good idea to underestimate the resources of a friend named Michelle and a cohort named Wandering Nana and their respective husbands.

While I reclined delicately in church clothes and stockings on the floor of a large classroom, and while Chip stood judiciously over me lest someone come in and disturb my delicate reclining, and while Bean raced in circles around the room shouting JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!, there was a small marshalling of forces in the outer vicinity.

A few minutes later my view of the ceiling was interrupted with Michelle's husband's head. (In my mind - Hey, there's Dave. Hello Dave. There's the ceiling and Dave and Chip.) Dave offered a ride home. This is the point when The Kindness overtook my better judgement and I started to cry.

The formula:
Whimsy Lying Down in a Weird Public Location x Compromising Position + Extreme Kindness = Water Works

I can't help it.

My tears were just the social lubricant needed to get both Chip and Dave moving in a very quick and efficient manner (I lovingly call it Husband Panic in the Face of Wife Tears).

It was agreed that we would use the Family Michelle/Dave vehicle to get ourselves home, and then Chip would turn around and bring the car back to the church and retrieve our imprisoned Jeep.

As we left the building there were a few Knowing Looks from other conspirators of kindness (I know who you are).

Driving home, we talked about these brands of kindness--- the fact that there wasn't even a small beat of a moment when Chip felt like he couldn't ask Dave and Michelle to use their car, the fact that they said yes without a second thought, the knowing looks of help and commiseration as we failed epically in our attempt at a Quick and Silent Exit (oh the failure). This is the kindness that is evidenced in our lives--- people looking out for the welfare of others.

Nearing the house, we acknowledged that we need to be so much better at offering this kind of help, because it wasn't that things were so blatantly obvious. It's about looking for opportunities to be kind, and then doing it.

Sometimes it's about handing your car keys over to a friend.
Sometimes it's about being someone's voice at a Phoenix airport.
Sometimes it's about making a very readily-accepted plate of brownies.
Sometimes it's about being a listening ear.
Sometimes it's a thousand other things, in a thousand other venues.
But it's always, always, always about being kind.

This is a small offering of thanks to yesterday's co-conspirators and a long belated thanks to the anonymous ladies of the Phoenix Airport. May your days be blessed with kindness in equal measure.


Shelly Overlook said...

It's called karma, sweetie, and sometimes you have to graciously accept the backswing when it comes your way.

Are you feeling better?

Chelle said...

You know the funny thing? Lending our car - absolutely no big deal... at all. Biggest fret? Our car was dirty dirty dirty and the carseat was in a woeful state, in desperate need of a good, deep cleaning. I was more than happy to send you off in it, but was nearly hyperventilating at the thought of you having to place your sweet, shiny and absolutely cute Bean in this chair of awfulness and filth.

BUT! I'm so glad you guys had an escape route when the neck wasn't cooperating, and that we played a very small part in making in that escape happen.

Hope all is well today. WN & I (I am hoping she doesn't mind me speaking on her behalf - nah, she doesn't) are both willing and able to pitch in during Chip's absence. Just call. Seriously.

serenity now said...

Your post reminds me of the saying attributed to Mother Teresa: "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Whimsy said...

Yes I'm doing so much better. So! Much! Better! The wonders of ice and a lie down.

I already emailed this back to Michelle, but in case the General Wonderment of the Internet is concerned, let it be known that the Michelle/Dave-mobile was very clean, as was the carseat - especially considering we'd hijacked their car at a moment's notice.

I can't say that our car would have been that clean.

Beths said...


wandering nana said...

Oh have lifted my spirits many, many times and been there whenever there was a need.