Writing My Life

Now and Then

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Kind Acts That Pick Us Up, Warm Our Hearts, or Make Us Smile

0121_HeartwatchesthenewsTo counteract disturbing and depressing news that produces angst in my psyche, I look for heartwarming stories of kindnesses often found in media. I am constantly amazed at the lengths people go to to help others, but I am also touched by the stories of smalls acts of tenderness and giving.

About a month ago, I asked Facebook friends and family the following question: “What little acts of kindness have come your way that picked you up, warmed your heart, or made you smile?”

I really enjoyed reading the dozen-plus responses over the next few days and decided it is fitting during this month of valentines to summarize some observations that help our hearts.

Big or little, kind experiences are memorable. My cousin Julie and an old friend Liz will never forget the Christmas generosity of neighbors during dark days when their husbands left them and their children. Kristine is still grateful for dear friends who cleaned her house and left dinner on the table while she was busy taking care of funeral arrangements for her mother. Friends Christine, Debbie, and Kathy remember strangers in check-out lanes who paid for their purchases that ranged from a soda to a bouquet of flowers to 30 boxes of crayons for the teacher’s classroom!

Good turns perpetuate more good turns. Many who responded to my question passed along the kindnesses because of what they had experienced. Liz, who received “12 days of Christmas” from neighbors, said, “My girls and I ‘paid it forward’ and we did the same for one friend or neighbor every Christmas for about 10 years.” Jan’s extended family honored her mother-in-law, who was respected as an wonderful example of giving, by performing 92 acts of kindness in her memory. They set up a private Facebook page to list the wide and varied experiences of giving, and they drew much joy from performing the good deeds and from reading about them.

Families are hotbeds of giving and receiving.  Not really a shocking revelation, but it was fun to read about husbands who hold hands, open doors, and shower their wives with kisses and hugs. My cousins Bonnie and Linda appreciate their spouses who bring tea or coffee to them while they wake up. Linda’s hubby then reads scriptures and inspirational writings plus more – “Big hugs and praise God every morning”, she writes. My sister Connie remembers when she was “a cranky needy teenager [and] our dear Mom [sewed] new clothes for her. She held down a full time job so the only time to sew was after work late into the night.” Tiffany’s mantra of “doing a good deed daily” passes down to her family where dinner conversation centers around “what did you do for someone else today?” Tara wrote of a sweet little girl, about 6 or 7, who not only provided directions out of the complicated ropes course at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, she escorted Tara and her children out of there! She commented, “Such a polite and considerate thing for such a young person. I was really touched.” Her parents had taught her well.

Even when people are “assigned” to give, recipients are still appreciative. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women participate in visiting teaching where two “sisters” are expected to visit other sisters in the congregation once a month. Dee wrote of visiting teachers who bring “needed messages from Heavenly Father and that leaves [her] better than they found [her]!” And Karen remembers a visiting teacher who made her a birthday cake and another who listened to what she really needed when recovering from a stroke: “a Bear Creek soup and a loaf of French bread so [she] could still be independent but … choose to use it when [she] wanted.”

It is not hard to extend kindnesses. Several respondents to my Facebook query shared their gratitude for the simplest expressions of thoughtfulness. My sister-in-law Debi loves spontaneous hugs; neighbor Mike appreciates smiles; and Lindsey is grateful for people’s patience, compliments, and thank yous. Although another neighbor Scott did not comment upon my post, he wrote that he was touched when old friends “liked” his Facebook posts and shared kind comments and reflections about what he wrote. While FB is often derided for being the opposite of Scott’s observation, it can be a source of connectedness with people we love and admire whose posts make us smile.

Acts of kindness bring joy to the giver. During a Sunday discussion at church, the sweet teacher spoke briefly about some struggles she contends with. Her counselor suggested a line of defense is to move the focus from one’s own problems to providing some service to others who need help. I know several friends who have adopted the same philosophy to battle depression and other debilitating issues. While it doesn’t “cure” the problems, it helps keep them in check and brings a measure of happiness into their lives.

So, during this Valentine month, I look to this cute advent calendar my granddaughter made to remind me that the world is not lost as long as there are so many people involved in the avocation of giving to others. (If you want to read all the replies in detail, click HERE to be uplifted.)

Heart banner clip


… totally retro Valentines …

Yesterday I wandered into Roberts Craft Store to buy ModPodge – a crafter’s necessity dating back to the 70s but still needed for a variety of creative ideas. My purpose for purchasing was to glue my 500-piece puzzle together so I can frame it  and hang it. Because the product was tucked w-a-a-y back in a corner, I had to wend my way through aisles of Valentine paraphernalia before finding the glue. Seeing all the designs of love quotations, hearts, and flowers to commemorate February 14th ALMOST put me in the Valentine mood.

While reflecting upon Cupid’s favorite day, I first thought, “Valentines Day has not grown into the crazy holiday that Halloween has.” But then I started remembering my childhood and what a big deal it was to me. Because it was of utmost importance, I’m sure it was stressful for my working mom. (I need to ask her about that.)

First of all, school children HAD to decorate boxes into which our friends could deposit Valentines. Sometimes my teachers held contests for the best, cutest, most creative, etc. designs, and that added to the pressure of creating an amazing crêpe papier receptacle. I’ve been a long-time klutz, so cutting, wrapping, and gluing turned into a hurricane of scraps, cuts, stains, and goop. (Do any of you remember how red crêpe papier could turn hands and faces crimson if it got wet? And I kind of liked the taste of it, too. I know that’s weird. And then I loved to spread Elmer’s Glue all over the palms of my hands and then peel it off like a layer of skin.  But I also liked school paste because that tasted good, too – until someone told me it was made of dead horses’ hoofs.) At any rate, I’m pretty sure Mom sent me to bed before the task was completed, but in the morning, I found the finished box waiting for me, and it looked BEAUTIFUL! (In talking with my mom and sister the other day, I concluded that Mom didn’t finish the project, and the Valentine box I woke up to was the same one I worked on the night before.) 

Created from a Valentine "kit"

Next came the Valentine-making and addressing. I don’t remember making many “from scratch” except the cards I created at school for my parents, but we could buy card kits that required some assembly such as gluing on paper lace and little pictures. I gave away all the ones I made, but this one survived because my sister Connie created it and presented it to me. It was also one of the few that opened up to a verse printed on the inside. You can see her young signature there, too. I’m guessing that’s about all she could print, so there aren’t any additional messages about what a wonderful big sister I was! (Notice, however,  that she did pick a picture of an “I Love You” heart for the cover even though the published message is generic enough that it could have been sent to a near stranger!)

If we didn’t MAKE our cards, it still took HOURS to address them, and this is why: we had to perfectly match the card to the person. In first and second grade, I still worried about giving a boy I DIDN’T like a Valentine that might imply that I did – as in girlfriend/boyfriend kind of “like.” On the other hand,  I picked a “mushy” card to give to the boy I chased around the playground at recess.

For example, this one says, “HEY SUGAR!” Now THAT’S romantic. How could the love of my 6-year-old life NOT know that I was crazy about him. (A boy named Eric actually gave me this one back in 1955. I wonder if he realized he was sending me a subliminal message that told me he wanted to marry me as soon as we turned 7.  Probably not.)

This was also a time when teachers only ENCOURAGED their students to bring  a card for every child in the class. I’m pretty certain Mom made sure I did, but I clearly remember checking through each card and comparing it with the class list to find out who was snubbing me. When I figured it out, sometimes I didn’t care but most of the time it did hurt. (Connie thinks we always received cards from every student present that day, but she remembers noticing that some friends found candy hearts or suckers in envelopes while others were NOT given that extra measure of “love.”)

I always picked out “girly” Valentines for my girlfriends, but there were NO Disney Princesses to wow Diane and Leah, Trudy or Randy. The best we could find were main characters from nursery rhymes – Little Bo Peep was the obvious favorite in 1955.

Our cards also depicted young girls doing what young girls were supposed to do in the early ’50s:  SWEEP, BAKE, , and BLUSH! (I’m positive the blusher was my favorite as it included a slot for a lollypop!)

As for the boys, we could always send them a popular 50’s Valentine with a politically INcorrect message such as this one. (Grandma and Grandpa H.  actually gave this to me! At least, they didn’t cave in to the stereo-typical nursery rhyme heroines or domestic princesses!)

Of course, for every little American Indian, there was a cowboy OR girl: Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Annie Oakley, Hop-Along Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Gene Autrey – to name a few of our Saturday matinee heroes.

I’m not sure why Mom or I saved these gems, but I enjoyed rumaging through them tonight; recalling old friends, feeling sad that I COULDN’T remember some, noting grandparents’ signatures written neatly across the backs, and warming up with the memories and marveling at how times have changed.  In fact, these little momentos have done more to put me in a “Cupid” mood than any TV commercial or store display. I better start working on my list.