Monthly Archives: May 2017

Not-so random words of kindness

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meditation-1994824_1920So many reasons to be anxious.

Yet another story of violence and hate. Another list of names. Another slideshow of faces. Faces of those with only one fact in common: Same place, wrong time.

Yes, we really do have reasons to be anxious. Many of which are simply due to the possibility of accidents or failing health. We worry when our kids take the car across town or across the country, and we worry when an unexpected phone message is left from the doctor’s office. We worry about losing jobs or cars breaking down or “being found out” or tripping in front of an audience.

And we know, truth be told, that our anxiety has little effect on reality or the future. The wisdom of Corrie Ten Boom tells us…

Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength…
carrying two days at once.
It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.
Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow…
it empties today of its strength.

Yes, we know what not to do. But what we can and should we do?

Sometimes finding a solution is as easy as asking…

Anxiety weighs down the heart,
but a kind word cheers it up.
(Proverbs 12:25) 

Kind words.

I hate to say this, but I don’t think we speak enough kind words into those we know and love with the sole purpose of alieving or fending off anxiety.

Yes, we are nice to each other. And we do the appropriate sad face and head tilt when things go south. Hugs abound and words of concern travel fast from friend to friend.

We design elaborate plans, finding all sorts of ways to be helpful and encouraging. We set up meal lists and gather around for prayer. We rally and do.

Please do not misunderstand. I’m not finding fault with what we do.

But maybe what we all need most in time of need is a kind word. Not a lengthy letter. Not a gift or fancy box of chocolates (although always welcome).

Maybe just a little note card with you are such a good mom…or…

… I like being your friend.

… Remember the time I ate the whole pie?

… or the time we couldn’t find your car because I was driving?

… Your house is such a home to me.

… Don’t ever forget how much you mean to me.

I’m beginning to appreciate technology. I don’t love it, but I have to admit that appointments dumped directly into your calendar and contacts that can be reached with the tap of a finger are all remarkably convenient. Cool. Fast.

But don’t even try to tell me that getting a little note in your real mailbox with a real stamp and your very own street address on the front isn’t heartwarming. The joy of opening it, feeling the heavy-weight paper slide out, anticipating the colorful or funny or artistic design on the front. And handwriting on the inside. Written by someone who cares for you so much that they put a stamp and address on a real envelope with a sweet or silly card inside and kind words, written by hand.

In many ways, so much more than a quick text of inventive spelling and emojis.

No, I’m not hatin’ on the text messaging. I use it just like everybody else, even at times to say things that are meaningful and important.

But I’m on a hunt to find ways to be more intentional with kind words. Ways that will soothe the anxious hearts of those I love or maybe barely know. Ways that my words make life better, less heavy.

Because our hearts can be weighted down with anxiety.

And our kind words can cheer them up.

So…

Got any ideas for spreading the kindness?

 

Kind words can cheer up an anxious heart. Click to Tweet

 

 

The revealing un-conversation

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StockSnap_AB0U289SNWThere are a lot of new people at her church. It isn’t a big place, but when new people show up – especially all in the same season, it’s tricky to keep up with names.

But She tried to at least connect with the new women – especially those who seemed to be coming regularly. Being not all that good with names, a single brief introduction didn’t provide enough contact to let her greet everyone by name.

A smile and brief “hello – nice to see you again” is often just fine. But as a long-time member, She felt compelled to make an extra effort. Going out of the way to meet and get to know people – again, especially the women.

So when She found herself in the ladies’ room with a lovely new-ish attender, it seemed the perfect opportunity to strike up a casual conversation, work in the “oh, good grief, I have forgotten your name” and have a one-on-one, quiet, uninterrupted connection.

The opportunity and setting were perfect. The ladies’ room was pleasant and it was just the two of them.

She started to talk about something trivial … maybe the new artwork on the wall or the way the newly-installed doors didn’t open quite right and isn’t it weird to feel like you’re trapped.

But as She finished washing her hands, chatting away, She realized that Ms. New-ish was quickly headed for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else.

It didn’t feel very good. She wondered … had She said something insulting? But what could be distasteful about artwork or door locks? She knew the service was no where near starting. She even had a breath mint in her mouth.

What was it? Why the bum’s rush?

It bothered her most of the day. She wondered, asking the same questions over and over, replaying the scene in her mind. Maybe She did do something.

But maybe She didn’t.

Days later, still a little bruised, conversations She had in the past started creeping into her mind. Conversations with people who stopped by her desk or popped into her room. People who She wasn’t all that crazy about. Crazy people for whom She didn’t have a lot of time.

When they stopped in, She might continue to work at the whiteboard, never turning to acknowledge them or engage in the conversation. Maybe She sat at her desk, hands still poised over the keyboard with only a slight turn of the head toward the interloper.

She even remembered how She would get caught in the ladies’ room with the one woman who always had, as her grandmother called it, a sob story. No one ever asked how are you? for fear of inviting 15 minutes of whining. But even without prompting, Ms. Sob-Story would regale the listener – any listener – with details about her latest surgery or the misery over her daughter’s high school high-jinx,  never recognizing clear signals of disinterest and annoyance.

She remembered how She would quickly head for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else.

And then She wondered. What if I had just stopped – just for a minute or two. Just to listen to this person who longed to tell her story. A person who must have felt alone and isolated, who only made it worse each time she force-fed her malaise to an unfortunate audience who couldn’t escape.

Wait. Is that what had happened in the ladies’ room at church that day when She hoped to meet Ms. New-ish? Was She just being dismissed because She didn’t seem to be worth the time or effort to engage in conversation? Was She being perceived as a Ms. Sob-Story – or Ms. Busybody or Ms. Uninteresting or Ms. Clearly Unimportant?

Good Golly, Miss Molly.

Yes, of course, there could have been a good reason for the speedy departure of Ms. New-ish. Kids, impatient husband, church responsibility, lots of things.

So She could let slide the strange ladies’ room conversation. She could, thankfully and finally, at this point in her life and therapy, let go of those things that seemed prickly and took up way too much of her time.

But what She could not ignore was the nagging memories of how She responded to the crazies or the Ms. Sob Story and probably countless other people She considered less than worthy of time or attention. And, with each tainted memory, She broke her own heart a little more.

And then She heard the poetic words of a sweet 14-year-old She knew and loved.

Sometimes when you are trying to listen to someone
you need to use your eyes and heart, not just your ears.

Use your eyes and heart.

My lovelies, I fear that’s what’s been missing in so many of our conversations of late. Our ears hear, but our eyes don’t see. We don’t see that she is in pain and alone. Or that the tears are right on the edge of falling. We don’t see the longing for somebody to care.

Our ears hear, but our hearts don’t love. We don’t understand how they can believe this or that. Or how they can support that position or how they can shout down someone who disagrees. We don’t love them because we don’t love – or care about – what they are saying.

Yes, we say we listened or we heard. We say we care and understand.

But when we don’t take just a minute to stop and engage, is that really true?  When we quickly head for the door, using one-word answers, clearly on a mission to be somewhere else, aren’t we just wordlessly saying you’re not worth the time or effort to engage in conversation?

So here’s my plan. When they stop by, my hands will fold in my lap,  and my shoulders will square with theirs. We’ll chat and listen, even if only for a minute or two. Even if only until we know we’ve been heard.

And I won’t head for the door. I’ll use all the words it takes. And my only mission will be to listen.

Listen … ears, eyes, heart.

 

Who is worth YOUR time and effort to engage in conversation? ClickToTweet