This blog is going to be about kindness… kind of. Mostly it’s about my mom, Bev, and the way she treated people. You probably never knew Bev, so let me paint a picture for your mind’s eye: Bev was fabulous. She was beautiful, stylish, smart, funny, and incredibly sassy. My mother had a presence. She said what she meant and meant everything she said.
Because of this, my siblings and I often felt the need to tell Mom to be nice before introducing her to new friends. She hated that so much!
“Why do you always say that?! I am nice!” she’d exclaim.
Well, we said that to her because our mom always blurted out whatever she was thinking. I can’t speak for my siblings, but for me, this was embarrassing! I was always so worried that she was going to offend someone, or they weren’t going to like her. But the reality was our friends loved our mom! She might have told them their shoes were ugly or she didn’t like their hair, but the acceptance she showed them of the things that really mattered made up for it.
As I got older, it dawned on me that I was looking at kindness all wrong. Being nice isn’t just giving polite compliments and smiling. Actually, if anyone dared to tell Bev to smile, she’d reply, “only fools smile all the time.” (That’s one of my favorite Bev quotes!) Mom knew that smiling meant nothing if you didn’t have the heart or actions to back it up. And while I’m sure she understood that all people deserve respect and courtesy, she had a knack for giving a bit more kindness to people who she thought needed it the most.
I can’t even count how many times I’d ask my mom “do you even know her?” after she finished having a heart-to-heart with a store cashier, our waitress, or some random person standing in line with us. In the wintertime, when the charity bell ringers were standing in the cold outside of the grocery store, she’d go in and buy them a coffee or a hot chocolate and bring it back out to them. She still donated to their cause, but she also wanted them to feel appreciated.
When Bev walked into a crowded room, she had this innate ability to spot the one person who either didn’t seem to fit in or didn’t know anyone, and that’s who she’d gravitate toward. She’d chat with them, laugh with them, and soon she’d have whomever it was by the arm, walking them around and introducing them to everyone else. You’d think they were old friends! I tell you what, no one was allowed to feel lonely when Bev was around.
My beautiful, smart, sassy, and kind mom taught me a wonderful lesson. Smiles and polite nods are… well, nice. However, true graciousness is displayed by our actions, not our words. I invite whoever is reading this to take a page from Bev’s book and sit with someone who appears lonely or go out of your way to make someone feel valued. Though, maybe refrain from insulting their shoes!
Molly Woodman, Outreach Coordinator for The Kim Foundation