Resolution One: Err on the Side of Kindness

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Bob's Big Boy

Bob's Big Boy

My alter ego, as captured by Iris Taboh

I’m not perfect, never will be, but the first day of each new year arrives at my door with a fresh coat of potential–potential to be a better man. (Be assured, it’s more of a journey than a destination.) This morning I’m on my front porch, warmed by a Hudson Bay, cup of coffee and a stack of good intentions, though freezing temperatures are testing all. Each steamy breath evaporates into stillness and the stars shine through a fretwork of branches. All is new, all is right with the world. (Of course, I’ve only been up for fifteen minutes.)

Back inside warming my dogs (both pooches and feet) before an overworked space heater, I think about 2010. A dizzying year with a heavy case load of life lessons, I ask myself, “What did I really learn?” The list is long and it changes daily, but if I had to distill it down to one thing, I’d have to say I learned to err on the side of kindness.

So many things happened this year that stopped me in my tracks. Some were tragic, some life-altering, some simple truths. When I thought I knew it all, I knew nothing. When I judged, I did it from one side. When I talked before I listened, I served little good. When I spoke ill of others, I diminished myself. When humanity needed an advocate, I was off watching Oprah.

If I may share a simple story:

My tray was in its upright position, my seat belt fastened.  The flight was packed, but the two seats next to me were empty. (Happy dance.) Right before the flight attendant closed the door, a young woman and toddler bounded on the plane with enough supplies for a week on Mount Everest. The flight attendant stated the obvious, “You need to hurry and take your seats.”  Passenger irritation was palpable. And while I knew I would leave the flight wrinkled, covered in crumbs and gummy fingerprints, I took sympathy on the Mom and got up to help her stowaway her base camp.  (Don’t get me wrong, I was still pouting about the loss of my arm rest and personal space.)

I said, “Tough crowd, eh?” and she smiled and said, “You don’t know the half of it.” Well, it was a five-hour flight, so she had plenty of time to tell me the half of it, and it was quite a story. A military wife with a husband on his second remote tour, she had had a tough couple years.

I first saw her as an unfortunate seat taker, and then three time zones later I knew her as an amazingly resilient Mother and wife who had been through a lot. She had a story, one that made me feel like a lightweight. Who she was, was initially not who I saw.

There are other stories, some with a bigger punch,  a few that are sad, but they all share the same message. If a neighbor needs a hand, lend it. If a stranger lacks a smile, share one. If someone turns a cruel word, counter it with a kind one. If you know not the situation, honor it with silence.

I know I don’t have all the answers, but I hope I have a few, and I feel if I start out (and hopefully continue) by erring on the side of kindness, 2011 will be a very good year.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this wonderful, heartfelt reminder that the opportunity for improvement is humanity’s great gift. Reinvention, reimagining, and redoing are not only possible, but necessary. I appreciate the reminder and love you dearly, Tom! Happy New Year & happy new, improved life for us all!!

  2. A new year with infinite possibilities and the words of a friend I so love and so appreciate.
    You are a gift…a 1st day of a New Year gift! xoxox
    Miffala

  3. Wow! So er….Tom can you help me split my 6 cords of wood? With the two of us it should only take a week or two ha ha.
    Once again my friend your words take me by the heart and swing me around in a dizzying embrace of goodness. Your momma did something right with you for sure! Thanks for your support this year-you were there and still are when I need a friend and companion. Sometimes life on the island becomes too still and quiet for this quasi recluse, and you offer a cacaphony of friendship. You are a gem and need very little refining in my oppinion. Happy New Year Tom!!!! Tamara

  4. What a relief to know all those crumbs and gummy fingerprints I’ve lavished upon you and your personal space have not been held against me.

    Lovely sentiments for 2011 — happy new year, indeed!

  5. Your thoughts so moved me I passed your entry along to quite a few friends. Can I come and live with you? I have my own tartan sweater…
    Seriously, as someone said earlier, your words were the perfect gift for a New Year’s start. Had 5 resolutions. Now I have a 6th. Let the erring begin! Cheers!

  6. All of your posts inspire me. You are one of the most positve and appreciative people I have ever met. You find joy and beauty in everything and have such a wonderful way expressing your thoughts and feelings. Thank you!! Wishing you and the pups a very Happy 2011. P.S. We got a new puppy on Dec. 18..what were we thinking? We are too old to start potty training again. 🙂
    Judy from Kentucky

  7. brings to mind this quote attributed to Socrates: “Be kinder than you think necessary; everyone you meet is carrying a burden”.
    As usual, Tom, your kind heart and noticing of the small things has brought you around to a great truth, worth sharing. Thanks again ! Happy New Year !

  8. Tom,
    I wish I could remember this every time I honk the horn w/ impatience or get annoyed at something stupid done in the checkout line at the grocery store (NY/NJ attitude).
    Very nice post, and it will make me think twice before flipping someone the bird! (kidding, I would never do that!).
    Happy New Year. I love your blog!
    Stacey

  9. Good story, and such a good point that we should extend people the benefit of the doubt before we get so righteous and indignant. I will TRY to be better 😉

  10. Oh Tom what an incredibly beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing…and for making me want to be a better person. 🙂

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