What Is the Best Thing that Anyone Has Ever Said to You?

What is the best thing that anyone has ever said to you?

A friend posed this question to me awhile back.

I’ve been pondering this for awhile now, and I know there is something I am forgetting, a moment when I remember saying the exact words “that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.” The fact that I can’t recall what it was now is driving me batty.

I can say that I have been told several times that I am easy to talk to and, even better, the words “I trust you” and “I trust you completely.” When someone says that to me, especially someone who hasn’t really known me all that long, or maybe not even actually met me but communicated with me only through some form of the written word, that means the world to me, that they have that much faith in me, that they feel they can trust me with their more private selves, and I value that incredibly highly. I don’t even know how to aptly put into words how that makes me feel. Deeply honored.

However, one instance in particular does stand out in my mind.

A few years ago while we were out shopping, my kids opted to take a rest around a patio table that was set up in the store while we went to check something out. (My oldest was old enough to be responsible for them.) When we returned, there was an older gentleman sitting at the table with the kids, chatting.

He told us who he was, his age – in his eighties, I believe, and a bit of his personal history, that he had met all kinds of people in his lifetime. He then went on to tell us that he had been chatting with my kids, and what a pleasant exchange they’d had.

He said he wanted to take the opportunity to let us know what a nice little family we were, that my children were well mannered, bright, and how he was impressed with their answers to his questions about various topics. He even went on to say that he thought my youngest could become President one day, that he had leadership qualities, and that he would certainly vote for him.

What really got me, however, was when he made a point to say that as parents we were really doing something right, that we were raising really great kids.

As someone who more often than not has wondered if I am doing anything right as a parent, who has often experienced self-doubt and felt like I have floundered badly, this was really something to hear.

I have keenly felt the loss of the benefit of being able to go to my own parents for wisdom and parenting advice, or even encouragement, so this struck right at the heart of me. After he left, I welled up with tears – and am again now just thinking about it as I write this – and I don’t think I was able to speak much for awhile.

For a complete stranger to take the time to get to know my children a little, to see such good qualities in them, and to make a point to offer such words of encouragement and praise about parenting them, that has really stayed with me, and is truly one of the very nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

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Shattered Glass and the Kindness of Strangers

Once upon a time, my family and I were on a week-long road trip. We traveled through several states, stopping to explore places that struck our fancy, with the last leg of our journey being an overnight hotel stay, then a day spent at a large zoo there, followed by the 6-hour drive home.

However. 

When we went out to put our bags in the truck the next morning, this is what we found.

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Someone had broken into about 10 cars in the parking lot of the hotel, smashing in the windows, and stealing everything of value inside.

Unfortunately, we had not thought to remove our car dual DVD player we had purchased for the kids for the trip, the GPS, some games, a power converter we had also purchased for the trip, and a few other items, including our checkbook.

My son, who NEVER left his Nintendo DS in the car, forgot it for the first time ever that night, and it was stolen too. If you’ve ever had a kid who was quite fond of their video games, you can imagine how unhappy he was. None of these things were visible, all hidden under the seats and in seat pockets, but the thief apparently just smashed in random vehicle windows all over the parking lot and then ransacked the insides for whatever he could find.

The glass though. It was like a bomb had exploded inward. It was EVERYWHERE. Thousands of tiny pieces of glass in every nook and cranny of the truck. I couldn’t believe one window could make that much shattered glass. We couldn’t possibly travel in it as it was. It wasn’t safe to even try to get inside. We were 6+ hours from home with all our suitcases and no place to go.

What on earth were we going to do?

We had to rely on the kindness of strangers. The hotel staff was wonderful. They gave us back our room for our kids to hang out in and a place to stow our luggage while we figured out what to do. We filed the police report and made arrangements with a glass company to come and replace the window later that day. Once all those things had been taken care of, we sat down to figure out what to do next while we waited for the truck to be fixed.

The kids were understandably quite upset, though to their credit, they tried to see it as an unexpected adventure. We loved a good adventure, and I’ve always told them some of the best parts of a road trip are the unexpected and unplanned things that happen, but this was not quite what we had in mind to make the end of our trip “exciting.”

While chatting with the hotel staff, we mentioned we had intended to spend the day at the local zoo, but that clearly wasn’t a possibility now. And then something unexpected happened. They happened to have 4 free passes for admission to the zoo, so we would only need to purchase 1 ticket instead of 5. Then the manager and another staff member volunteered to chauffeur us there and back in their personal vehicles.

They stored our luggage safely in their office, gave us the tickets, took us to the zoo, and arranged to pick us up about 5 hours later. I am sure they felt a certain amount of responsibility to us as their hotel customers, but it was no fault of the hotel that someone had chosen to break into a slew of vehicles in their parking lot. Allowing us more time in our room to sort things out was something I think would be fairly common practice in a situation such as that.

However, I think that giving us the zoo tickets and being our personal chauffeurs so that our kids wouldn’t miss the planned trip to the zoo – and to try to boost their spirits after being upset about not only losing their things, but feeling a bit violated after seeing their truck seats covered in shards of glass – was going above and beyond, and it was enormously appreciated.

What started out as a very upsetting morning and could have been a long and unhappy day, ended up being a fun afternoon at the zoo and a rather enjoyable day. When my kids got back and talked to their friends about their vacation, as well as writing those back to school papers about summer vacation, the one statement we heard again and again was, “We got robbed!”

Certainly, it was a memorable event. My kids have been taught to be kind, and I have watched them extend kindness to strangers themselves many times over, but I think being on the receiving end of it in a situation like that and realizing what a big difference those simple kindnesses from strangers made for us that day, really brought it home to them in a personal way how kindness can make a big impact.

For me, that is what is truly memorable.

[Oh, and all that glass? The people who replaced the window vacuumed the car out for us as best they could, we laid our jackets down on our seats, and still found glass all around us. We continued to find pieces of glass coming out of seemingly nowhere not for months, but for years.]

Photo credit: jeffc5000 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In the Blink of an Eye

Twenty years ago today, this darling child was born.

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And my life, and my heart, would never be the same. We already had a strong bond after months of my talking to her like she was already with me (because really, she was) and her responding in various ways, often with eye-watering kicks to the bladder or undeniable head rolls (she was breech).

She was my first pregnancy and everything was new and wondrous. I remember well when I first felt the little butterflies and marveled that this was a little person within me, first making her presence known.

I have never gotten over being awestruck when any of my babies would punch or push out on my belly and make a bit of themselves momentarily visible to the outside world – and to me. It’s a feeling I have never been able to adequately put into words.

When the day finally arrived when I had the privilege of meeting her at long last, the moment they put her into my arms, I was forever lost. My heart would never again be safe or enclosed within my own body. It is so very true what they say about a mother’s heart forever walking around outside her body. A huge piece of mine currently resides 6 long hours away.

20141118_213350-1This little girl of mine has been such a gift. She was such an intelligent child, sweet, stubborn, so caring, compassionate, high in empathy. For awhile it was just the two of us and we did everything together. We cleaned, we baked, we played, we sat under a tree on a blanket in the summer and read books together, or looked up into the tree, examined the grass, looked at bugs, explored the everyday things around us that hold such fascination for a child as they discover everything for the very first time.

20141118_214834My baby girl grew and became a big sister, and oh what a protective big sister she was. I remember when my oldest son was born and we first went to the grocery store with the two of them. My shy little girl would speak right up to complete strangers if they got anywhere near our cart and say, “This is my baby brother. You can look, but DON’T TOUCH.” My little introvert was as fiercely protective of her loved ones as her mama.

20141118_213943I’ve watched my girl dance. I’ve watched her “nurse” her baby dolls while I nursed her brother. I have forever engraved on my heart the memory of a little girl in a sweater skirt outfit twirling, long golden hair flying, pretending to be a figure skater like we watched on TV, exclaiming, “Look at me, Mommy! I”m skating! I’m skating!”

There have been bumps and bruises, messed up knees and ankles, and bike wipeouts. There have been cousins and best friends. There have been friends who stopped being friends and soul bruises.

My girl has known heartaches and so many losses much, much too young – an elementary teacher, a childhood friend, family members, more friends. I think it has made her even higher in empathy and even more compassionate, if that’s possible.

20141118_181743-1There were dances and that one boy. THE boy. There was graduation and honors and scholarships. There was the letting go and leaving her 6 hours away at college while I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, but I had to let her spread her wings, because I know this girl has flying to do.

Then there was an engagement. Now there is studying, exams, a roommate (we couldn’t have asked for a better one), college pals. A wedding to plan. Holiday time split with THE boy (and again we couldn’t have asked for a better one) and his family. (I joke about who has custody of her when.)

As I write this, I have tears flooding my eyes and spilling down my cheeks, but these are not sad tears. I miss her so, but these are tears of joy, of a mother’s heart so overflowing with love and gratitude that I have had these 20 years, even though they have passed in a blink; and pride, so much pride.

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I am so proud of the young woman she has become. Her work ethic is impressive. She pushes herself hard to learn, to do well, to make the most of her schooling. She has goals and is determined to achieve them. She is a dedicated musician. She has a fabulous sense of self, knows who she is, and stands firm in what she believes in and doesn’t compromise herself . She has the biggest heart of anyone I know and no matter how many times she’s been hurt, she never lets it stop her from caring about people. She goes out of her way to help others. She is a friend anyone would be so lucky to have.

This girl, this young woman, she is one who can make me laugh like no other, and one of my favorite things in life is our episodes of crazy, gasping, can’t breathe, doubled over, tears rolling, snorting, helpless laughing fits we have when we’re together. It is THE. BEST. 

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This child, my firstborn, my baby girl, is no longer a child. She is a grown woman, today officially no longer a teenager. She is the light of my life. She is my most trusted confidant, and I am so incredibly blessed to now call her my best friend. I learn from her. I admire the woman she is, and the woman she is making herself into.

My baby girl isn’t a baby anymore and while there are moments it is really  hard to wrap my head around that, and certainly there are twinges of missing that adorable little girl who forever changed my world and my heart, I am ever so grateful to have the tremendous privilege of having watched her journey from baby to child to beautiful young woman, and I hope to have the great fortune of continuing to witness her transformation in the years to come as she becomes a college graduate, an engineer, a wife, a mother, and so much more.

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Happy Birthday, Baby Girl! I cherish you. I love you – to the moon and back! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤