Making You Want to Smile Back.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

I've been thinking lately about what I can do to be nicer to people. I don't know about you, but I feel like every person I encounter -- whether in real life or online -- is super stressed out about something, is super worried about something. It also seems like I can't look at news online without seeing some sort of horrific and tragic story involving a child, a dog, someone with a disability, or an elderly person. It's truly enough sometimes to make you want to crawl under your covers and not come out.

I also think a lot about things I've said and done in the past to hurt people's feelings. There are things I know I've done, of course, but I'm also positive there are things I've done to hurt people that I don't even know I did. Some of those things I've been able to apologize for, and some things it is now no longer a possibility to apologize for them for one reason or another.

I also think about Bert and how he is so sweet and innocent now, but that one day, because we live in a fallen world, he will be hurt by someone's words or actions, and, more importantly, he'll hurt someone else. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it because it hurts my heart so much.

I want to be a good example for my son so that he learns how to treat others with kindness and be slow to anger and judge. I'm not always (or ever) great at that. I can easily get upset or angry with people or judge someone's words or actions. That's why one of my goals for myself this year is to be slower to judge and to take more time to understand where someone is coming from before I say something back or make up my mind about them. To be honest, I haven't been doing this perfectly. My immediate reaction is still to be incensed at someone's words or actions and immediately judge them or their behavior. Although that seems to still be my immediate response, I feel like I'm doing better at taking time to rethink those judgments and not saying something back or allowing other people's words or actions to bother me. It's a huge work in progress, but I think being mindful of it is a good step towards fixing it.

I wish I had millions of dollars to give to people I know need it. But the reality is, I don't. Joe and I try to give where and when we can, but we can't do that every single day. So I decided to think about things I can do regularly to be kinder to people and hopefully make their days a little better.

The first thing I thought of was slowing down and taking time for them, which I wrote about the other day.

The second thing I thought of is giving people compliments or telling them I appreciate them. I feel like so often I might think something nice about someone, but I rarely take the time to tell them. I mean, we all feel so great when someone says something nice about us. Often, it can change the course of our whole day when someone takes a moment to say something uplifting. I have two stories about compliments that I believe truly illustrate just how much one person's quick words can stick with us over the course of time:

First, a couple of months ago I texted my sister Erin a picture of Bert holding the Halloween card she and my other sister Emma sent. It really wasn't that great a photo, just a quick phone snap in bad lighting. Erin commented on the photo and said, "He has that kind of smile that makes you want to smile back." The moment I read that, I thought -- WOW. As long as I live I will never forget that someone said that about my son. I don't know Erin's thought process behind that one or when she thought of it, but my guess is she didn't spend hours and hours trying to come up with a compliment for Bert. I assume she saw the photo, and that thing popped into her head. Instead of keeping it to herself, she took a few moments to type it in a text. She may have never thought about it again, but here we are 4 months later, and I still think about that all the time. I will tell Bert as soon as he is able to understand it that his Aunt Erin said that about him. It brings me a lot of joy. (And, now that I think of it, I haven't told Erin until this moment how much that meant to me, so it's a good thing I'm having this talk with myself right now about complimenting and appreciating people! Get it together, Anna.)

Second, last year Joe and I lived in a townhouse that had the main living space on the second floor. We had windows that were tall and low to the ground, but there were no screens in the windows. One day, we decided to open the windows a little bit at the bottom in order to get some fresh air. I spent some time making sure they weren't open too far because I wanted to be sure that Jane Austen wouldn't jump out and break all her legs. I said that to Joe, and in reply he said, "But she would have the BEST TIME on the way down!" And I thought, my goodness but that is true. Jane Austen would truly have a blast falling out a window (until she hit the ground) because she just loves life and it takes nothing for her to have a good time! Joe said that well over a year ago, and I still think about that a lot when I see Jane.

I think that giving someone a genuine compliment (extra points if it's a stranger!) or telling someone they did or said something you appreciate is a super easy thing we all can do to be just a little bright spot in someone's day.

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