Nice People

 

“Oh, Kay!” our ever-sweet and delightful school receptionist stopped me as I walked by on my way to grab a kid out of the carpool line. Sometimes after an assembly, we walk to get kids rather than drive through the line. I had stopped several times along the way to catch up with folks, so I was last. My poor kids. Last in the alphabet. Last thanks to a chatty-mom.

“Hi Cindy,” I smiled back at her.

“Kay, I think this key might be yours?”

Huh? A key.

She rustled through some papers on her desk then lifted up a single car key stuck to the underside of a yellow Post-It Note – bearing “KAY” in black Sharpee.

I looked at the key, noticed it to be my own and wondered how in the world it had ended up at Cindy’s desk. The last I knew I had put it in my pocket when racing from my car a few blocks from the school – slightly late, as is often the case.

“That sure is my key,” I remarked still wondering how.

“Someone thought you might be missing it so brought it to me,” she laughed and shrugged. There’s never a judgmental bone in her body, only kind words of encouragement, just nice. “I’m just glad you’ve got it.”

“Thank you so much,” I told her. Then turned to the friend next to me, “Okay – that is really nice of someone to have noticed the key that must have fallen out of my back pocket.” I was dumbfounded – not only on how it could have happened, but how someone could have noticed and been so incredibly nice to get it to a safe place. Seriously – a single key. It could have been anywhere along my path. It could have taken hours for me to retrace every step to find it.

I was floored and moved by the whole thing.

People are nice.

We can get so caught up in rude, thinking it rules the world these days especially since it grabs most daily/hourly headlines. But truth be told – on the whole – people are nice. Regular people, far from famous, driving next to us, walking normal days that are always filled with good and bad are nice. Why can’t that rule the day? Why can’t we celebrate and sink into nice instead of letting loud-rude steal the show?

So, for a Wednesday reminder, here’s some nice that often goes unsaid (but shouldn’t) that has recently crossed our path:

With most mail consisting of advertisements, college stuff, bills and junk, I was surprised to see a large white envelope hand-addressed to me in the stack. And even more surprised to open it to find a Good Grit magazine autographed by the cover-artist with a thank-you note for my subscription. What?! Who does that?

Some super nice people from the South.

I had never heard of Good Grit until it caught my eye a few weeks ago as I checked out of Central Market and noticed my sister’s dear friend Shelly on the cover. I bought it, snapped and sent a pic, then decided to read it before mailing it off to her. I loved it – and subscribed since I think what they do is cool and happy and interesting. We can all use a little of that. I thought they were nice people over there at Good Grit magazine – now I know.

Then, later that week I had another package in the mail. What in the world?! … more nice people.

This time a shirt that was quickly snatched up by a daughter. Had I recently ordered a chatbook? No. It was a thank-you gift along with a note for ordering I’ve done in the past. And let’s just say, I’m not a huge order-er. I simply used them as the end-of-year teacher gift –

and graduation party memory book for about 40 seniors last year. The books by themselves were great. I would never have imagined to be thanked again a year later!

So there’s all that nice.

And just yesterday I was overwhelmed by beauty tastefully done by the very nice people at Church of the Incarnation who open their doors every week to host our neighborhood Bible study. Every week they set up a room for us with tables and chairs, brew coffee, set out cups and iced water and make us feel welcomed and loved. The kicker – they do it out of the kindness of their heart, asking nothing in return, even though we aren’t members of the church (we’re a hodge-podge of ages and denominations.) They simply knew we needed a place to meet and opened their doors.

And it’s not just us. They’re nice, without fanfare or self promotion, to all of their neighbors. Just ask the kids at North Dallas High School directly across the street who are welcomed on any week-day to stop by for a meal and tutoring. What?! Who does that.

Nice people. Motivated by Love.

And, there are nice people everywhere.

I was moved to tears on the way to school recently listening to a news story about some very nice people with the Chicago Whitesocks who offered his old job back to Nevest Coleman, recently exonerated after serving 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It could be hard find a job after 23 years in prison.

“Nevest was a good friend of mine back then and I was glad to have him back,” said Jerry Powe, his supervisor. “I’m real happy for him. Nice day today.”

I hope you have a nice day today filled with nice people. Maybe part of the secret of nice is being one of those nice people ourselves.

Thanks for walking the road with me … and a very special thanks to the nice person who found my key!

– Kay

Modeling Perfect Imperfection

Singer, songwriter and author Andrew Peterson stopped by Dallas last week to inspire kids and adults alike. I don’t know Andrew, but if I did and if he and his family lived in Dallas, I think we’d be friends. I also thought, oh so many years ago while sitting next to my sister in the Wichita Falls Sikes Center Mall movie theater watching Top Gun, that one day I’d meet Tom Cruise.

I haven’t.

But I did get to meet Andrew. I group-ied in line with his fans (middle school avid readers of The Wingfeather Saga a series of 4 fantasy thrillers) so I could tell him thank you. Thanks for being regular and modeling imperfect in a world obsessed with performance among other pressures.

Before being bombarded by fans, Andrew shared with the 4th-8th graders plus a splattering of parents (most of whom love his music) at our school. He started the presentation with a couple of songs, between which he shared a little about his own feelings at their age. “I wasn’t an athlete or a part of the cool crowd or a great student. I was a nerd – that skateboarded – kind of the leader of the nerd crowd, which put me in a strange in-between place.” And he shared how he sometimes felt alone and left out and not enough. “Have you ever felt that way?” He asked the crowd.

We all nodded.

Then he set up his next song, Loose Change, about a penny who, if it could talk, probably feels a little bit like a Middle Schooler (actually each of us since we’re all a flesh wound away from Jr High insecurities) sometimes overlooked, rarely noticed, seemingly easily discarded. Then he strummed his guitar and began to sing. Midway through the first line – he laughed and shared that it had been a while since he had played the song and that he had forgotten the words. But then he remembered, started from the beginning and forgot again.

It was beautiful. He didn’t crater. He leaned into what could have been embarrassing, making it regular because messing up is regular – even when it is literally in front of everyone. Then he grabbed his phone “to google the lyrics” – so real and even more regular. It even took him a couple tries to land on the right site.

Not only that, he needed help to be able to sing, play and see the words at the same time. Hands shot up when he asked. And from the audience a “girl with the big green bow” stood next to him, holding his phone as he sang.

The very real moment couldn’t have played better if it had been scripted – offering inspiration and lessons to everyone looking on:

  • we don’t have to be perfect
  • mistakes happen – even to professionals
  • sometimes we need help – help that is available, we just have to ask
  • people are nice and a lot less judgmental of us than we are of ourselves
  • we are not alone

I hope we can appreciate the dry sense of humor, creativity and deep truth woven through the lyrics. May they put some wind in your sails the same way they did and continue to do with the crowd who saw them lived out in a very regular and imperfect school assembly.

…But I heard about a penny found, lying underneath the couch
By a woman who was kneeling down, looking for some change
Then the woman danced around and called her friends all over town
Told them what was lost is found, it’s another penny saved
And so I find that all this time beneath the surface I could shine
Like all the gold a king and queen could measure
You see even a penny is a treasure

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Carpool Messaging

Carpool heaven.

We’ve gone for years without a dog. Which for those who know our story has been hard, but right. I’m an animal lover who brought everything home to be a pet. And I always thought I’d have horses and cats and dogs – but my path didn’t lead that way.

So we were surprised by this new addition (Mitty) who has made morning drop-offs sweet. I mean how can riding to school with an adorable, though sometimes mischievous, puppy on your lap be bad :)

But truth be told, I hope all of our morning rides can and have been equally sweet, puppy or not. I hope they’re filled with laughs and love and honest and safe. That the kids understand that they are known and unconditionally loved and that their worth is never defined by a grade, a team, a friend group or anything besides Truth. Truth that our worth exceeds anything we can imagine. Truth founded in love – love from the beginning of time – LOVE demonstrated by an act we will pause to remember tomorrow, Good Friday.

Senate Chaplain Black said a couple of years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast that as a 10yo he had enough analytical power to know that “the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay.” Dare we believe (1 Peter 1: 18-19)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

and sink into Truth and allow it to inform our worth today and everyday. Valued as precious beyond anything imaginable – the Happy Ending – Easter.

Now that makes a heavenly carpool ride – to school and everywhere else.

Thanks for walking (and driving) the road with me.

-Kay

Do’s And Be’s Aside

“… then have Alexa read your kid a good-night story so you can have a few moments to yourself.”
 
“What?” my shotgun kid said in disbelief.
 
I had to double-take myself. I’m so used to rewinding to see or hear again, I reached for the remote control. Realizing that we’re driving and that radio doesn’t rewind, I repeated what we thought we heard one of our local personalities say to the rousing agreement-exclamations of her on-air buddies, “I think she just said to have Alexa read to your kid at night.”
 
“That kind of defeats the purpose don’t you think?” She’s seventeen and would probably still stop for a sit and listen if a book is being read out loud – which we sometimes do, though not often enough. Still, she thought out loud, “What’s next? Alexa run my laps. Alexa brush my teeth. Alexa write my paper,” and laughed. “But read to your kid? That’s a kind of gross,” she concluded
 
I get the need for convenience. And, I fully understand the need for down time. But the thing about reading with your kid – it has so much more to do with relationship than anything else. Until we allow the ever-growing list of do’s and be’s with all their inherent product-pressures to rule. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that people aren’t products in today’s society driven by resumes, transcripts, bios, Abouts, etc. Good things can quickly be twisted and made to be a badge or belt-notch.
It is good to read out loud, together, next to each other. To escape via written word and to visit another land like Narnia, side-by-side. To feel the agony of a cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter that will just have to wait until tomorrow. But all that good can get lost in the act when it becomes a checked box on a list of do’s or be’s. When we reading is done to land on a list like Signs You’re A Good Parent (Grandparent, Aunt or even Sibling) or Ways To Increase Your Child’s IQ OR fill in the blank.

And it’s not just reading. We’re encouraged, rightfully so, to eat dinner together. It’s good to eat meals together since it’s “The Most Important Thing You Can Do With Your Kids” But we can even trip that up by lathering on caveats – it must be at our kitchen table, at a set time, home-made, organically grown produce, in our own backyards. Because that’s what we often do – add to the list so we can be better, beyond just what needs to be done. Then, the small problem of enough comes into play – and enough is elusive at best.  But, great meals can be had on the fly. It’s the breaking of bread, together, conversing – the relationship part that matters. Because a good meal can even be shared in the carpool line while waiting for a brother to be let out of school.

Or volunteering. It’s good to volunteer. But the good can get lost in the doing primarily to check a box. Since we Spring Break staycationed (a common theme in our home for a lot of reasons) we had some free time. So, one of the days we hopped in the car and went to a favorite place to help out. It’s an easy spot to pop in and help clean or stock shelves or so many things. So we did. And we weren’t the only ones. Which could possibly prove that EVERYONE didn’t go out of town (though I get why it feels that way) and that I’m not the only person who thinks volunteering can be fun. But, truth be told, almost all the volunteers were there to check a box – get the hours. Which honestly is fine and a terrific requirement by schools and certain organizations since such things widen the scope of opportunities as well as understanding need. But, when we make volunteering a means to an end – like filling out a resume or checking a box – we make it about ourselves which takes away the beauty of and secret to service – eyes off us. Volunteering, like gratitude, can be such a powerful tool in our arsenal against so much of the world’s mis-messaging so often centered on getting ahead.

It can be a challenge to straddle such wonderful things in life that come with product-pressures. Especially when the “product” is a person. The pressures are real. And we actually need to do these good things, not only for proven health and well-being but also because they’re good for us. Some are actual requirements to graduate.

Maybe the secret is to weave into the mix unexpected moments of doing simply as an act of being.

Volunteering just to do it out of the kindness of our hearts and for the experience. With regard to our Spring Break helping out, I’m not sure any of us will soon forget digging through a palette of cabbages, discarding the rotten, pulling back slimy leaves to salvage the edible. Just remembering the smell alone ushers in groans and laughter that bring lingering smiles – no counting hours, simply being together and helping others. Leisurely reading and enjoying the person sitting beside who only moments earlier moaned and pleaded No, I’d rather play my game – until the story caught their attention since that’s what good stories do. And letting that carpool-lunch “count” (whatever that means) as a family meal since any time together – especially in the car where eyes tend to focus outward and honest thoughts easily flow – equals relationship.

Relationship – the one thing each and every human craves. Here’s to fighting for it in the midst of all the do’s and be’s.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

[Side-Note: Sorry for the radio silence of late. I’ve been putting final touches on a new book – a fun, but daunting prospect. I would really appreciate your prayers. I’m not kidding about my gratitude for walking the road together.]