True, kind, necessary.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An elderly woman with deep wrinkles surrounding her water-blue eyes looked up at me from her hospital bed and said, "You've found your calling: caregiver. By day, you care for us patients. By night, your family. It's what you were clearly meant to do."

I was stunned by the gift she gave me, realizing she knew so little about me and yet spoke such deep affirmation. She was bed-bound and could have chosen a miserable existence, but instead, chose kindness. And I realized: there are people in this world who choose kindness and those who do not. There are people who walk into your home (which you've poured so much time and energy and sweat cultivating into what it is) and curse it. They point out the crack in the ceiling or the wilting plant in the corner. It makes your heart beat a little faster as you muster up a response, knowing full well their attack was borne of insecurity. But still, it hurts.

Then there are those who are kind, those who bless. Those who welcome you into their homes with spit up on your shirt and dirt under your fingernails and look you in the eye for longer than 2 seconds to ask, "How are you really doing today?" with every ounce of sincerity. They're in your corner. They're your advocates, your cheerleaders.

Our world could use so much more kindness.

I vividly remember being 13 years old and all of the 7th grade girls were called to the library to have a meeting with the school counselor. We were nervous... what had we done? The counselor calmly told us that she'd been catching wind of a lot of back-biting and gossip. So she taught us a little phrase she wanted to go through our heads before we said anything: "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If it isn't all three, it shouldn't be said."

It's been almost 20 years since 7th grade and I still remember that phrase.

Is it true? 
Is it kind? 
Is it necessary?

Maybe we should all start thinking about that before we "say" anything on social media. As a mom, I see so much that, if filtered through these questions, would never end up in my newsfeed or yours.

Is it true?
Is what I'm posting real life? Or is it completely posed, pushing the mess out of the way in order to show forth a cleaned up, dishonest portrait that you'd like to send out into the world? I'm not advocating posting pictures of your dirty laundry (no one wants to see that), but simply... is it true?

Is it kind?
I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of hashtags on Instagram as I think they can often veer into unkind toward others, or trying to "one up" others. Not always, but so many hashtags seem to say #Iambetterthanyou #andyou #andyou. Is what you post pushing others down to lift yourself up? Or is it kind to those who see it?

Is it necessary?
This is probably the most controversial of the three, or up for debate. Is anything really necessary on social media? Perhaps it should be asked this way: does it lift others up? Does it point them to hope?

In college, I held a host of nannying jobs in downtown Chicago, some more gratifying than others. One woman I worked for had advertised for a nanny, but was actually looking for someone who would hand wash her lingerie while she played Solitaire at the computer a mere 10 feet away. (Her kids, meanwhile, played video games unsupervised for hours on end in the other room.) The aura about this woman toward anyone beneath her social stratum was demeaning at best. But the money was decent and she provided a free place to stay for the summer, so I stayed.

Meanwhile, she employed another woman in her home: an older black lady who worked as a maid, tidying up the same corners and dusting the same ledges day after day. This dear woman had worked for the family for more than 40 years. I'm sure she must have suffered. She must have felt the scorn of white privilege and menial tasks she was given and the ungodly hours she was expected to work. But her smile lit up every corner of that dark apartment and when we'd talk, she'd often say, "What a blessing!" with a broad smile. I'm sure she had plenty to say about her very unkind boss. But she chose kindness, and it made all the difference.

True, kind, necessary. Don't you think using those three simple filters could go so far?

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