Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Resolution

My friend Jamie at my Random Acts of Kindness Birthday Party

Several years ago (like ten?) I used to be kind of a fanatic about telling people all the nice things I thought about them behind their backs. I would get bothered any time I was with a group of people and they would say something like, "Our server is so nice!" I would respond with, "So why not tell her?" I would follow up with a mini-lecture about how frustrating it is that we think all kinds of nice things about people behind their backs but then don't say it to their faces. (I know, I can be an annoying friend.)

But I loved being the kind of person who went out of my way to share my kind thoughts with other people, even if it was a little awkward at times (like telling the woman in the sandwich line at Whole Foods that she has beautiful skin). People appreciated it so much. It helped me connect with others. It challenged me to stretch out of my comfort zone.

But for some reason, this passion of mine has kind of dulled in recent years. I still tell people nice things randomly and unexpectedly from time to time, but I don't really go out of my way any more.

And then I got this e-mail:

You don’t know me, and I almost didn’t send this because you will probably think I’m crazy. I looked at your house a few weeks ago and thought it was completely adorable. It just felt so happy and creative, and I could tell from about 5 minutes in your baby’s room that you are super great parents and it just made me think “wow, what a lucky kid”. I’m sure you’re wondering why, if I loved the house so much, I did not buy it. Well… probably the only two reasons are that I’m a semi-hardcore veggie gardener and the backyard is just way too shady :(, and the kitchen is the same as mine now and one of the reasons I’m moving is that I really want a little more cooking space. I just wanted you to know that I loved it though, because I know if I were (will be soon) selling my house, I would be obsessing over what everyone thought and if your house is that cute and loved, it just seemed like you would be the same :). I am about to buy another house, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loved your house, so I googled the address and found a website for it that you’d made…it gave your name and then I found your blog/email. Psycho! Ha. *I promise I’m not a psycho*. For some reason I just felt like I had to email you and tell you how much I love the house and kudos for being an awesome parent in this world of sadly not enough awesome parents. After I looked at your house, I showed my mom the pictures and we were talking about how all the baby furniture was low and accessible and the toys were educational, and my mom said “awww, it’s like Montessori school” and we just immediately loved your family for having "fiction" and "non-fiction" book baskets. Then I read you were a Montessori teacher and thought "of course!".

Okay, that’s it. Just wanted to let you know that your house is super cute and I’m sure you will sell it soon, you are an inspiring parent, and I’m sure your Montessori school will be amazing :).

That e-mail totally made my day. I e-mailed it to Matt and our parents and now I'm sharing it with you.

I'm reminded what can happen when we put ourselves out there, when we go the extra mile (excuse the cheesy metaphor) to make someone else feel good just by being honest.

And because of that e-mail, I am recommitting to going out of my way to tell people the nice things I think about them behind their backs (and to delivering mini-lectures about how the world would be a better place if we all started doing it).

[end of lecture]

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Casandra said...

Thanks for sharing this. It made me weepy (in a good way). This is a great reminder that we can use our words in service of others.

Meghan said...

I think this is a great lecture to give. Thanks! I've also found that going out of my way to tell people the nice things I'm thinking behind their backs is so rewarding and opens new and wonderful connections. Like you, this can be out of my comfort zone too, but it is worth it. Thanks for the push to prioritize this.

Kelsey said...

Wow, Sara, that is so cool and it really brightened my day too! I listen to NPR everyday to and from work and it’s just getting me down lately – so many bad things are happening in the world and I think it affects me more than I realize. It is so important to be reminded that there are NICE people in the world too. It is so amazing how something so simple as writing an email can lift someone’s spirit and become this positive energy that they will take forward with them. I’m sure that wasn’t the only person who felt that way about your house either, s/he was just the only one who took time to write to you. Thank you so much for sharing this, I needed it today!

V. Wetlaufer said...

What a great email! Telling people kind things you think about them is something I'm really big on, too. This is a good "lecture" to get now and then!

Raquel.Somatra said...

This is a beautiful post. I remember making a similar resolution a while back-- At that time, I too told a check out girl at a bookstore that her skin was beautiful!

It's so funny you used this as your example, but that's my one defining moment in life on the instant karma of kind acts-- the girl was large, obese even, and I'm certain got fairly little compliments from strangers. And she had glowing skin and natural pink cheeks that most women try to capture in their morning make up routine-- so I just took the time to tell her so, and the look on her face was one of shock, mainly, then a slow, gradual smile-- she couldn't believe I was telling her something nice about her appearance. It felt so awesome to do that.

So thanks for the reminder! So often (especially in elevators lately), people sit in silence, possibly thinking the other is judging them, when really, they're thinking about our awesome bag/eye shadow/hair texture. So why not say it aloud? So true.

Raquel.Somatra said...

I want to add that the girl's weight had nothing to do with my compliment or her pretty skin-- I just added that because I think the reason she reacted the way she did (shock) was because she probably wasn't used compliments on her appearance.

Rachel said...

I LOVED that sweet email that was sent to you. And it is SUCH a great reminder to do that to others. I don't think I've ever been too good at doing it in-person, but I've usually been better at doing it in writing. Thank you for the reminder, to just do it, somehow, any way.

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