When I was in grade school, my teachers sat the new kids next to me or encouraged me to befriend them. I remember Charlene in first grade. She was of Latin American descent and rather shy. We pal’d around for a few months until she found her place in class and friends that lived closer to her. In third grade it was Theresa from Canada. I really liked her. She had my mother’s Canadian accent (yes, there is a slight accent) and already knew how to write cursive. We played together on the playground until she finally moved away later that year. In fifth grade, my teacher hooked me up with Cheryl. By this time I was more mobile and could go to Cheryl’s house to hang out. But in the end she was more rebellious than me (Haha, like I was even close to being rebellious! NOT!) so I felt uncomfortable hanging with her.
Anyway, I tell this story to remind myself that there was a time when I was the friendly one, the first person people were attracted to because of something about me that allowed them to feel comfortable. Unfortunately, today, that isn’t the case. Somewhere along the journey of life I stopped being openly friendly. Somewhere along the journey of life I learned to hold my friendship back until I knew I could trust the person I was meeting or associating with to return the favor. Somehow, I set up walls and began to wait for the other person to make the first move, extend the first signs of friendship, or show any sort of interest in talking to me. I ended up waiting for friendships to happen to me.
This year I became aware that I have even extended this “waiting” to my own children. They don’t live with me, so I wait for them to contact me in order to initiate any kind of dialogue. Waiting has become so second nature to me that I don’t think much about it. But when my birthday came and went and no one remembered it, I started thinking about why that was so. That’s when I began to see that maybe it’s because I don’t reach out to them first at other times. Thanksgiving came and my son in Boston was the first to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. I realized that had he not, I may not have said anything to him! Then the Christmas season arrived and other people would initiate the “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” greetings. It wasn’t until Christmas morning when someone on Twitter, someone I hardly know, sent me a Christmas greeting that finally woke me up to how poorly I am at making/being friends. So I started thinking, if someone I hardly know can send me a Christmas tweet, why couldn’t I do the same to others?
That’s when I determined that I would stop waiting for others to make the first move. I would be the first to be kind. And so, my 2012 mantra was born.
BE FIRST TO BE KIND.
Be first to tell someone they inspire you or that they look good or that you like [fill in blank] about them. Be first to send out birthday cards (something I don’t do), send an email just because, send out holiday cards. Be first to wish someone a happy birthday, a happy Mother’s day, a happy [whatever holiday]. Just Be First. To Be Kind.
This is my goal for 2012.
I used to attend a church, not because I’m religious, but because I love the rich, complex music that I only find in a church (and only in the traditional worship services). This particular church loved flowers and they loved their Christmas tree. At Christmas-time, no matter who you are in the Western traditions, the sentiment is about love. I wanted this to be softer than the the usual vibrant reds and greens. I wanted gentleness. I wanted to surprise so that, when viewed, “Love” becomes meaningful—if only for a moment.
I have known for a long time that November is for love because I knew that this November I would be called on to experience love in the most profound way.
Unfortunately, I have deleted numerous writes and rewrites of why “November is for Love” until I just can’t write about it anymore. Words trivialize it.
So, please just know that November is for Love. For me, it’s the most unconditional love I know.
(I really wish the English language had more words to designate different kinds of love. One word is not enough.)