Monday, March 9, 2015

Kindness Given and Received

On Ash Wednesday, a number of co-workers and I had gathered for a meal and the discussion turned to Lenten practices.  Many practice were around giving up something.  Our conversation actually began with the “is anyone giving up anything for Lent?”  My practice is a bit different.  When Lent arrives, I like to do something positive that will shift who I am and allow me to somehow express more fully who I want to be.  This kind of action has played out in a number of different ways over the years.

When my children were small our family Lenten practice focused on doing kindnesses.  I put an empty bowl on our kitchen table as Lent began and at dinner, we each shared various kindnesses we gave throughout the day.  With each kindness a kindness stone went in the bowl and we would watch the bowl fill throughout the season.

My Lenten practice for this season is to write a daily gratitude list.  It allows me, at the end of the day to reflect on things that are good in my life and offer gratefulness. 

My list for the day today contains a remembered conversation I had with my son and daughter when we were filling our kindness bowl one Lent numerous years ago.  Below is a snippet of that remembered conversation taken from the archives of our family moments…

Sitting around the family table the scenario unfolds:

Mom:               So, let’s talk about all of the ways we gave kindness to others today.

Ben and Rachel looked at each other to see who would talk first.  Ben jumped in.

Ben:                Mom, I have one.  Billy gave me the book he was reading.  He let me borrow it.

Rachel:            Ben, that isn’t a kindness.  Billy may have done something kind, but you didn't.

Ben:                It is a kindness.

Rachel:           No, it isn’t.  What did you do that was kind?  Nothing.

Rachel rebuked her younger sibling.  Ben frowned, not knowing what to say next.

Ben:                It is too.  Mom, could you ask Rachel to stop always trying to be right?

Our family Lenten practice obviously was not going how I had planned.  Kindness was clearly not on our table.  And with the conversation going in the direction it was going, an argument would soon ensue.

Mom:              Ben, can you talk more about Billy giving you the book?

Ben:                Yeah.  It is a book about pirates that he got for a Christmas present.  His grandpa gave it to him.  It was a special present.  He knows I like pirates and he told me to borrow it.

Rachel:           See.  It was Billy’s kindness.

Mom:              Say more, Ben.

Ben:                I didn’t want to take it because I knew it was really special to him.  But when I said no, I could tell he really wanted me to borrow it.  So I said yes.  And I will take good care of it and give it back to him tomorrow.  I really like the book.  It has good pictures.  Mom, giving it to me to read made him really happy.  And that made me feel good.  Isn’t that kindness?  

I sat there in silence and wonder at the wisdom of his words.

Mom:              Ben, I think that was a great kindness.  Both for you and for Billy.

A lesson from the mouth of babes.  Sometimes giving is in the allowing of another to give to me.  Sometimes the giver is actually the receiver.  This lesson and this memory is one on my gratitude list today.

I am grateful.
I am grateful for kindness that I give and I receive.
I am grateful that giving and receiving somehow are woven together.
I am grateful that sometimes when I receive I do so with a giving heart.
I am grateful that I can give the gift of receiving when I allow others to give to me.
I am grateful that sometimes when I give I do so with a receiving heart.
I am grateful for Ben’s young wisdom, given so many years ago.  (How did he learn that anyway?)

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.


  1. Allowing others to be a blessing is a very important aspect to kindness. You must have shown him that somehow. Loved it.

  2. I love this sentiment: "something positive that will shift who I am and allow me to somehow express more fully who I want to be." What a wonderful practice.

    Filling the kindness bowl with stones made me think of Jackie Woodson's Each Kindness.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Amazing thoughts on kindness and what it means to give and receive! I love these Lenten practices as well, and I think the conversation you described here aligns beautifully with the message I hear in church over and over again about how we must open our hearts and receive. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Beautiful how you drew that out to get to the kindness that might not have been so obvious on the surface... a lovely lesson. Thank you, Deb, and thank you, Ben! <3

  5. What a glorious mom moment - well done, Ben!

  6. A lovely piece. I have been keeping a Gratitude Journal for about three years. It really has changed my life. For me, it is much harder to receive than to give and I think that is true for many people, especially Moms. I had to work hard to be a good receiver.

  7. I think it was also a kindness for you to return to Ben and listen again. Those words "tell me more" can be powerful in any situations. Lovely story Deborah.

  8. What a wondrous memory for you...and now for us. I think I may know how Ben became wise - from you and Superman. xo