January 1, 2013
My laptop is full…literally, full of so many moments and kindness missions. Here are a few that we held as a kindness community this year:
It was a wonderful way to start the year, to be connected to each other and offer some respect and gratitude.
the great day of garbage gratitude- thanks Joe, Lionel and BJ!
I started a new gig blogging for The Huffington Post- which has been so weird for me, still never sure what to write about over there and have lots of writer anxiety about that gig…hoping I can get in the flow in 2013.
My dear friend Jen and I started the I Trust Women project…learned so much through that whole experience…about myself and voice in the world. I lost quite a bit of followers from sharing my views and heart, it was hard to know that some would disagree with my decision but also really important for my development as a person and a woman.
A couple of really lovely people in my life joined me in an offer to write encouraging notes to anyone that might need it. True story: I am STILL returning the requests…so please don’t worry if you haven’t heard from me, they are still coming. I just hope it is at the right time, even so late.
I became friends the wise and soulful Suzanne Vinson and together we released Kindness Changes Everything stickers…it was so, so wonderful to watch the truth of everything we believe in with all our hearts on KindnessGirl pop up all over the world. It was humbling and so exciting!
It was the first time I tried one of those crazy ideas I was always hesitant to try. I showed me that our city and people are so ready and open for whatever kindness our heart is calling us to. We can trust ourselves and the path of kindness.
a side note: a few initial negative comments made this article about the project by StyleWeekly go bananas… I was even grateful for those, it (and kindness of course) helped it move in a way I would have never expected. We are guessing there are about 2K wands out in the world.
Suzanne and I also learned about being Brave and Kind when we released this sweet piece of S’s beautiful art.
June brought the I Am Kind campaign after Karen Klein was verbally assaulted on a school bus. So many rallied around this woman who endured something so awful. It exposed all the goodness in the world when people poured a million dollars in care for her and gave us an opportunity to show our commitment as fellow human beings to stand in kindness in a new way in our communities.
We also partnered with our dear friends from American Bear and created Kindness Captured. A nasty storm made for lots of downed trees and foiled our plans here in RVA but I hope to still get a chance to do this project in 2013.
I felt so humbled and really grateful to Bill Lohmann from the Richmond Times Dispatch for an article he wrote about Kindnessgirl and my life of trying to do kindness work. I loved it because he really heard me and the article was so honest, he really shared my heart and hopes for this work mixed with my flaws and broken parts.
I decided to write a book and received so much love and support from you all. After that I promptly fell apart, I was so down…and I am still not quite sure if it was the book or what…but I felt very overwhelmed and had a really hard time seeing/knowing the truth about myself and my life, and this work.
It was quiet, and I spent most of the month trying to get my head on straight again and getting my kids back to school. The sweetest part of this time was that Jorge took care of me. He was my mini-depression doula. He knew just what to do to guide me through…he knew that place himself and I felt safe in his knowledge and care. It was good to receive, and to just be needy…and to know just a little about how he felt and all he went through. This was also the month that we celebrated being married for 14 years and 20 together. 20!!! so crazy…
Gratitude called me back to my work and to my place in the world. When you can start sinking deep into that place, it feels like everything else sort of follows. I made a gratitude wall with my girls inspired by Kliewer family’s wall of goodness.
Ohhhhh, it was reDONKulous….4 speaking gigs, 3 projects and couple writing deadlines all in the span of 10 days. It was the culmination of a very hectic year. I took on way more than I should have and finally learned some huge lessons.
I also launched (with some friends from Shop Class RVA) Tag, You’re It RVA!, a city wide game of tag.
It was all about Soul…in November I started Soul Parenting - a Facebook page for folks to share stories and pictures about the messy love that each family holds. …because I believe we were never meant to do it alone.
I vowed, determined, prayed that all the work was done for the year. Rest was so needed, I think I cried at the drop of a hat at that point…but the universe had a different plan. The first week of December I had 4 different calls and meetings about the development of KindnessGirl and where we are heading. It was brutal because I was asked to look at things I had been avoiding and at a complete loss of what to do.
One really pivotal meeting with Tiffany Jana, Matthew Freeman and Carra Rose from TMI Consulting started the avalanche of clarity. They approached me to help with a project and ended up helping me with something completely different. They were wise and kind. The truth of where I was at was laid out in such a way that I could finally hear it and SEE it…and myself.
An amazing plan and incredible clarity unfolded at lightning speed after all that, and I think I have a really good plan/hope/dream for inviting kindness into our lives in a new and broader way…and to start clearly communicating and standing in all that this thing holds and is about.
I was feeling so content and happy to have a plan and direction…and was thinking the work for the year was really, truly over when the Sandy Hook tragedy happened. *big, big heavy sigh* It was almost impossible to do anything, the grief and sadness were so big and so many were holding it so deeply. We shut ourselves off from the media world for our kids but I knew we were going to have to tell our kids at some point.
And the last project of the year was inspired from that talk, In honor of Emilie…and I learned once again that kindness rises in the darkest moments, that we as a people met the darkest dark with the brightest light…and that the only way to restore any hope and truly honor those lost is to be kind. It was so painful and sad. Still sending so much love to those families…may kindness hold them as they hold grief so tightly. May we continue to honor those they love with our kind acts.
When I started to write this post I honestly had no idea all that was done this year. I rarely even think of the projects and the creating, crafting and promoting once they are done. Everything rises from everyday life and then we move on to the next thing. It’s good to look at it all together, and see all the paths we walked together.
I feel a deep gratitude to you all. Thank you for being part of this with me, for giving and loving, for seeking and finding kindness…together. Your kindness to me means more than you know…
much love for 2013… it will be bold and require bravery my friends. I am excited and a little scared but very,very sure that kindness changes everything.
November 30, 2012
the studio and table will be open tomorrow… and there is a place for you.
My dear friend and soulsister Suzanne Vinson will have her annual Holiday Open House tomorrow as part of the LGRA Ginter Park Art Show tomorrow (12/1).
I am kinda silly excited about these:
I hope to stop by after 2pm some time, maybe we’ll see each other there. Here is all the info if you would like to meet Suzanne and take in the art of wisdom:
HOLIDAY OPEN STUDIO & LGRA Ginter Park Art Show
Saturday, December 1st
10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
3421 Hawthorne Avenue
Richmond, VA 23222
all photos by Suzanne Vinson
October 26, 2012
The words on repeat in my head until I believe them…you see, I told you all I am going to write a book. The funny part is right after I let the words hit the air, everything sort of fell apart. It’s kind of hard to take on one of the biggest dreams of your life when you are exhausted, when you have painted yourself in a corner in every direction, when you still suck at saying “no” to projects and commit way over your head*…when your head is telling you all kinds of untruths about yourself, when parts of you really need some healing.
…but apparently, I am told by my writing doula Chris, that this is often how it goes…it’s the perseverance mountain climb of your entire existence and you just have to keep showing up. So I tried in the beginning but I was just still too into all the projects I said I would do…so I did them and cried a lot, and my husband (and the mother superiors in my life) helped me sort through the untruths and a really low time wondering what the hell I was doing, then a few small miracles happened… and now here I am.
Things are still sort of rocky, and I am still very soul tired…but the beautiful thing is that kindness can find you wherever you are…even the places that feel so unreachable in your heart.
A while back, my friend Kaycee offered her home to me so I could write…I jumped at her offer and completely forgot about it. Before I knew it, I was driving here…alone for 3 days- that is the longest I have ever been by myself in my entire life.
So much kindness and beauty was waiting for me here…so now I show up…for myself for a bit…in the quiet…hoping the words will come.
p.s. i have missed you all…thank you for being my friends.
*i really wanted to do all those projects…i just said yes to too many at one time.
July 4, 2012
Have you ever been on a road trip with a small child? or children?!! There is a whole science to packing, timing leaving, napping, snacks…and yet even at your best, there will be a moment when you will have to stop because no one can take even one more minute in the car. together.
And this is the moment you need a little travel grace. and joy. and busy little hands and minds.
As we are about to take an an 18 hour car trip ourselves, I was remembering the year my mom made these awesome travel kits for a road trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion. Every few hours we got to pull a new activity out and I will never forget the Snoopy doll with the changeable outfits- it’s burned in my kid that-was-amazing memory. While we don’t have any 80′s Snoopy figures to hand out we thought there might be a trail of kindness we can leave for harried mothers and bored children that might become part of their trip memories.
Kate over at Mini-eco made these fantastic paper beads that I have loved using for kindness projects over the years. They are super easy to make and so visually gratifying. Head on over there for instructions- they really only require some colored paper, glitter glue and a stick. My kids love making them with me.
We grabbed some clear cello bags, brown paper, string , ribbon and threw in a Kindness Changes Everything sticker (so friends could find us or pass the kindness on) and made these little project packs for kids.
I tied a little square at the end of each beading string to avoid the kid drama of making the entire necklace and then letting go of one side and having the beads go all over the car seat- never to be found again among old french fries and dried up carrot sticks.
I also included 2 strings in some of the packets just in case there was a sibling, because how much would it suck if you found this little gift and then had 2 kids fighting over it?! Kindness trip FAIL!
I wrote a different note or message on each but most said something like this:
This Is For YOU!
Dear mother traveling a long distance with small children,
may this busy little hands and bring some joy as you travel.
Now it’s your turn to pass on another act of kindness!
Some started with:
Are your kids going nuts yet? Are YOU? Need something to do right about now?
If you aren’t sure what to write, here is a download for some labels to attach to your kindness project! They fit on a 3.75 x 6 inch cello bag.
Here is the tag! They fit 3 to a sheet to print:
Other ideas for tiny project kits:
stickers and small squares of paper
small games and activity print outs
colored pencils and small homemade books
Leave these little kits at rest stops, changing stations, benches, airports, trains, gas stations….any where a family might discover them. Let your kids do the hiding! Have fun!
May you have smooth, easy, happy car rides, even in the 15th hour and lots of kindness on your travels!
June 22, 2012
I am starting to wonder if it isn’t the most simple ways of connection that hold the greatest hope for change and good.
One man knowing deep in his soul and body that growing something green can bring us together and care for our most basic need that every human deserves
One woman believing sharing salad can heal us and bring life
One family calling in the rhythm of an ancient goodness with drums
…and for one sweaty Richmond night, none of it feels so complicated…it’s just a gathering of people in a community garden, eating salad, while kids give wagon rides and take turns watering the plants…and someone gets an impromptu photography lesson and another financial advice…while others that had no plans at all find their way out of their houses to listen to the drums.
…and the space is held unknowingly and yet with so much intention.
…because growth, food and community are the most simple ways to love.
If you live in RVA, you can join us for the garden and salad magic at RVA Salad Fest #2 this Sunday at 7pm at the McDonough Community Garden in Woodland Heights! Thanks to Duron and Maat for including me!
*these 2 sweet souls had never met but I caught this sweet hug at the end of the night.
May 29, 2012
I want you to know…
you can crash and burn at trying to be brave and kind…and it’s okay.
it’s a different kind of bravery to decide to care for yourself or lick your wounds
being who we really are brings us much closer together than trying to be something we think we should be
your words and comments stay with me, I think it’s so rad when you guys talk to each other
I am more intense and less gentle than I thought
I am learning so much about myself right now, this is both marvelous and maddening
I am still not done writing notes of encouragement- this pains me everyday, I know people are waiting
I want to learn how to listen as an act of kindness
I am finding my way
This is coming soon, very soon from the soulsisters…and I can’t stop staring at it and holding it in my hands
we can be brave and kind together,
because kindness changes everything.
(and I hardly look like this picture, it’s a really good picture.)
May 25, 2012
I knew it was gonna be bad. Lucy’s beloved kindergarten teacher (the one that totally gets her), Mrs. Hines blew a disc in her back. This poor magical teacher soldiered on for weeks trying shots and meds but in the end she needed surgery. She was going to be out for 4 weeks.
Lucy did surprisingly well the first 3 weeks, the substitutes were rough but she stretched herself. She cried a little here and there but we looked at pics of Mrs. Hines, told stories of her goodness, counted the days until she would be back and Lucy pressed on.
The fourth week came, we were mad excited and then the bomb got dropped. Mrs. Hines would not be back for 3 more weeks and the substitute was awful. Luce started to fall apart. Mornings and nights of crying, stomach aches, my girl was down right almost depressed.
“I’ve just been waiting so long mom!” she said.
“I know baby, I know.” I replied, not really knowing what else to do. *sigh*
About a week later, she came to me one afternoon about to cry…and to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me to do it again. I sent her to Jorge thinking he could put in a few Mrs. Hines coping hours. Apparently we were all done with the situation because a few minutes later she came back.
She sat down hard in the chair, tears rolling down her face.
“Mom!” it was the tone of pain, and I instantly looked up.
“Mom, I am not getting the support I need!” I sat shell shocked by her honesty and ability to call it in.
Her shoulders slumped.
“Mom, I need a lot of love to get me through this. ” She said while heaving.
She is six. And I was in total attention and awe…that she could say what every person on the planet feels and so desperately needs in the middle of something that feels so big. Why don’t we all do this? Just lay it out.
I had done every ritual I could think of…except the kitchen altar candle.
“Oh Luce, the only thing I can think of is when I am really sad and just can’t hold anything more I go to the kitchen altar candle. You know that one next to the sink where I do dishes? I just write down everything I need and what my heart is feeling and I light the candle and let the candle hold it for me. Do you want to try it?” I said.
She nodded her head and promptly filled up 5 slips of paper with her needs.
And when it was time to light the candle I remembered I had something special in the car. My dear friend Suzanne had just sent me one of her sweet sacred strikes. A tiny match book covered in her art with this message:
use these strike on box matches to light a candle in remembrance, as a prayer, a wish, or a blessing, as you strike the match, breathe deeply, breathing in love and breathing out love. breathe peace. breath hope. breathe light and love.
…and I looked at her little face as she breathed deep, following each instruction, taking all of it into her heart. I let her light the match and candle and we sat quietly for a moment. Together.
she asked me to take a picture of her face so she could remember
The next day she carried the tiny piece of art that came with the matches in her pocket to remember someone and something is holding it for her…and that the love you need to get you through is possible.
Maybe we just have to ask (but why is that so hard sometimes?)…or call it in the place of vulnerability and courage…and light a candle.
The candle is in the comments today my friends…feel free to write on your slips of paper, there is all the love you need…
May 15, 2012
photo by Erin Spengeman
Almost everyday I get an e-mail asking about the Kindness Changes Everything stickers my friend and artist Suzanne Vinson created as the beginning of our Soulsisterhood. I am happy to tell you they are back, along with a bunch of new ideas for more art, more soulful living and more kindness in the world. Suzanne and I keep getting together and we’re all, “What if we did this?”, followed by a, “OOOooooo, YEAH! and THIS….” and I leave each talk with a bursting heart and mind. We can’t stop planning and dreaming…and being late for preschool pick-up. It’s so, so sweet…and I am learning so much along the way.
So you can get them here…still the same price ($3 for 5 and we’ll send 5 more for you to pass on) and all funds go into The Soulsister Jar of Kindness to fund more kindness projects.
The jar is almost full… so today we would love to share with you that for our first Kindness event we will be creating a gathering of women for a time of total soul care…for women that are working really hard and have given every last part of themselves, for those that need a space to just be, for women that need a nourishment they don’t even know about, for women that need to receive what they have given…sound like you? We don’t know who or when yet? but we know where and what it will look like…we’ll keep you posted.
Until then, consider this our invitation:
Welcome to the Tribe…a soulsister gathering of care.
AND…on to the new! We also have a 5×5 limited edition print of Kindness Changes Everything just like the sticker (but bigger) for those that want to keep the kindness a little closer or leave something a little bigger! You can order it here.
AND we wanted to run something by you all! Someone asked us if we would be willing to translate the Kindness Changes Everything into other languages and go global with our sticker love! We thought it was a fantastic idea and started working on it but ran into a few questions…we thought maybe you all could help us.
For all our Spanish speaking/Spanish loving friends (and anyone else that loves to share opinions!):
Does the translation have the same ring and feel?
If we made this into a sticker, would you want to share it? Is there a need/desire?
What is the first word/thought/idea/feeling that came to your mind when you saw it?
Thank you so much for all the sticker love and friendship! We are so excited to see where this next batch ends up and the stories and kindness that will follow!
Suzanne & Patience
April 30, 2012
well, last week, but you know…
What a week it was! …and on to the next. I will be emceeing the Spirit of Volunteerism of Hanover County Awards Ceremony tomorrow night, please be sure to say hello if you happen to be there!
April 29, 2012
I’ve never sold anything on or through Kindnessgirl, I have protected the site pretty fiercely over the years simply because I always wanted the heart and intent of this life and work to be crystal clear. I’m not a non-profit, I fund all my own kindness projects (although kind friends have put a $10 bill in my hand occasionally, left supplies on my doorstep or stamps for mailing when they know I took on too much) and I work 2-3 part time jobs (outside of my kindness work) to contribute to my family’s needs to live and thrive. And I can’t tell you how, but somehow I have all I need and nothing more, which I love.
Part of me knows on some level, this is not sustainable (4 kids, 3 jobs, speaking gigs, community projects and kindness work) but I don’t exactly know what the next step will look like for me or how money even fits into all of this. So I was a wee bit nervous about attaching money to this sticker project but Suzanne was the perfect partner to take this leap with. We both wanted her art and the message of kindness out into the world, and with just a little start up cash, we knew we could at least put it out to see if our intuition was on and the universe felt the same…and it felt appropriate that if that were so (via profits), that the kindness travel even further…to more art, more kindness.
So here is what happened and what we learned:
April 22, 2012
The strawberry field opened this weekend…strawberry fields forever. My soul took a deep breath after the long winter. It’s picking season which means I got to see the Marlboro man and feel the wind and sun on my face while I picked nature’s candy with people I love.
I came home to find this goodness (above) on my front porch. A while ago I reached out to my dear friend, artist and soulsister Suzanne Vinson to ask if she would consider collaborating with me on a project. I don’t exactly remember where or how we met, but I admired her art from a far for quite some time. Besides the obvious wisdom, there is a gentle strength about everything that passes through her hands…and a kind energy.
We traded e-mails and I eventually found my way to her dreamy studio one evening at the table…a place where she holds creativity circles, celebrations, and gatherings of soul care. I loved it, I loved her. Months later we sat on my green couch and talked until I was late for school pick-up and never even got a chance to pour the coffee and slice the yummy bread she brought. This is how you know you just met a soulsister.
I’m not so good at collaborating. I have lots of ideas but am busy and frazzled. I told Suzanne I wanted to make a sticker with those words I hold so close, the three words that pretty much guide my life…Kindness Changes Everything. I didn’t know if she would want to share her art with me or this project, I wasn’t sure I would have the money to fund it, but I thought it was worth throwing out there. I knew though that we both held this way of being in the world tight, and that more than anything, we want to be part of a force sharing art, kindness and love in meaningful ways.
In just days she (in all her magic) returned this lovely art and just another week later, the stickers were sitting next to my daisies on my table. I could barely stand it because when art, kindness and sticky-ness collide, all you can think of is littering the city with goodness and power, the power of the kindness…and all the other soulsisters (and brothers) that may come upon the release of the joy of your heart…and that you had a chance to start it all with a friend, well, it’s so, so good.
So here’s the deal friends:
1. You can buy 5 stickers for $3 and we’ll send you 5 more to pass on, share, do something kind! That’s really 10 stickers for $3 (plus shipping) over at the Silver Tree Art store on Etsy. Click here.
2. All of the money will go into a SoulSister Kindness Jar to be used for future kindness missions (more about that later).
3. If you order stickers and happen to leave them some where public, or part of a kindness mission or even in your own space, send us a picture to email@example.com or upload them to the Silver Tree Art Facebook page so we can watch kindness move and travel.
With so much love,
Suzanne and Patience
(can I just tell you I am dying to leave them on every light post in RVA?! except I feel bad about the kindness vandalism, well… just a little)
April 12, 2012
I spoke today at the 804 UM Event here in Richmond…I was all of myself (i even cursed a little) in a place I wasn’t sure of. It felt really, really good and the people were so kind. This was part of my talk, I thought you might like to see…it was a good, good day.
…all you have to do is be brave and kind.
kindness changes everything
(special shout out and thank you to Sandra Culp Marr who shared one of her photos for this video! Thank you friend!)
music by Jonsi
April 9, 2012
The doors have been closing lately, big doors…and the image my mind always returns to is Maria Von Trap (in The Sound of Music) sighing and say, “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” . I always end up at Maria or Mother Superior, this delights me so.
And a window may be opening, but I keep thinking and saying to the Universe, “Noooo, really, THAT one?”, because it doesn’t look anything like I thought or really what I planned or wanted. There in lies the mystery of my life and the revelation that once again I am not in control of the world or parts of my path…and this is probably a really good thing. Right? or this is what I tell myself.
So on about the 3rd round of doors closing and after prior episodes over the years of freaking out, sucking it up or taking it in stride, I have come up with 5 things you can do if you don’t have The Sound of Music or a Reverend Mother in your life:
1. Let it be. Just let yourself be disappointed, sad, angry…don’t try to fight it. …but if you are one of those that is convinced your life is now over, cut that ‘Let it be’ time in half- literally set the timer because we know you will want to obsess and analyze.
2. Give it over. Often times, these disappointments are too big and exhausting for us to hold in the moment or long term. Find a ritual or someplace/thing to hold your worry, pain, fears, unknown, or the future. After one enormous disappointment (because I happen to be one of those obsessors) a few years ago, I was a total mess…the only thing that got me through was my kitchen altar candle. Every morning I woke up and wrote what I needed held on a tiny piece of paper, put it under the candle and lit it. The wax poured over the stack of papers and my heart. When I pulled them apart months later, I found the same message written about 100 times, I never even realized.
Worry boxes and jars are also great ideas, and releasing things into a body of water also happens to be magic for a tender soul.
3. Return to play. I always forget this step. What got you to the place to want this thing? This joy? Go back to the beginning. The simplicity of play unlocks a certain joy that fuels our hope and drive, and gives us a grounding to move forward. This is why children hold a wisdom and strength we forget as adults. Return to your love in that grown-up way, and if that wasn’t it or you aren’t sure what to do, I suggest these kid things- jumping on a bed, dancing, blow bubbles, swing, have a silly string fight, ride something fast, make simple art.
4. Do something Kind. There is a point where stepping outside of yourself or your situation is a really good thing. Sometimes we forget what is going on all around us, that we aren’t alone, or that there is another story or perspective we may find comfort in. I love anonymous kindness for such times because we can offer someone else the very thing we may need ourselves- and by some kind of magic we get it by doing this. It also helps to connect to do something kind for someone we know, making the face-to-face connection makes life real and clears our vision. If you need ideas, check out www.guerrillagoodness.com, or GG Facebook. Kindness changes everything… everything.
5. Gather the Love. Now is the time to gather the caregivers and believers. Calling in the hope and strength makes space and shares the burden. It invites a tribe of people to love you into a new place and be part of finding windows or opening doors, or even celebrating with you when the moment comes where everything makes sense after all. To all my introverted friends, it may be people in smaller doses or in nature and books, there are many ways to gather the love.
In the words of a very wise Jen Lemen:
Whatever you do, hold on to Hope!
The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord.
Let Hope anchor you in the possibility that is not the end of your story;
that change will bring you to peaceful shores.
Okay, so if you STILL aren’t feeling better and just need a believer, text DOOR CLOSED to me today (from now until 9pm EST tonight 4/9) at (407) 900-KIND and I will text you back a really simple message of HOPE….or forget all that and just go find the The Sound of Music, you can’t go wrong with TSoM, ever.
April 4, 2012
Money is short…time even shorter…yet still I found myself wandering my local thrift store because this is what I do when I feel particularly bad about either of those things. There it was, a really, really old church pew. I know it’s old because it’s uncomfortable and so simply made. I wanted it bad. There was no good or logical reason to buy an old church pew, but it’s a good thing I am hardly ever logical I guess.
The Facebook status update went something like this:
i have no $ but bought a really, really old church pew today…and I figure many an old lady or gent said some prayers in those seats…and who needs money when you have the remnants of old lady prayers…
It sort of feels like that today, that you are leaning into something old, or something or one that has walked before you because you know on some level the people before you did too. So the old pew sits, and every morning I sit, for just a minute or two and let it hold all of me.
…and it sits under this window, so now all together, the stained glass window must make it official, colored light and all, I am opening the kindness church. (partially because I can’t seem to sit in a real church these days)
Just like any church, it holds hope and doubt, confusion, anger, truth, strength and a bit of solace. Except in this place, there is also swearing, not lots of sermons (except if someone forgets their jacket and you lose your cool, a kid may school you), lots of messes, a weekly dance party and maybe the occasional atheist, I’m not sure but I love that.
and I am pretty sure the the Dalai Lama was right when he said, “My religion is simple, my religion is Kindness.”
There is no should, or drumming it up, or right way, it is just being. If you don’t feel kind, it’s probably because you need some yourself and if you are scared, there is courage waiting for you, and if there is wonder, there is beauty in trying it out…if there is a place where love and human connection exist, it is in kindness.
So the church is open my friends, come and sit…or find a bus bench, a couch, a subway seat, a sidewalk step, it’s all there too…ready to hold all of you.
March 25, 2012
March 23, 2012
It started with one friend I happened to meet in front of my house one day…over the years he brought some more friends but in the last few weeks every day someone brings someone new. I looked out in my back yard and before I knew it, there were about 20 kids, yep, 20.
And everyday I try to remember their names and we talk about school, and their families and every once in a while kindness. These kids play with my kids, and swing on the tree swing, ask me if they can have another clementine and tell me it’s okay my house is a mess when I apologize…and some days they just come to say hello and other days they stay…they are polite and kind, funny and some times a handful…and I am working my way through meeting their families, still so many to meet….and I love how our unintentional community rec center sort of unfolded together and the light they offer to me and my family.
It wasn’t long before I asked them if they wanted to go Ding Dong Ditchin’. They were totally in and yet still a little cautious. I thought back to the first time we went, and what a dark place I was in (even though you would never know in that old post). I was desperate to know kindness could change things for me, even if my world was falling apart…it was if I knew, somewhere deep, I had kindness… it would hold my hope for me when I was doubting and scared…or maybe it was just so dang fun, I just forgot all about my troubles.
Over the years as things got better, it just represented sheer joy and a thrill…and it turned into our signature act of kindness, which I so love. Even today, I’ll hear my friends talking or say, “Oh yeah, I got ding dong ditched….!!” and it always makes me smile, knowing how far kindness has traveled, and how we turned a prank into verbage of goodness.
…and I love how nervous I get just thinking about it, how my heart pounds, how hard we laugh, how we check to see if they got it…and how the rows of houses, apartments and places goes on and on…there will always be a need for anonymous kindness…
how it checks our perceptions and preconceived ideas about the world and each other, how it invites us to believe kindness is alive and stirs part of us to pass it on. I never, ever would have guessed what would come from one day of desperation and flowers and being with a gaggle of kids…but I am so, so grateful. It feels like I always return to the message my niece Madeleine wrote on the first card we ding dong ditched…Hope is never too far away.
March 19, 2012
photo by the amazing Meghan McSweeney
I am reading your notes…so many notes. You all are holding so much, but I wonder if we all are…in our own way.
I am amazed by you, and have so much respect. Every night, before I go to bed I think about you all and sometimes wonder what you look like or how your day was, or imagine what we all had for dinner, or hoped your car started, or that the job came through, or that you scraped up enough for rent, or your results from the chemo were good, or that someone called, or that you passed the test, or that you had a kick ass St. Patrick’s day, or that you made up with your dad, or that you didn’t feel so alone tonight.
Then I think about the picture the editors at Huffington Post picked to be the cover photo of the article… it was a picture of some graffiti on a wall, it read- all you have to do is be brave and kind, and love the trees. I searched and searched looking for the author, someone to give credit to for these sweet words because I am holding them so close today.
It’s all we have to do- be brave and kind. And for some reason, that feels like something I can do (even if it isn’t pretty or graceful), even just for today and maybe even tomorrow. It doesn’t say things will be easy or even work out but I am discovering it may be more about how you find you in whatever is thrown your way, good or bad, big or small, no matter what…
Kindness has always come so easily to me….but bravery, well, I often think, “Awww, crap, the universe is going to ask me to be brave?!!”
I resist bravery, because I don’t always believe it is in me…but the truth is, it’s in everyone. It’s in being vulnerable, in realizing the truth (about yourself and others), in handing it over when it weighs too much, in allowing yourself to be loved, in holding something hard so you can see, in standing up tall, in receiving, in forgiving, in stepping in or out, in relentlessly walking the path (even while tripping), in holding love.
…and it’s all so complicated anyway, and yet really, really simple…anyone can be brave, and anyone can be kind.
it’s all we have to do.
we are writing, writing, writing notes…but until then, feel free to share about what is asking you to be kind and brave in the comments today.
March 18, 2012
March 15, 2012
Seeing KINDNESS CHANGES EVERYTHING in bold is making my heart swoon this morning…my latest post for the Huffington Post made the front page of the Good News section and the main front page…and the requests for encouragement are pouring in. If you want to help write, shoot me an e-mail at patience@kindnessgirl…or if you need a note, please do the same. We may put out a call for postage stamps if this thing gets super crazy!
I am so touched that audacious kindness is working…it’s where we are headed friends. Together.
1. extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless: an audacious explorer.
2. extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive: an audacious vision of the city’s bright future.
3. recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like; insolent; brazen.
4. lively; unrestrained; uninhibited: an audacious interpretation of her role.
all we have to do is be brave and kind…
“I don’t do this anymore, it just isn’t part of my life…it used to be though.” I said to my dear friend Christa as we sat and watched our kids play on the beach.
“What? sit? or just be?” she replied.
“Both.” I answered.
It was an impromptu trip, an idea you say out of loud to a friend but not really expecting it to happen. You know, the “You know what we should do? we should…” …but this time I just said yes. So we booked a cabin in a Virginia Beach camp ground for a couple nights. I didn’t really have money, time or energy but all of those things are short these days and some times you just have to call it in. Since money was tight, my friend did what any good girlfriend does, she slipped me a $20 and her dear husband Cris went out and hooked us up with a mad amount of groceries…then he sent a lasagna. And with way too many bags (plus some christmas lights)
and even more children, we were on our way.
We arrived and within minutes someone named the cabin, and it turned out to be a very fitting name- The Magic Cabin. I slipped a sign on the door, one invitation of kindness and the magic began. We didn’t really have a lot planned, a little, but not a lot. I was just too tired to do all that making memories stuff, but I am starting to think the best stuff just happens on its own anyway.
It started with a failed and messy Pinterest craft…but no one seemed to care.
…and there were visits from a kind Granny, and kid conflict, and frolicking, and eating way too many clementines, and chai tea with homemade maple syrup whipped cream, and scary bugs, and laughing so hard your side hurts, and snoring, and exhaustion from packing and unpacking and packing again…and epiphanies about your parenting.
The kind that was so gentle, and unfolded just so, so you could see it on your own, without judgement and surrounded in so much love. I could see just how much my kids need me in an intentional way to hold experiences of kindness for them, and just them at times. For so long I have secretly feared my kids will grow up and feel like they didn’t get enough while I shared and invited kindness for the whole world…and I realized how open they are and how little it takes, and how over the last few years, little by little, I have lost bits and moments of family kindness.
And it was so sweet to just be, to be in the place where it all started, and to be in the only place that matters…and to know you can always call it back and decide to be a new way…and to be a little sad for how you lost your path and yet so hopeful and happy to know what you can do to find it again.
So the last night, we decided to give the kids a blessingway. (a blessingway is a ceremony rooted in Navajo culture and history as a way to “bless the way” of someone walking into a new part of life. Women often give them to pregnant women about to have a baby.) After about the million I have been to over the years, it never occurred to me to have one with my kids.
So we made a fire and gathered a circle with candles and decorated with the left over defunct Pinterest art that Josiah made into a nest. It was perfect. We called the kids in one by one, and whispered by name, “We are glad you are here ______.”
They sat with wide eyes as Christa explained what a blessingway was and the history behind it…and how we wanted to bless them as part of our families together. Over the weekend, the kids had been learning about animal totems and trying to figure out which animal best represented them and their spirit. Some kids knew and others weren’t sure. So we gathered some items from nature to represent the animal we chose for them. We presented the items and told each child the things we saw in them and the blessings they hold.
Josiah was a deer, Roman a buck, Lucy was a bird, Jack was a wolf…and I watched as they soaked it all in. And one we were totally wrong about and have to still figure out. It was almost as if the little guy knew himself, knowing who and what he is so clearly…but we didn’t have the match right. It was a lesson in the value of struggle and finding your way to your kids, to listening and honoring each other in the process. It was the beauty of the kid bs meter, and that it’s worth it to be real and true, whatever that looks like. (and that s’mores can right almost any parent screw up)
It was finally Lyra’s turn and Christa started her blessing. She explained how Lyra was playful and engaging like a dolphin…inviting connection and love. And I watched as Lyra nodded her head in total agreement, while she whispered “yes” as she sat in my lap and listened to Christa’s wise words. Her eyes sparkled, it was as if someone just saw all of her for the first time. I was shocked by her response and how deeply she felt the connection, even at the age of three. It was a true soul experience, for all of us. She hugged and thanked me 3 times after we were done, and asked if we could turn her dolphin shell into a necklace. I don’t think it has left her neck yet.
I walked away once again amazed by how capable kids are, in their minds, in their hearts, in their souls- the magic they are..and how much they hold and have to offer…and amazed how magic comes in so many forms, the magic of not knowing, the magic of struggle, the magic of being discovered and blessed and mostly, the magic of just being.
you can see the rest of the pictures from our adventure here.
March 2, 2012
She was not this happy before, I promise you. She was miserable for weeks and there was nothing really to do, except let her grow, let that little tooth do the very hard work of cutting through. All the wondering, is it teeth? Surely it is almost here- fast foward to 2 months later when the pearly white finally pops.
I know this place well myself…I am in it at the moment. It’s the time when you start to think something might be happening, a change coming taking you to a place of experiencing life in a new way. You’ll be actually able to taste and CHEW stuff, bite into something delicious…your world opening up in a million new ways.
Except getting there sucks so bad…remember? For the love of God, who let me invite The Year of Learning into my life? I thought it was going to be taking photography classes and jumping into hard projects or putting myself out there? I had. no. idea. it was going to be learning how to navigate conflict and disappointment, negotiate deals (or rather completely fail in negotiating), standing up and in myself in complicated situations where others may not agree, oh lord, standing in myself, AGAIN…I mean how many ways can one girl learn how to do that?! …and finding through each experience, what I am and what I am not about. Finding kindness again and again, painstakingly again.
…and here is the worst part, I know it isn’t over. I know, way down deep inside that I am not at the place, the day when the tooth actually breaks through…I kept thinking I was, but I know, ughhhh, I know I am not, I am not quite ready to handle all that. It is instead the mysterious in between place, the sometimes miserable, and yet productive. The tooth has always been there…and so I do the work of growing- because this is what we do, because this is life…and because there are 31 more to go.
So my Hyland’s tablet, my frozen bagel or washcloth, my jacked up on tylenol is this today- (thanks Dr. Seuss, you nailed it…and happy birthday, I am so glad you were born)
(p.s. and God bless all the parents holding that teething baby, I know we are hard, I thank you.)
February 14, 2012
from our friends at James River High School, Richmond, Va.
I’ve been meeting with some kids from the Leadership Center at James River High. I was introduced to them by their Ethics teacher Mr. Couillard, affectionately called Mr. C.
I thought I was going to share my story, inspire a bit, blah, blah, blah….but the universe pulled this HUGE switcheroo on me.
I was stunned by these kids, their heart, their intentions, their focus on kindness and change…So when I got their list of plans for a You Are Loveable campaign at their school, I think my heart just melted. The Junior class took this original idea and ran so far with it with so much soul and creativity, I was blown away.
A bunch of guys giving girls lame pick up lines to make them smile
Somebody to LOVE by Queen playing on the intercom
A post-it kindness blast in the school parking lot
Sidewalks chalked with messages of love
I have looked at the list all week, with this silly grin on my face, imagining the kindness descending on that school in a big, big way.
But then today… Mr C. sent me the picture above of the bulletin boards filled with messages- Give What You Can, Take What You Need…and I started to cry a little…realizing this is the heart of kindness, I have something to give and I need to take something too.
I thought of all the sweet things planned for today- the You Are Loveable messages all over, the Cotton Candy Kindness later this afternoon…those are my Give What You Can sort of things…and then there are the Take What You Need things swirling…I don’t think I’ve taken it and I need it today.
Today I need:
Peace while I wait to find out if a big opportunity is going to happen to carry this message so much further (it feels sort of bleak at the moment, your good thoughts would be appreciated)
Community to gather and stand in some more complicated kindness- like the kind where you have to navigate different needs and still stand in what you believe in- in this case, it’s a skate park and finding the sweet middle place of compromise where everyone is valued and heard
Protection for a tender heart and clarity to see this work and this life for all its beauty- the comparison gremlin is knocking at the door of my soul hard right now.
SO on this day of love, please Give What You Can and Take What You Need in the comments…it can be our virtual bulletin board today inspired by Mr. C and the kids.
And just imagine all those high school kids kindness bombing their school, and people finding a message reminding them we are all loveable, and some grown kid eating pink fluffy candy goodness in the park…and know that kindness changes everything.
February 5, 2012
photo by Sandra Culp Marr
I love it when a mission is so simple and small that it holds its own kind of beauty and unexpected power, maybe it is the kind you just stumble upon. I think when we connect to our most basic shared humanity, magic always unfolds. Two weeks ago, we invited folks to join us in thanking Garbage Collectors around the nation for their important work and place in the world…and boy, did you ever. Stories and pictures came tumbling in each day.
The kind people at GOOD helped spread the word, kids in schools all over made cards for their garbage man and school custodians, and lots and lots of people passed the word on to family and friends. The mission traveled further than any we have ever done…and while numbers aren’t totally in yet, we are estimating close to a 1,000 friends joined us.
Some garbage friends were so busy they didn’t even see the signs, others stopped and chatted, some even came back to thank us…and now more than ever, we are longing to be connected in new and meaningful ways. Kindness is growing bigger and moving faster than I have ever seen..it’s so, so good.
Thank you for being part of this with me…and thanks to all our new garbage collecting friends, we are grateful for you.
And a special thanks to Vejay, Lionel and Joe for taking the time to talk to me and inspiring this mission, we hope you know and feel our respect.
November 27, 2011
“You mean NO one is coming over?” he asked.
“Yep!” I replied.
“And we aren’t going anywhere?” he said, clarifying the entire plan.
“Nope!” I answered.
“It’s going to be just us! Niiccceeee.” my dear introverted child said. Some times I wonder how that poor child survives in this family.
I have to admit part of me was sad, I missed cooking with my mom and sisters, being with friends, but there was this kind of deep relief also. This was the Thanksgiving when:
When your mate helps you make the turkey (and the entire meal) and for the first time in Thanksgiving history the bird was juicy, done on time with zero stress. He made Thanksgiving dreams come true with the togetherness.
When your child decides 2 minutes before dinner that he must come to dinner as a pilgrim and is rifling through boxes in the basement to turn halloween capes and a pirate hat into a suitable and proper costume.
When you have to tell little girls that they can not slurp the very exciting treat of blue Gatorade served in vintage green goblets with spoons and straws at the dinner table.
When you got ding dong ditched the most amazing pumpkin spice cake which sort of saved the day because the pumpkin pie you bought molded and you were already bummed you had to buy one in the first place. This cake dominated 73% of conversation the rest of the weekend just trying to figure out what was in it.
When laziness rules.
When you all go to see the Muppet Movie and cry over endearing Muppets and your childhood.
When you realize the amazing and very beautiful family love and connection you hold was born and has grown from an old and deep pain, and you feel kind of grateful and sad for this all at the same time. …and how you can always count on the holidays to bring such epiphanies.
When you know how deeply you are blessed and loved.
Oh, please share your holiday with us…what were your highs and lows? even better, give a link or a picture. This extrovert would love to know in the comments…
November 18, 2011
a turkey love bomb
I looked at the archives… “Do you know I’ve been ‘tired and overwhelmed’ in the November posts for like 6 YEARS?!!” I told him. “I’m sorry, THAT must have been exhausting for you.”
But can we help it really? The season is beginning, it is equal parts overwhelming and wonderful. I have dear memories of cooking many a Thanksgiving turkey with my sisters and mom (we always named the bird) and at the same time being so very fried, me, not the turkey. We have so many expectations around the holidays and lots of family goodness and dysfunction, and a helluva lot of work. We want it to be special and meaningful (dare I say, magical?) and I can’t even imagine how the retail folk feel at the end…I wondered if there was a mission in the middle of all that somewhere…for everyone.
So Lyra and I went into our local grocery store and post-it/kindness bombed it…with all the things I could imagine that mothers, friends, stock boys/girls, the last minute Melvins may need to hear…or know. We thought you may like to join us.
It’s pretty simple, here goes:
1. Grab a pad of post-its.
2. Write encouraging messages to harried mothers, tired checkout girls and strung out foodies…any kind message will do.
I am grateful for all you do.
You can skip something, the holiday will still be sweet.
Your mashed potatoes are the best I’ve ever had, thanks for making them every year.
All the little things you do matter.
It’s only one meal with your crazy family, you can do it.
Your turkey will be FANTASTIC! ( and not dry at all)
3. Take the pad to your local grocery store and stealthily leave them all over the store- extra points for iphone pics. Or just tell us what city and store has been kindness bombed and we’ll mark it off the list.
4. You have from now until Thanksgiving day and send pics to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Guerrilla Goodness Facebook page.
I can’t wait to see your holiday kindness in the midst of love and craziness and a mean green bean supreme!
Please share this link on Facebook and let’s see how many stores we can hit!
November 10, 2011
Feeling so fragile these days…that usually happens when something is changing in me, or I see something I haven’t really noticed before…about myself, about the world.
So now, more than ever I see…
how much I still struggle wanting to be something I am not…
how all this is so much more than a project or missions…(even though those things are really, really good)
how I have a hard time defining or explaining any of it, because it is so deep…I usually just start to cry.
how at every turn I realize how deeply kindness has me which can be equally parts torturing and amazing…
some times I wish it was just something small, something simple, made for mass appeal, but it’s just not, I am not…
how this call is everything…
how i know on every level that kindness changes everything, but I didn’t realize all along, kindness is changing me.
…and all of that is really good, but feels a little hard today
your kind thoughts would be appreciated…
November 7, 2011
The family love was thick that night…no one wanting to miss one single moment. I was touched by her grace, his great love, the delight of her sisters, her powerful entrance into the world from the water…it was beautiful. Thank you Monique and family for allowing me to capture it…
you can see the rest of this sweet, sweet birth here…thanks so much to Monique for being willing to share.
November 6, 2011
well, last week, but you know…
spoken words of truth, dancing, kind notes, long days waiting for a very loved papa, saying goodbye…
Can you do something for me this week? If you are doing or have done some kind of kindness as a result of something on KindnessGirl, can you tell me what city you are in (in the comment section)? You don’t even have to tell me what, just the city is fine (but we love a good story if you have the time! ) I’m trying to figure out how far and wide we are spreading this work…and kindness. Have a wonderful week!
November 5, 2011
I don’t know why but I am so, so touched by all the things you do…the letters, the e-mails, the texts, the missions…you would think I would get used to it or it would become just part of life over here but it never does.
Every time I received a message this week with a picture of a lantern, it felt like it was for me. The light, the heart, the intention…all of it. Thank for allowing me to be part of your lives, thank you for the kindness you are offering to so many. Thank you for caring about me and my family, you are good people to be traveling through this world with. I am feeling so grateful.
Please tell me all the things you are feeling grateful for this cool Saturday morning in the comments…and here is the lantern mission if you would like to know more.