I feel worn out. Part of the problem is that I’ve just driven 10 hours in a minivan with three small children and one large dog. The other part of the problem is that I’ve been thinking too much.
My family spent the last two weeks in Wisconsin visiting “The Cousins.”
My kids adore their cousins. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their three children do have names, but since things become a little blurry when six children moving in different directions, we parents just refer to the entire group as “The Cousins.”
For example, when it’s time for dinner, I grab the closest child and say, “Tell The Cousins it’s time to eat.”
When we are leaving the house, the two adults with the car keys (since we always have to take two cars), yell, “Cousins, the minivans are leaving!”
When it’s time for bed, the parent with the most energy lets out the exhausted plea of “Would The Cousins please put on their pajamas?”
Time with family is priceless. It gave my sister-in-law and me a chance to see what it would be like to be on an episode of “Sister Wives.” And it gave our husbands a chance to see what life would be like if we each had three more kids.
We’ve decided both scenarios wouldn’t work so well for us.
The coolest thing about living with The Cousins for two weeks was the opportunity to witness how another family operates. I got to see kindness play out in a whole new environment.
What I found was that kindness and comparisons don’t mix.
My sister-in-law is incredibly patient with her kids. She can help her oldest child take her daily medications, break down boxes for her son’s fort and explain to her youngest daughter why she can’t paint her fingernails on the couch, all while mixing up a batch of cookie dough.
She continually demonstrates kindness through her words and tone of voice, even when life gets hectic and messy.
She is way too busy with a family and full-time job to be worried about whether there will be enough cookies for the summer band concert social, and yet she still finds time to call and see if there is something she can bring.
Being inconvenienced doesn’t bother her if she knows someone else will benefit from her extra effort.
I should have been motivated by her example, but instead I was disheartened. I started thinking too much about myself, my shortcomings and the areas in which I am not consistently kind, instead of focusing on the beauty of love in action.
I allowed kindness to become a competition, and I lost. I lost sight of the big picture, that we are all working together to make this world a better place, which means that every act of kindness is important.
If you’re uncomfortable showing kindness by giving money, then give a compliment instead. If talking with strangers puts you on edge, then say hello with a smile. If you don’t have the energy to do anything today, be kind to yourself and try again tomorrow.
Comparing your acts of kindness with others’ will steal your joy. It will make you weary. If you start to believe that what you are doing isn’t enough or doesn’t matter, remember the words of Mother Theresa, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.