I just passed the sun for the 39th time.
As I sit here on a warm, sunny October afternoon, watching the stupid box elder bugs and Asian beetles swarm my house, I again think how blessed and thankful I am, even with the bugs.
These past few months I have spent some time reflecting on my life. I am not sure if it's my age, life events of earlier this summer, or it's just time I did some of it. Whatever the reason, of all the lessons I have learned in my short time on Earth, the following is number one on my list of rules to follow: don't be an asshole.
Be nice. Be kind. Do good. You get the idea. However, the above statement gets way more attention than be kind ever will (except when ELLEN says it and that's probably only because she can't say asshole on TV). The message is the same though. We only have one ticket for this crazy life ride, why spend it being a Mervin?*
The week of my birthday I posted an image on our Facebook page that read FREE FLOWERS. Now anything with "free" attached to it usually gets some attention, but there was a catch. The post read:
Honestly, I thought this up on Monday morning while I was down in the fields taking inventory and trying to decide when our season would be "over". I certainly considered selling the 5-6 bouquets I could squeeze out, but it just didn't really seem worth the effort for a few bucks. So, I marched back up to the house with my bucket of zinnias, kale, roses and basil and posted it.
I did think with that four-letter f-word (free) thrown in there, I'd surely get some traffic but...I. Had. No. Idea.
The post was shared 7 times, "liked" almost 100, and over 270+ people nominated someone deserving of fresh flowers. It's no Kardashian tweet, but in my little corner of the planet, those numbers mean the world to me. Especially because it's NOT about a Kardashian...it's about kindness. It's about a real person taking just a second out of their day to extend a virtual hug. There were "congratulations" for new babies and newlyweds, engagements and anniversaries. "Get well soon" and "You got this girl" for those battling sickness and loss and loneliness. And the "Thank Yous"...those were my favorite...so many awards to hand out; best mom, mother-in-law, aunt, sister-in-law, sister, wife, husband, dad, friend, co-worker, teacher, grandma and every other title under the sun. And who knows what else...those were just the ones that gave a reason.
Throughout the week the kids helped me pick numbers; #60 for Grandpa Al's birthday, #78 for my birth year, #10 for my birth month, #13 for Friday the 13th.
Of course, though, there has to be a fave, right? Backstory to my backstory:
Mrs. Russell is a seventh grade English teacher at our local middle school. (She also happens to be one of Miles' buddy's moms.) She's followed along with us for a while and although I don't know her super well, my friends are her friends, so that's enough for me. She commented on the post, "Still happening?! LOVE this idea! My 7th graders are doing a #choosekind project and this is a great idea! Thank you for your kindness!" Well, I just couldn't let this one go without doing SOMETHING. I messaged her and was able to provide 5 bouquets for her and her students to pass out at their discretion. She was so grateful and when I gave them to her at the parent/child flag football game (our kiddos play on the same team) and I was able to hear a little more about the unit and oh man, it just felt so right.
// Mrs. Russell was nice enough to write about their project so I could share it with you all. I have added her experience at the end of this post. Thank God for good, selfless, amazing teachers. //
For the whole week when I would crawl in to bed at night and read everyone's comments and see how many people were responding, I just kept thinking to myself, how can I make money giving away free flowers? Anyone who knows me really well knows I am not totally motivated by money. That's not to say I don't like pretty things, I just don't want to have to sell my soul for them. Ellen DeGeneres can make a living being kind...why can't I?
I know people think the world is in the tank. I get it. Mother Nature is having her way with us and there are crazies throwing nukes around. But if you watch the people helping people rather than all of the other bullshit, it would be near impossible not to believe there is more good on this planet than evil. And, just maybe those crazy people need a virtual hug and some fresh flowers.
So, for this next trip around the sun, I am going to start by being a little kinder to myself, because that's where it all starts, and then I am going to figure out a way to make a lot of money giving away free flowers dammit. (If anyone has a suggestion on the latter, Dale would be most appreciative.)
*My mom had a saying when my sister and brother and I were being brats; "Don't be a jerk, Mervin." I have NO idea where it came from, but I am sure my siblings say it to their kids too. We have shortened it by taking the "jerk" out, but anyone close to me knows what I mean when I say Mervin. We have recently named my cousin's rooster Mervin, for good reason.
From Mrs. Russell...
Love this idea of blogging about flowers as kindness...so (perhaps a bit too much background on the unit)...our Literacy/Reading unit was "being on the fringe," or feeling marginalized, and it intersected with our secondary theme of kindness, and how that is necessary in that challenging space of feeling on the fringe (very relevant topics for Middle School kids). Students self-selected a novel (from a teacher-selected list) with these themes and read the book on their own, and our mini-lessons centered around those themes. The whole unit was inspired by the book "Wonder," by RJ Palacio - if you haven't read it yet, it is a MUST! We are going to see the movie on opening day, Nov. 17. We read excerpts from the book for our unit, as well as used other picture book mentor texts centered around these themes, including "We're All Wonders" by RJ Palacio, "Each Kindness" by Jacqueline Woodson, and "Invisible Boy." (The #choosekind motto is a part of the "Wonder" campaign/advertisements for the movie)
Some of the extension activities the kids did were:
*having students come in from our alternative high school, Clark Street, to have a circle discussion with them about these themes
*analyzing kindness in their lives, their books, and the greater worlds
(for this we used this Kindness Padlet...feel free to click on the link and see some of the videos/articles we explored.)
*the kindness ROCKS
*the district mindfulness coordinator came in and did a Compassion Exercise with us - it was therapeutic
*students created their own #choosekind project, in which they had to plan an intentional act of kindness, with a particular recipient in mind, and they have to showcase this on a poster, which is due on Oct. 31. The ideas have been awesome, and kindness has spread like wildfire throughout Glacier Creek with words and notes of encouragement to friends, teachers, or strangers. We had a number of students who directed their kindness act towards a family member by sending 'snail mail' to an older brother deployed overseas, or to grandparents in another state, or to the child in Africa that their family sponsors. Some other students partnered with some local organizations like the humane society and Girlies Manor here in Cross Plains. It's been really inspiring to see their plans, and I'm hopeful to see how they showcase their work!
Your gift of kindness through flowers added another beautiful, unexpected component to #choosekind! I have 136 students, so that day, we had students make a nomination for a staff member in the building who they wanted to receive a bouquet - they had to write their name and why on a postcard (kind of like your comment wall on Facebook!). We had so many awesome ideas, but here were the 5 recipients who were drawn:
*One of our custodians, Bucky
*the team of 5th grader teachers
*one of our dynamic Special Ed teachers who is having a super tough year
*Shirley, our head lunch lady
The students delivered the bouquets and the kindness was soooo well received!
I am going to beg Mrs. Russell to do a follow-up so we can see how the students chose their intentional project...stay tuned!