hello, babies

Kid President is pretty amazing. I think most people need to watch that video sometime before or after their high five just for getting out of bed in the morning. Because the world IS amazing, and we all mess up, and we do need to forgive each other’s mess ups. And maybe dance some more and have some more corndogs.

He actually echoes a favorite bit of Kurt Vonnegut that I’ve loved since I found out I was pregnant with twins. It’s from a baptismal speech the protagonist of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater plans for his neighbor’s twins: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

This quote actually led to me experiencing a moment of kindness. I had tweeted about my love for the quote and how I wanted to hang it up in my babies’ room. Then I almost died and came back again, and a friend I had only met via Twitter said she had made me something to celebrate my survival. One night soon after we had both babies home, she came by and gave me this beautiful (and slightly censored because kids) canvas:

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It’s one of my favorite things in my favorite room of our house. I want my kids to know that they have to be kind. But I also want them to know that people are kind. That the world is full of good and beauty, if we look for it. I guess that’s my answer to Kid President’s question about what kids need to know.

It reminds me of a bit in Thomas King’s The Truth About StoriesKing’s refrain throughout the (excellent) book is that the truth about stories is that’s all we are. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the world literally construct the world we experience. He points out in one passage that we can tell ourselves or our children that “life is hard,” but we can equally teach them that “life is sweet.” Each perspective constructs a way of being in the world. Sometimes life is just hard, it’s true. To quote Vonnegut again, “so it goes.” But I think the balance bends toward the beautiful and the good, because I believe in a God who is at work on a great project of reconciliation, re-creation, and renewal. And I think we get to participate in this project, to be agents of beauty and goodness and change. I’m raising up revolutionaries to participate in this project, too. So I want them to be kind and see kindness, in their hundred years here and beyond.

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my airplane angel and the kindness of strangers

Is the glass half full, or half empty? Are people terrible, or are they good? These questions, like just about everything, depend on what sort of data you’re working with, which examples you’re focusing on, and where you’re looking. For me, I have to say, I just keep getting smacked in the face with the full and the good.

Us, traveling with twins last year.
Us, traveling with twins last year.

I wrote about dreading our holiday travel with twin toddlers, for example, but our flights ended up going swimmingly. TSA agents gave the girls stickers and smiled and chatted with them while scanning our liquids and swabbing our hands. A family wrangling just one baby called us superheroes as we struggled to fold a stroller and sort out a backpack with a toddler strapped to each of our chests. We sat near people who smiled and told us how cute our kids are instead of huffing that they got stuck near two small children on a flight. And I was seated next to an angel. I mean, her name was Mary and she’s a sheep farmer, and her son’s name was Christian. That’s some pretty heavy symbolism, right off the top. But she also held my toddlers, let them play with her jewelry, showed them pictures of her dogs and her sheep on her camera, and let Claire nap across her lap. Her middle school aged son closed the window shade without asking to keep the sun out of little eyes, and happily watched Pixar movies with us on the iPad. They made the flight to Colorado a pleasure, and finding them as my seatmates again on the way back felt like nothing short of a miracle.

This sort of kindness has been happening to us again and again lately. My iPhone was stolen on our vacation in Florida, which would seem to be a data point in the “people are terrible” column. But then a woman I have never met outside of Twitter offered to give me her old iPhone for free, refusing my offer to pay, saying it was just sitting in a drawer since she had upgraded. I accepted it gratefully, doubly thankful for the blessing of being reminded that for every thief, there is also generosity and kindness.

And then, last week, a crazy thing happened. I got a friend request on Facebook from a stranger with whom I had only one mutual friend. Around that same time, that mutual friend shot me a text: “Missing a wallet?” A delivery driver for a local restaurant had found my wallet run over in the road, picked it up, and given it to the owner of the restaurant, who, used to tracking down people who leave their wallets in the restaurant, set about finding me via Facebook, and, seeing that we had a mutual friend, through him. Not a single thing was missing from my wallet, which I had apparently left on the roof of my car while buckling my kids in. And it was returned to me in a fashion only slightly less miraculous than that time my husband left his iPhone in a Costa Rican taxi cab and it found its way back to him.

Even my casual day-to-day ventures into public with twin toddlers are usually characterized by people holding doors, waving at toddlers, and asking if they can help.

And it’s not just my data set that suggests that people are really good and kind. Today, my friend Kerri has a post up about a random act of kindness she got to participate in. (And I must say, Kerri happens to be one of the kindest, biggest-hearted people I know.) And another friend tweeted about dropping her kid off at daycare for the first time, where a stranger she called an angel gave her a hug and told her “It’ll be OK.” And then another friend on Twitter sent me a link to this piece from the Today show about strangers showing kindness to parents with kids out in public. And yes, I know, there’s a whole lot of terrible and hurt and meanness that also scrolls by my feed and through my life, but in the face of so much good, that’s the part I’m trying to choose to focus on.