Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Friday, December 28, 2012

My Husband's Coattails

My husband is a better person than I am. Anyone who knows us is making their "no duh" face right now. He is the guy who will drive you to the airport, help you move, and lend you $50 no questions asked. He's always a member of the Snow Squad in our community. He's had the same Meals on Wheels route for the last 5 years. More than once he's been known to pull over to help a motorist in distress and then come home late because he gave them a lift to work.

If it actually turns out that there's a Heaven, he's my ticket in. 

I am more stingy with my time. I get stressed with too many commitments and an endless obligation to show up. But, I am trying to find ways to be more generous of spirit and instead of unhappily smashing myself into the mold of my husband, I am going to let myself give in my own way. 

So, in honor of the holidays, I give you my top 5 ways to be a more generous person all year long.

1. Pick up someone else's tab.
A few weeks ago I was having a terrible day and decided to go through a Starbucks drive-thru. I was new to this location and, after giving my order and turning a corner, found myself trapped in a Disneyland-style line that was unexpectedly 12 cars deep. The baby woke up and cried. His brother couldn't make the videos on the phone load any faster…and cried. I cussed. And when I finally made my way to the window, the barista informed me that the car in front of me had paid for my drink. That $4.15 changed my day. I've done this twice for the car behind me since then, and the buzz I get as I drive away rivals that of my tall hazelnut soy latte. 

2. Tip 100%.
I picked this one up from my parents, who like to surprise random waitstaff as a nod to their children's early careers. Be it $5 or $500, and I've gotten both back in the day, nothing brings a lift faster than a 100% tip. It even makes their feet hurt less. 

3. Send a letter. A real one, involving ink and a stamp. 
Christmas mail is a joy because mixed in with the random paper bill and glut of neighborhood mailers are those wonderful red envelopes containing pictures of your friends' families and a few words of joy. Before kids, when I didn't know the true meaning of not having enough time, I used to swap regular letters with faraway friends. I sent birthday cards. Then letters became emails and emails became texts. Birthdays are now covered by Facebook posts. But nothing beats the intimacy of a few lines in ink from a pal that you can read and return to. A letter is a symbol of love.

4. Lend a hand instead of asking what you can do. 
We've all had the experience of a loved one going through a hardship and telling them, with all sincerity, to call if they need anything, anything at all. But the truth of the matter is that it's hard to ask for help. Instead of an offer of future assistance, I am going to challenge myself to actually do something, anything at all. Drop off a dinner that can be eaten or frozen. Send flowers. Take someone's kids for an afternoon. I myself find it much easier to thank someone for their thoughtfulness than to ask for their assistance, so I'll use this knowledge to be a better friend to those who need me.

5. Compliment at will.
If you are anything like me, you rush through your daily interactions with strangers. Which is sad, really, as these are the tiny human interactions that make up the bulk of a day. But contact with strangers makes a memorable impact. I'll always remember the odd woman on the street in Chicago who asked me, "Is your hair real? Can I touch it?" and the man in the bagel shop when I was 18 who held the door open for me and told me that when the light hit my hair I looked like an angel. The second memory is slightly nicer than the first, and I want to be like that guy. Instead of noting someone's cool shoes or adorable baby in my head, I am going to speak up and pass along the compliment. And not just to strangers, but to my familiars as well. As a person who is more than willing to jump on a soapbox to criticize, I think it's time I logged some points for the good side as well. 

And there we have it. It's not much. I'm not going to suddenly show up on moving day and help with your couch. Come on, I'm 5'4" and a bit of a wimp. But maybe I'll send you a card, bake you some cookies or let you know how pretty you look with that scarf. Hopefully I'll brighten your day and maybe even walk away with some residual joy for myself. 

Happy Holidays. 


Claudia said...

It's amazing how those small gestures end up meaning so much. I hope we all take this to heart and give it a try. Maybe 2013 will be a friendlier year for everyone.

troy said...

I love it!

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