The Beautiful Gift

Now that we are far enough removed from Valentine’s Day, I can tell you my story.

Let me preface this story with a little background information about me.

I hate Valentine’s Day.  And not just because I’m single.  I hate Valentine’s Day probably even more when I’m in a relationship.

But I have a good reason, I promise.

My reasoning is this:  I would much rather you do something nice or special, completely out of the blue, than on a made up holiday when all of the commercials tell you to do something nice.

If you can’t be a decent human being the other 364 days a year, please, don’t act like you are one on Valentine’s Day.

That being said, I am open-minded enough to allow for the possibility (hope, even) that there might be some guy out there willing to actually treat me how I should be treated on the other 364 days a year for me not to grimace on Valentine’s Day.

But what I’m telling you right now, is that I have not experienced it in my lifetime.

I’m getting off track.

This is why I don’t like talking about Valentine’s Day to begin with.  I get off on that (^^^) tangent.

Anyway…

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, I was in the kitchen at school.  Doing one of my absolute most favorite things of the day.  I get to greet every single student that comes through the kitchen with a smile and a “good morning.”

And on this particular day, one of my students comes through the line, and tells me that she has something for me.

I’m going to be really honest, I was a little nervous.  Let’s just say that teenagers do not always have the best intentions behind that statement.

Fortunately, in this case, the intent was pure and honest and joyful.

She brought me a card, for Valentine’s Day.

That wasn’t really the gift.  Let’s be honest, the card was something that they found on sale.  A card that has the dreaded glitter all over it.  It was just a piece of paper.

The real gift was her giving me the card.

Many of my students don’t have much.  They come from low income families, and sometimes from families who do use the meager income for other than honorable purposes.

So for one of these students to be able to give a gift of, well, anything, is HUGE.

But the look on her face, the smile, the pure JOY on this girls face the moment she was able to hand me that card, now THAT was the real gift.

That is the gift that I see every single time I see the card, which, is still taped to my desk.

That is a precious gift that is priceless.

This beautiful child that was over the moon ecstatic over being able to give a few of us a card.

Now that is a gift that is going to be difficult to beat moving forward.

Be Happy Anyway

The world today gives us a million reasons to be grouchy.

Be happy anyway.

Things go wrong, despite the best laid plans.

Be happy anyway.

It’s too early in the morning.

Be happy anyway.

Just, be happy anyway.

In the past couple of weeks, I have been both complimented, and criticized.  For the EXACT SAME THING!!!

When I am at school (also known as my job) I am over the top happy.  I am friendly, and welcoming.  I’m that super annoying person that cheerfully greets everyone with a good morning and a smile.  I give students high fives.  I joke with them, laugh with them.  I want them to know, really, truly, honestly know that I am glad they are at school.

It requires a great deal of coffee to be successful at that.  And some days are more successful than others.

But it is absolutely on purpose.

One of my favorite tasks during the day is taking breakfast tickets.  It may seem like a menial task.  But I see it as one of the most important things I do all day long.  And it isn’t making sure that the kiddos are properly entered into the system.  Every single morning, one of the first things they hear when walking into the school building is me.  Me wishing them good morning, calling them by name, and a smile to go along with it.

Because, if you aren’t aware, many kids that eat breakfast at school are doing so because that’s one of the two meals they know they will eat during the day.  Many of these kiddos come from homes (if they can even really be called that) that aren’t, let’s go with ideal.

But when they come to school, I want them to know, to feel, to see that someone cares for them.  And that they are cared for.

That’s the most important thing I can do here.

If they learn something from me, too, that’s great.

So when someone tries to shame me for being happy, I don’t let it get me down.  In a world where there are a million reasons not to smile, I choose to anyway.  When the sun refuses to shine, I am the sunshine.

But let me tell you a little secret.  Some days, I don’t feel like being happy.  But I choose to anyway.  I have for years.  This actually started many years ago, when, in another life, I traveled around the country, and taught Preschool teachers.  Often, when people travel, they are stressed out, and uncomfortable, and grouchy and rude.

I get it, travelling stinks sometimes.

But one year, I made a decision.  I wouldn’t let that be me.  I wouldn’t be the person that was grouchy and rude to my fellow travelers and airport personnel.  It was fantastic.  Because you can really surprise people when you’re actually nice to them.  And you can meet some really interesting and fantastic people along the way.  I remember one time, I had to get my bag searched, because I forgot that I had a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Looking back, I probably should have used it more frequently.  But that’s another issue.  Anyway, I had to have my bag searched.  The TSA agent found that there was nothing nefarious in my purse, and at the end of what must have been a very long day for him, he told me that I was free to go.  As I was collecting my things, I turned to him and smiled, and I told him “thank you, have a nice day” with a huge smile on my face.  The man’s jaw ended up on the floor.

He probably had never been thanked before after searching someone’s bag.  And I was *gasp* actually nice to him!

Seriously folks, it’s not that hard.  Don’t be a sucky human being.

So, yes.  Be nice to other people.

But here it is, are you ready for the big secret???

Being happy, joyful, sunny, welcoming, positive, and uplifting to other people has a side effect.  It makes you feel better about yourself.  When you’re nice to other people, it makes you feel better!

So, when my students get ready to walk in the door, and they’re dragging because they just got up 10 minutes ago, and look like they’re still half asleep, because they are, I’m even more over the top happy to them.  I may even sing and dance.  You never know what might happen.

So go out there, have an awesome and amazing and fantastic Friday, folks!

What Am I Not Doing?

What am I not doing?

Talk about a terrifying question, with some potentially terrifying answers.

Last night, I talked to a dear, sweet friend.  A friend, who, we both agreed, do not talk often enough.  She’s been my person, and my support, even though sometimes we go months without talking.  

The exciting thing is is that she’s getting married.  I am absolutely over the moon happy for her. Genuinely, ecstatically happy.  Because she is happy. You know the kind of happy that just explodes out of someone’s face?

Well, it just so happens that her fiance has never been married before.  And, as women of a certain age, that doesn’t happen very often. But his comment was that he has been waiting for her to come along.

She sent me a passage that her fiance read to the point he memorized it.  And he let that keep running through his head. It’s a beautiful passage titled “A Message From God About the Perfect Human Relationship.”  But this beautiful, well written passage, prompted me to ask, once again…what am I not doing?

As a Christian, as a Jesus follower, what am I not doing?  

I am certain that I am far from perfect.  There is not one thing in this universe that I am more sure of.  But I also know that I am better than I once was. (Isn’t there a country song in there somewhere?)

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

So I know that God has this super awesome and amazing plan for my life!  And I’m going to let God take control of things. And it’s going to be, like, the best thing ever.

Meanwhile, in the back of your mind…

So I’m just going to say that, and play along for a little while…and hope that saying that makes all of  MY hopes, MY dreams, MY plans come true. Because, clearly, I know what is best for my life.

Hey guess what?

That’s not how it works.  Not even close.

I know that’s what has been going through my head.  

I DO want God to use me for whatever he has planned for my life.   Honestly, purely, genuinely. In the depths of my heart, I want God to use me. I want God’s plan for my life.

But at the same time, what I haven’t done, is let go of MY plan.  

So here goes.  I’m letting go of my plan.  Because maybe it isn’t in God’s plan for my life to get married, or have kids, or travel (more than I already have), or be the perfect teacher, or perfect gardener, or be in perfect physical shape.  And it’s honestly, truly terrifying to let go of those plans. I have spent years and years and years making those plans. Hoping for those plans. Dreaming for those plans.  

But I also know that releasing my hold on those plans, right now, opening my heart freely and without reservation to God’s plan for my life, there is hope.  There is excitement. There is joy. Because all of those plans that I spent years dreaming up, those plans are NOTHING compared to what the reality of God’s plan is for my life.

I Pity the Fool

Compassion: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortune of others.

Feel compassion, because you never know what the other person is going through.

This is a line that has been said to me many times in my life.  Many. And I would like to think that I try to be a compassionate person.  I realize and understand that the behavior that other people have towards me is not my fault, and that it is merely a reaction to their own life circumstances.

I get it.

That doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy it.

Because I don’t.

I struggle.

There, I said it.  I don’t like to admit it.  But I do. A lot. People suck sometimes.  And I work in a building full of teenagers, who often suck every ounce of compassion, kindness and patience that I have.  So when an adult exhibits behavior worse than that of those teenagers, I am frustrated. Frustrated because they should know better.  Frustrated because they shouldn’t be so selfish. Frustrated because before my day can even begin, they have sucked the compassion and kindness and patience right out of me.

So I have had a rough(ish) week dealing with an adult who tested my limits.

This woman, a co-worker, has tested my patience daily since I started working here.  A know-it-all, who, given the opportunity, will take the information I give her, repeat it back to me as if she just had this profound, life-altering moment of clarity, and will repeat what I just said.  Except this time, of course, she came up with this all on her own.

Those people frustrate me.

A lot.

Please don’t be that person.

Well a week ago, we had a minor confrontation.  I politely stood up for myself. I did not yell.  I did not belittle. But I stood firm. And that might have made her mad.  So mad that she began muttering under her breath, and then refused to acknowledge my existence.

One week later, and my presence has still not been acknowledged.

I honestly do not know what has happened in her life to make her such an unhappy person.  Because before the incident last week, I was already on her bad side. And not because I’m a horrible person that treated her badly.

I am nice, and friendly, and outgoing.  And the students I work with talk to me.  About their life. About their day. About anything.

I don’t treat people badly. At least I try not to.

I’m also happy, and upbeat, and friendly.

Unfortunately, that seems to irritate people that are already unhappy with their life.  So I am not surprised, even though I still don’t understand it.

I don’t understand, because I am not the person that I am because I have an easy and fabulous life, where I have never had one ounce of hardship.

No, no, no.

I am the person that I am, in spite of the struggles and hardships I have been through.  In spite of the struggles and hardships I still go through.

So while I am capable and willing to feel compassion for others, I often struggle because I do not feel the same level of compassion from other people.

But that’s ok.

No, really.  It is.

Because, Mr. T. reference aside, I do not want your pity.  I actually don’t even like the word pity. Especially not in reference to myself.  I don’t want your pity, nor do I need it. And while we should always be compassionate towards others, I really don’t even need that from you.

Why?

Well, let’s take a look at Isaiah 30:18…

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

He will show me compassion!  Whoohoo!

So if you are like me, and struggle with those people in your life who don’t show you any compassion, don’t stoop to their level.  Rise above! Do what the Bible instructs us to do, which is to love other people.

Be the light when there is darkness and negativity all around you.  Shine the light brightly!

Don’t just choose joy, be the joy!

It.  Will.  Spread.