I squinted as I drove, dodging the angled rays of the sun as it shone between the visor and the steering wheel. This is the worst time of day to drive, I thought. The absolute worst. I can’t wait to get home. And how could I be so dumb to leave my sunglasses on the kitchen table?
Curious as to what they had talked about in our church’s nighttime kids’ ministry, I glanced in the visor’s mirror and asked her what that night’s conversation had been about.
“Kindness,” she answered. “We talked about being kind to other people.”
Always eager to continue the discussion, piggybacking on the incredible work our kids’ workers do, I said, “Kindness, huh? That’s pretty awesome. I think you’re a really kind person, but there are always ways we can do better. Let’s think about this. What’s one way you can show extra kindness at school tomorrow?”
“Well…like….,” she stared out the window, herself dodging persistent rays of the setting sun. “If somebody falls down, I can run over and help them up and make sure they’re okay. I can help them get to the teacher if they’re hurt.”
I smiled, proud of my girl and how quickly she was able to think of a realistic situation for her kindhearted nature to be exercised. “Absolutely, honey. That’s a perfect way.”
She continued. “And, like, if I’m the one who falls down, well, then I can just be kind to myself!”
My heart nearly stopped in my chest. I reached around behind me, and as my hand found her knee and held on in that weird way mamas do, I choked down the lump in my throat and managed to get some words out.
“You know what, honey?” I looked at her in the mirror as I spoke, for once thankful for a red light so I could really talk to her. “That is the hardest kind of kindness. It can be really, really hard to speak kind words to yourself.”
And I told her the truth: how her mama has struggled with that her whole life. How I speak words to myself that I would never, ever even consider speaking to anyone else. How I can be downright mean to myself when I would never act that way toward her or her daddy or anyone else. How people have always told me that I’m a kind person…..but how I feel like I and I alone know the truth, because I and I alone know the things I speak to myself.
Some seasons are really bad for me. I struggle with thoughts that seem to have a mind of their own. My fears run rampant, telling me all kinds of horrible things that are bound to be coming my way. My sadness tries to move in, unpacking its suitcase of lies and harsh untruths right in the doorway of my heart. It tries to make itself at home, and though I often manage to keep it from moving deep into the recesses of my heart again, its voice can be easily heard all the way through the deep and dark places. It shouts loudly and stomps obnoxiously in the entryway. It might not be coming in, but it will not be ignored. My words to myself are too often not gracious or loving or kind. Being kind to myself has been a lifelong struggle – in being kind to myself – so the kids’ lesson for the night could have easily been directed at me.
It struck me that little girl is just beginning to understand how words – from outside and from within – wield power. How actions and thoughts can bring consequences good and bad. She is beginning to really understand the power she holds within herself, and the way that she can make other people feel with just the words she chooses to speak. It makes me smile to realize that she holds such kindness within her, but more than anything it touches my heart that she is even vaguely aware of the fact that that power can be turned on herself. Because really, that’s something I’m not so good at. That’s something I can’t model for her very well.
As we finished the drive home the other night, the sun dropped beneath the tree line and the clouds illuminated in the way only a sunset can. Light…..it has a way of shining right where it needs to be. I flipped my visor up and offered a prayer to the only One who can permeate the deep, dark recesses of the heart and evict the foul untruths for once and for all.
The sun wasn’t shining so harshly in my eyes, so I shifted my position to a more comfortable one in my seat. At the same time, I felt a shift in my mind and made a promise to myself: to wield only words that encourage, no matter who those words are aimed at. Only kind words…even if I’m the only one who hears them.
As we continued the drive home, I thought, This is really the most beautiful time of day to drive. It’s the only way I get to see this view. This time is precious. I’d hate to miss this.
Because I’m learning, too,