Saturday, December 22, 2012

"It's Nice To Be Nice To The Nice"

I haven't always depended on the kindness of strangers, let alone friends of family, but now that I'm recovering from surgery (is anyone other than me tired of hearing that phrase) I have to and it is a good thing to accustom myself to.

Throughout the week, friends have made us dinner every night, driven our kids to and from school, driven me wherever I have wanted to go, helped us get our car in for repair, written lovely notes, and much more. Today, my mother took the kids for the day while my father and brother brought my snowblower back home (from the repair shop) and cleared my driveway not once but twice.

I watched from the dining room window as my brother cleared it the first time and watched again while my father cleared it the second time. It was an exercise in not feeling guilty about having people do all this stuff. I developed a good method for thinking about all this: I put myself in their shoes and imagined them inside watching me. Immediately I realized that I would be grateful for the chance to be helpful to someone who needed it.

With that my guilt melted away, which is cool since I know how useless guilt is anyway.

Is it greedy to think that I'm doing someone a favor by letting them help me? If I put it that way, it certainly sounds greedy, but it turns out that the actual thing is a kindness. The immortal words of Frank Burns come to mind: "It's nice to be nice to the nice." Yes, Frank, you said a mouthful.

I've written about this sort of thing before, but it's a concept I still have to remind myself about. People want to be necessary and useful to other people. I know that I do, that my wife does, and I can see that my friends and family want that too. I was taught, one way or another, to resist that help. "Do you need a hand with that?" No, no, I've got it. And then I would struggle away under whatever load happened to be more than I really wanted to bear. I thought I was being noble, independent, and kind, but here's the thing: I didn't look back to see the person who had offered help. If I had, I would have likely seen some level of disappointment. It's nicer to be nice to the nice. I know because I've been on the other side, offering the help and really, really wanting someone to accept it.

With the surgery, I haven't been able to resist people's kindness as much and for that I'm grateful. It's the best side-effect of the whole thing. And tonight, I'd like to take a few hundred words to be grateful...

  • to my parents who came to the hospital, who have visited, who have taken the girls to school, who have driven me all around, and who have done a dozen other things.
  • to my father-in-law who has brought us meals, visited, and sent me funny emails.
  • to my brother who brought us a meal that was way out of his comfort zone, who cleared our driveway, and who is taking our kids tomorrow.
  • to my friend Chris who brought dinner and took me to lunch and entertained me with the mixing of our eggnog.
  • to my friends Kristin and Scott who brought us a meal, drove our kids all over, kept our kids for play-dates, drove me around, and brought me things to read and watch.
  • to my friends Jess and Craig who brought soup and secret fudge and who offered the best kind of help in case I fell into depression.
  • to my friends Pam and Maryanne who brought dinner and visited.
  • to my friend Faith who stopped by the night of my surgery and brought homemade bread.
  • to my daughter Evelyn who has restrained her enthusiasm and hugs me delicately rather than swinging from my neck, who gets me whatever I ask, who cheers me up with her dances, and who has taken care of the animals.
  • to my daughter Julia who has made me smile with Instagram pictures, ridiculous cat noises from her phone, stories of intrigue, and anything I ask her to get for me.
  • and of course to my dearest Stephanie who does more than will fit here but mostly keeps me from doing anything foolish and whose love bathes me in soft moonlight and the sure knowledge that I matter in this world. 

To all of you nice people doing nice things, it sure is nice of you and I appreciate it more than 750 words can say. I'll likely need to keep going in this thank you business over the next few weeks. Good thing it's my plan to write on.