Don’t Settle for Nice

“Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” ~Charles Glassman

Dscn1300When I talk to groups about kindness, I am always asked if there is a difference between being kind and being nice. For some, the difference may be merely semantic, but I think there’s more to it. While the outward behavior may appear the same, if we dig down, we see that there are significant differences in attitude, intention, and even energy between nice and kind.

Nice is doing the polite thing, doing what’s expected of me. I can be nice without expending too much effort, without making a connection. I can even be nice and still merely tolerate someone with my teeth gritted in a false smile, while making judgments about them and inwardly seething with impatience.

Kindness asks more of me. It asks me to withhold judgment, to genuinely care about the other person and whether they’re getting what they need from our interaction. Kindness forges connections. It also makes me vulnerable, because I don’t know how my kind action will be received—it may be rejected or misunderstood. With kindness, I risk jumping into unknown waters; with niceness, I stay safely on shore. Continue reading

New Anthology Benefits World Central Kitchen

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)

I’m honored to have had an essay (“What We Do with Words”) accepted for publication in this lovely new anthology, published last week by She Writes Press.

Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis was conceived as a response by women writers and artists to the cataclysmic events of the last few years. Writing about the pandemic, Ukraine invasion, political and societal unrest, and more, authors address the vast range of human response to crisis in all its forms. They explore how we can find beauty, hope, and deeper interpretation—even when the world seems to have been turned upside-down, inside-out, and shaken.

The book is also intended to make a tangible difference. All royalties from book sales will go to support the tremendous work of chef José Andrés, his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, and their Ukrainian relief efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the book, or purchasing a copy, here’s a link to it on Bookshop.org, the wonderful discount retailer that supports independent bookstores. Of course, the book is also available through other online booksellers, and can be ordered through your local indie store. (As of this writing, the price is lower on Bookshop than on Amazon.)

Seattle Area Friends

If you happen to live in the Seattle area, please join me and seven other Puget Sound-area contributors on Thursday, August 11, at 7:00 p.m., at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Continue reading

You Will Do Stupid Things

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” (Rita Mae Brown)

LLV4Mistakes are a given. Over a lifetime, each of us does and says countless things that wound, that embarrass us or others, and that we deeply regret. It is to be hoped, though, that the stupid things we do in our teens and twenties aren’t the same stupid things we do in our forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond.

By the time we reach those later decades, we’ve not only grown beyond our earlier transgressions, but perhaps also learned to let go of the chagrin we carry over those mistakes from our youth.

The good thing about aging is that we get better at learning from our mistakes. Of course, we make new ones, fresh ones, whoppers. Unless we refuse to venture out or try anything new, we will still make mistakes. The only way to avoid them is to hunker down and sidestep all risk, which means also avoiding delight, wonder, and discovery.

Lessons Learned – The lesson for me is twofold:

Continue reading

It’s Time to Get Started

“Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.” ~Neil Gaiman

LLV3[While kindness has been and will remain one of the most important lessons of my life—and one I continue to learn daily—lately, I’ve been thinking about other lessons life has taught me. And I’ve become increasingly aware of the lessons that no longer serve and need to be “unlearned.” Like many writers who say they write to find out what they think, writing is how I make sense of my world. Periodically, I plan to explore some of my life lessons here. I invite you to share some of your own.]

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a promise to yourself and how hard it can be to keep it? Whether it’s writing that book, losing those ten pounds, exercising daily, or withholding judgment, it’s always easier to think about doing something than to actually do it.

Years ago, I heard these wise words from Michael Broome: “Commitment means continuing to do what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has passed.”

Without commitment, we are dilettantes—we dabble at life, easily distracted by the next shiny object that catches our fancy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Having wide and multiple interests creates curious and well-rounded personalities. But there’s a difference between flitting among attractions and recognizing what calls to us.

For many of us, there comes a time when, from among all the possibilities surrounding us, one or more pursuits captivate us. “This,” we say, “is where I want to invest my time and energy. This is what makes my heart soar.” Continue reading

Not the New Year Message I Hoped to Write

I haven’t posted on this blog for three months. There are multiple reasons—none of them good. I’ve been busy … I’ve been at work on other projects … I’ve been frustrated by WordPress’s new editing format … I’ve been discouraged by the state of the world. All true, but each insufficient.

There is something I am burning to say that will not coalesce into sentences with verbs and nouns and proper punctuation. Instead, I sputter and rage. I seem to have traded my Pollyanna tendencies for those of Nostradamus, or perhaps Eeyore.

Prophet of doom is not who I am. Yet I shiver to think of where we may be this time next year. And two years after that.

Over the last five years, I’ve realized just how much I took for granted about my country. How much I failed to see—whether from ignorance, naïveté, or because I was looking in the wrong direction. I knew my country was imperfect—that inequality and injustice were far too prevalent—but I believed enough of us cared and wanted to work together to build a more perfect union.

I wish I could say I still believe that.

Continue reading