Tag Archives: kindness

Sunday Run: A Heathen’s Story

“It was not enough to come and listen to a great sermon or message every Sunday morning and be confined to those four walls and those four corners. You had to get out and do something.”
– John Lewis

It is Sunday morning, and I am not in church.

Now, this is no different from most Sundays for the past few years, mind you. But as the granddaughter of a devout Southern Baptist Christian, there’s not a Sunday morning that dawns without that old ingrained guilt in my soul for not having my buns firmly planted on a pew where they belong.  However, Guilt and me have gotten a bit used to each other.  I don’t let him talk me into things as often as I did when I was younger.

So, no church for me.

But, why?

Sigh. Honestly, I don’t know.

I have a ton of excuses, but not really any that would impress Grandma. I mean, my life pretty much revolves around ample Sunday morning churchgoing opportunities. The aforesaid Grandma, for instance. I know where she’ll be, without fail, and would love to have me join her. And I do sometimes, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not for the church itself – that’s to see and spend time with her. She lives a good 45 miles away, though, so it’s not the most convenient scenario for every Sunday morning.

You know what’s not 45 miles away though? The church at the end of my driveway. Yes, my house literally sits in the backyard of a small Methodist church that my mother-in-law attends. But have I ever been in there?  Nope.

(Okay, that’s a lie and you’re not supposed to lie on Sundays. One time I went in and peeked around when no one else was there. But I’m thinking that might not count.)

Another nail in my Sunday morning heathen coffin? My husband actually works at a local church on Sunday mornings. Yep.  As he gets up early and heads to town to get the rented venue open and rev up the sound equipment for the upcoming hip, contemporary, and even entertaining church service, I sleepily wave goodbye to him and snuggle deeper into the covers.

I kinda suck.

So, with all these opportunities staring me in the face – why don’t I go?  Oh, I don’t know. I’m not an atheist. (Although some have mistaken me for one lately and that’s okay. I’m not offended.) But I’m also not really a believer either. At least not in that book written by a bunch of men who were as flawed as I am.

But let’s not get into that.  That’s not what this story is about. My faith, or lack thereof, could fill a novel and you don’t want to read that and I don’t want to spend time talking about it either. So to save us both a word-induced nap, we’re going to skip that subject and I’m going to try to get to my point.

Alright. As we’ve established, I was, again, practicing my newfound heathenism this morning and not attending church.  What was I doing instead? Running.  I find myself doing that a lot on Sunday mornings lately. Whether there’s some deep sense of spiritual guilt that drives me out the door on these mornings in order to more quickly pass those previous pew-allotted hours, or I’m just making use of the rare few moments of alone time with no responsibilities, I’m not sure. Either way though, my running shoes see a lot of Sunday morning asphalt.

Today being no exception, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door to beat the forecasted midday heat. And what do I run into?

Churchgoers.

Yes, seeing as how I’m in their backyard, it’s inevitable to go for a run and not pass the church. But I usually try to time these Sunday morning excursions so that I don’t have to face the good people of the world as they exit their cars and head into the sanctuary where my darkened heart “belongs.” My mind supplies enough ingrained guilt without those angelic pairs of eyes adding to the heap. But alas, this morning something went wrong and I blew it. I wasn’t watching the clock and I messed up.

So, I steeled myself. I put on my “armor” (aka headphones) and prepared to rush right by them without a glance in their direction. They were not going to make me feel guilty on this particular morning, no sir. I’m a grown up and I can do what I want. I can certainly run fast enough in my running shoes to get away from them in their Sunday best if they try to catch me, right?

Game on.

I increase my speed, prepare to zip right by, and then…..one of them speaks to me.

Crap.

Busted.

I mean, come on lady. I’m running here. I have my armor in my ears – can’t you see? I’m dressed in way-too-short-for-my-age running shorts and a tank top; I’m obviously not rushing down here to beat the church bell.  Surely to gosh you’re not going to invite me in there looking like this, are you?

She mumbles something and I reluctantly remove my headphones.

I’m sorry, what?” I call out, slowing my pace but not fully stopping – acting like I want to hear her reply, but making it obvious that I have no time for chitchat and that my hell-bound soul has already made its decision to run this morning and she was absolutely not going to change that.

“Just wanted to make sure you saw this!” she calls out cheerily and points to the wooden box in the corner of the parking lot.  To my surprise, she was showing me a water stand.

Now, I’d seen this water stand before. And I appreciated it for its uniqueness and the kind hearts that must have erected it. We are a beautiful mountain county and many bicyclists make their way through our secluded area on their weekend treks, so a wooden water stand had been built and placed at the corner of the church parking lot with a drawing of a bicycle and the letters “H20” painted on its side to make the bikers aware that there was refreshment waiting for them. So, it wasn’t a surprise to see it – I live here and I’ve seen it many times.

But I sure was surprised to have it offered to me.

If you get thirsty during your run, make sure you get some water!” she called out, and smiled and waved as she made her way into her house of worship.

Well, I’ll be.

I couldn’t help but grin.

What a gesture. Not only was she not there to make me feel guilty about not attending church services, but was actually offering to help me in the activity I chose to do instead of accompanying her into her sanctuary.

Wow.

With a smile plastered on my face, I called out a thank you to her retreating back, and continued on my journey.

So, no. I didn’t go to church today. I didn’t go last Sunday and, frankly, I probably won’t go next Sunday. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t commune with my own personal version of the God that exists in my life.

God was everywhere this Sunday morning.

My lungs breathed her air. My eyes beheld her beauty in the cloudless sky above me and the mountains that surrounded me. My feet caressed her earth as they padded across six miles of terrain.

And then, in the midst of it all, she not only acknowledged my unique form of worship, but she took the time to speak back to me.

She stepped outside and offered me a drink of water.

***

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”
– Dalai Lama

***

Kindness

kindness

Something happened at work a few weeks ago that I still can’t seem to shake from my mind.  It wasn’t anything earth-shattering.  It wasn’t something that would normally make any kind of long-lasting impression.  And yet – for some reason – it has stuck with me.  And for a writer like myself, that means I probably better sit down and let my fingers and the keyboard figure it out for me.  So here goes.

First of all, I’m a real estate paralegal.  Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that in this blog before, but there ya go.  That’s what I do in my real life.  You know, so I won’t starve.  Basically, I do the legal paperwork for people as they buy, sell, or refinance their homes.  Now, I’ve always worked for attorneys, but I haven’t always specialized in real estate.  My first job right out of the gate was for an attorney who handled a variety of practices, including domestic relations.  That was the department I worked in.  I would sit in and listen to the depositions of people who were going through divorces.  I would field the phone calls of irate exes who wanted this, that and the other and wanted it no later than yesterday.  I would see tears fall as people came by to pick up their final divorce decrees.

In other words, it was depressing as crap.

So, as soon as I started working more in real estate, I decided that was the way I wanted to go.  There were MUCH less tears shed over the transfer of ownership of a building than there was over the transfer of people’s children and marital statuses.  So, a real estate paralegal I became.

Now, for the most part, I made the right decision.  There was definitely less drama here in this side of the legal field.   People selling a house were usually happy.  They got money.  People buying a house were usually happy.  They got a house.  People refinancing a house were usually happy.  They lowered their payments and got a better rate.  So yes, the real estate field was a relatively calm and happy place to be.

But then?  *sigh*  Then, there was the real estate crash a few years ago.  And things just aren’t quite so black and white anymore.

Refinances?  A nightmare.  To get a loan to go through, people have to give everything shy of a pint of blood from their oldest offspring.  I’m not exaggerating much, trust me.  And sales?  A lot of times we have sellers who are actually bringing money to closing in order to get their property sold.  Yep, you read that right – they have to pay to sell their house.  We see that way more often than you’d think.  And don’t even get me started on the foreclosures…  Just take my word for it, this real estate stuff is not all sunshine and lollipops anymore.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, here’s why.

In the course of a normal business day, I try my absolute best to maintain a friendly demeanor.  I really do.  (Well, with clients, that is.  Not with my co-workers…I’m not that good of an actress…)  But sometimes?  Well, sometimes it’s just hard not to slightly snap back when I’m on the phone with people who are getting snippy with me.  Especially when the person on the other end of the line happens to not even be our client.  When doing a purchase transaction, oftentimes the buyers and sellers will retain separate attorneys to represent their interests in the sale.  Most of the time, I’m handling the buyer’s side of things since I’m doing the closing paperwork (the buyer’s attorney is the settlement agent – meaning we conduct the closing).  Now, I’m telling you all this boring mumbo jumbo because it’s important info for you to know in order to understand this particular incident that won’t leave my mind.

So, here I am, in the midst of working on a closing that is scheduled for later the same day.  As is par for the course these days, I’m down to the last minute working on the stressful details to try to wrap things up so the closing can be completed.  I’m waiting on a signed document from a seller who, like I explained above, is not our client, when an email pops up from the realtor representing said seller.  The email states:  “Melissa, there may be a delay in receiving the settlement statement from the seller today.  Her husband just passed away this morning.  She will get you what you need as quickly as she can.”

Wow.  Her husband just died?  What a tragedy.  Knowing the circumstances now, of course, we are very understanding and will accommodate in anyway possible.  A delay in receiving her signature?  No problem at all.  Totally understandable.

And then, the phone rings.

No sooner had I clicked off of the email than I heard the seller’s voice on the on the other end of the line asking for me.  Now, although she introduced herself, she did not once mention what had happened to her this morning, and probably didn’t realize I knew.  She just immediately started…how do I put this?…complaining.  Every single thing on the settlement statement that she needed to sign was wrong.  I didn’t do this right.  I didn’t do that right.  Her property taxes were already paid and I was showing that they weren’t.  (FYI – They weren’t paid.)  She went on a tirade about all the things that was wrong and that I needed to fix IMMEDIATELY.

Whoa.

So, let me tell you how the Melissa who had not just received that email might have responded.

“Ma’am.  Your taxes are NOT paid.  I called the county tax office to confirm and they told me so themselves.  Would you like their number?  I’ll be glad to give it to you.  Any and all other concerns will need to go directly through your realtor or your attorney – we do not represent you.”

The end.  (And you can rest assured that there would probably be a little snip to my tone of voice as well.)

But the Melissa who had just read that email?  The Melissa who now knows that this poor woman has just lost her husband this very morning?  Well, here’s how she responded.

Ma’am, I’m sorry there are so many problems.  Let’s deal with them one at a time.  As for your property taxes, I understand you’re from Florida and the way Florida and North Carolina pay their taxes differs and may be what is causing the confusion….”  And so on, and so forth.

Because I knew what she was going through, I softened my tone (and my attitude) and helped her to understand what was wrong.  Together, we went through each issue item by item and came to an understanding and an agreement.  By the time we hung up the phone, she sounded much more pleasant and even somewhat relieved to now understand what she had perceived as issues.  She never told me what had happened to her that morning.  Not once.  She provided no explanation whatsoever.  She was just a somewhat frantic, understandably distraught woman trying to take care of necessary business that had to be attended to in the midst of unthinkable sorrow.  And I knew that because I had received that email just prior to her call.

But what if I hadn’t?

And how many times have I spoken to people just like her without receiving an explanatory email beforehand?

Yep.  Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Now, believe me, I’m preaching to the choir with this one.  I need this lesson as much as you do, probably more.  But I’m asking you to do what I’m going to try to do from now on…treat everyone as if they’re fragile.  You know?  Sure, maybe the hateful person you’re dealing with has no excuse whatsoever to be acting the way they’re acting.  Maybe they’re just a jerk.  Maybe there’s no sad, heartbreaking explanation for their horrible attitude.

But, then again. Maybe there is.

Maybe there’s more to the story than you know.  Maybe they’re under a stress that you can’t even begin to imagine.  Maybe they’re hanging on by a thread.

Maybe they just lost a loved one right before speaking to you.

We just never know, do we?

Something to think about.

***

If we knew each others secrets, what comforts we should find.”
– John Churton Collins

 

Moments

argueblog2

Awwww.  How sweet.

Ok, I’ll get back to this picture in a minute.  First – let me tell you a little something about myself.

I’m a jerk.

Oh yeah.  It’s true.  When I’m upset about something, I become an inconsiderate, irrational know-it-all who cannot see anyone else’s point of view but my own.  Especially when I’m already tired or stressed to begin with.  Anyone else like that, or am I all alone here in Jerkville?

Now, my boyfriend definitely knows this about me.  He has been a prisoner in Jerkville a few too many times.  And sometimes he likes to put a positive spin on this aspect of my personality by referring to it as my being passionate.  Passionate.  *Giggle*  (He missed his calling as a politician.)

But, then there are other times.  The times when he’s fed up and has had enough of the scenery in Jerkville and is ready to go home – that’s when he’ll call it like it really is.  He says I get crazy.

Ok, I’ll admit it.  Both are true.  Sometimes I’m passionately crazy.  But it’s because I feel things.  You know?  I feel them to my core.  There’s no half-assing it with me.  (Pardon my French.)  When I feel it, I feel it.

Now, sometimes that’s a good thing.  Sometimes it’s a wonderful thing actually.  I know I love with all of my heart, and then some.  I’d go to the ends of the earth for you if you’ve managed to win my heart.  And honestly, I kinda like that about myself.

But when the tide turns?  Ohhhh boy.  When the tide turns, it’s not such a good thing anymore.  It can get ugly fast.  Yep – it’s a flaw.  My biggest flaw, perhaps.  I admit it.

I, Melissa Caudill, am a flawed human being.  

I know, I know….shocking, isn’t it?  I thought I was perfect too!  But nope.  Turns out, I’m not.  Who knew!?

So, with all of that said, I want to tell you about something that happened in my latest argument with my honey.  Now, he is the exact opposite from me.  Polar opposite.  His way to handle a problem?  Clam up; don’t talk; wait for it to pass.

Bless his heart.

Now, you read all that stuff I just said about me, right?   If you were a fly on the wall during one of our spats, I can assure you you’d be quite entertained.  Honestly, though – (and don’t tell him this) – I admire him for the way he is.  In the same way that he admires my being “passionate,” I admire his being level-headed.  Calm.  Well, that is, until I’m pissed.  And then?  Then I think he’s….well….crazy.  Unhealthy.  A ticking time bomb.  He needs to let that junk out of his system!

In other words, I guess we’re both flawed.  It just happens to be in exact opposite ways.

Well, last night – as it has a few times in the past – those flaws came into play during a stupid argument.  I wanted to talk; he didn’t.  So, I marched my crazy self over to his house to make him talk.  When I first got there, he was asleep.  (Asleep?  Asleep!?  You think that is an excuse not to text me back??) 😉  After an unwelcomed chuckle from his half-asleep ramblings (he saw me and said in a slurred voice, “What are you doing in the band room?”…oh my gosh, I can’t even type that without laughing again – what the heck was that boy dreaming about?…), we got down to business.  We (I) ranted and raved and discussed every little thing each of us have ever done wrong in our lives from the time we exited our mother’s wombs.  Or, at least it seemed like that. Then, eventually, we chilled out and finally actually discussed the issue like we should have all along.

We’re fine now.  We still have problems, and always will (we’re human), but this catastrophe was avoided at least.

Now, back to the picture I posted at the beginning.  (See? I’m telling you this story for a reason.  And you thought I was just rambling….)

At one point during the argument, he got up and went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water.  (I know, right!?  How dare him walk away when I’m ranting…)  He came back into the room, and I took a deep breath and resumed where I had left off without missing a beat.  And in the midst of my continued rant, you know what he did?

He handed me a drink of water.

Here I was, hoarse from all the fussing at the poor man, and he hands me a drink of water to help me continue.

Isn’t that amazing?  You can be irate at someone – think that they are the craziest, most insane, irrational person alive – and yet when you love them, you still make sure they’re comfortable.  Make sure they know you love them.

These are the moments, people.  Not the candlelit dinners, not the flowers, not the cute little pet names.

The times the people you love are being anything but loveable – and you love them anyway.  The parent tucking in the child that just screamed “I hate you!” at them just before they fell asleep; the pet that still runs up to you and welcomes you home when you’ve left it alone all day; the adult child of an Alzheimer’s patient still patiently lifting a spoon to the mouth that curses them in confusion; the boyfriend who hands a drink of water to the woman who has just hurt his feelings.

These are the moments.

Don’t forget to notice them.  OK?

***

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.”
– Peter Ustinov

Reinforcement

“I love working with an audience.  I love working with actual people who, you know, if they’re moved, you see it.  If you say something they’re stunned by, you see their jaws drop.  If they’re amused, they laugh – that kind of reinforcement, I totally adore.”
– Jane Pauley

As an actress, I really dig the above quote.  There’s just so much truth to it.  When I’m doing a show, I know exactly how the audience feels about it.  If they like it, they’ll smile.  If I did a good job, they’ll clap.  If I was able to move them to tears, they’ll cry.

Don’t you wish it worked like in real life?

Seriously, think about it.  How much of what you feel do you keep inside?  How many chances do you let slip past to tell someone how their everyday, real life ‘performance’ is going?

I’ve been watching my daughter struggle with a very large theatre role.  She’s practically brand new to acting (only small non-speaking roles in prior shows) and has now been cast as the lead.  Now, you don’t have to be involved in theatre to know that being the lead of a show is going to carry some serious weight with it.  Especially when you’re only 13.  And even more especially when you’re a kid who is too hard on yourself like she is.  She expects perfection to come out on the first try (and I’m afraid some of the others involved expect that of her to), and she gets so down on herself when it doesn’t.  Poor kid.

But I’ve started to notice one particular person in the cast who can change her outlook around in an instant.  Appropriately enough, that person is the one who plays “Daddy Warbucks.”  (If you’re not familiar with the show, Warbucks is the one who ultimately adopts little orphan Annie in the end.)  Warbucks is played by our friend Jeff Dreyer.  And let me tell ya – Jeff is phenomenal with my daughter.  She looks forward to the rehearsals when she’s working with him because she is comfortable with him.  He’s so good to her and always tells her what a great job she is doing.  When she makes a mistake, he’s always quick with a, “You’ll get it next time,” or “Don’t be so hard on yourself – you’re doing great.”  I see what a difference this makes in her, and how much better she does after hearing this from him.

Which got me thinking.

How often do we do that for people?  How often do I do that for people?

Someone doesn’t have to be performing on a stage for them to deserve positive feedback.  So much of what those around us do in any given day sadly goes unnoticed.  Things become routine and expected, and therefore no longer outwardly appreciated.  (Every mother knows where I’m coming from, I’m sure.)

So, I want you to think about this.  Is there someone in your life who deserves some recognition?  Some appreciation?  Some verbal applause?

Well, get to it.  Give them some positive reinforcement.  Give them a pat on the back.  Thank them for what they do for you and how much they mean to you.

I’ll start by giving a little shout-out to my boyfriend, Richard.  That man is a true saint at times…especially this week.  I have been stressed to the max.  There’s no one particular huge problem or anything…just a multitude of small things that are adding up and sending me on an emotional rampage.  There have been times this week that I’ve just wanted to crawl under the covers and let the world go on without me while I take a sick day from it all.  But I can’t.  There’s too many people depending on me.  I have to get up and keep moving, whether I like it or not.

And there he is to help.

He has picked up the slack for me so much this week, I can’t even list them all.  He has made phone calls for me and run errands that I didn’t have time to run.  And through it all – through my moods, my ranting, my venting – he has listened and responded with a calm optimism that I can’t help but be influenced by, no matter how hard my stubborn self tries not to be.  I’m a very, VERY lucky girl to have this man in my life.  I hope he knows how much he is appreciated.  I hope he knows what a wonderful boyfriend he is, and how loved he makes me feel.

Good job, Richard.

So, who do you need to thank?  Who makes a difference in your world?  Who needs some applause?

Now is the time.

positive1

***

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
-Voltaire