Erasing the ugly

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

There are moments when I wonder how the world hasn’t managed to self-destruct yet.

Recently I’ve heard some things–the kind of things that stomp on hearts and make me shake my head at what we do to each other. Homo sapiens is a cruel species. We seem to seek out ways to hurt each other, and we seem to employ increasingly destructive tactics to do it. Some days, some weeks, I find I must turn off the outside world because awfulness overwhelms me.

photo credit: Erika

photo courtesy: Erika Kobewka

It’s easy to get lost there. When the awful things happen to people I love most, it’s even easier to click a padlock shut on my side, refusing to let anyone else step in.

I stay there until I can work things out with God, until I remember how much of earthly safety is an illusion. Until the words that are repeating in my brain are more like Psalm 121 and less like what we stretch into headlines on a 24-hour channel desperate for something to call news.

Recently I’ve seen some things–specifically in the form of a young woman I have known since I babysat her long ago. I once marvelled at her mother’s approach to raising her and her siblings. In their home, I never heard a raised voice, never saw frantic scurrying about.

I didn’t know that was possible.

Theirs was a peaceful place that was, at the same time, filled with the deep laughter from much teasing and great wit. Kindness and generosity was plentiful within those walls, and I wanted to experience more of it. I spent as much time with her parents as I could, watching and copying. When they moved away, I missed the interaction.

Decades passed, and now that wee girl is a mother to wee ones herself. I had an unexpected opportunity to visit with her. We recounted stories of how I’d asked her parents to mentor me but life circumstances meant they’d had to say no to a formal arrangement. We talked about how different homes can be, how hers reflected the same feeling her parents’ had, and I shared with her some things she wouldn’t have known about me.

She listened with quiet grace, and I remarked on how kind she was to show this respect to a friend of her parents. How rare this quality is.

We visited over a freshly baked loaf of oat bread, paper thin slices of artisan salami, cucumbers, pickles, lettuce and gouda cheese. Her daughter shared with much excitement what she had learned about the sun and the moon, and her son surprised us both by falling asleep in his chair. We laughed, and learned from each other, and our time was rich and full.

photo courtesy: Erika Kobewka

For me, however, the most precious moment was when lunch finished. Her pre-school daughter slid from her chair, pushed her hair away from her face, tucked her little body into her mom’s and stretched up on tiptoes so that her interruption was minor. “Thank you for lunch, Mama,” she said.

When facing some of the tough things that followed that day, I’ve found myself coming back to that authentic, quiet memory. This little girl already has the secret to erasing some of the ugliness in the world.

Whisper honest words of gratitude today. It makes all the difference.


29 thoughts on “Erasing the ugly

  1. Honest words of gratitude are helpful for so many difficult times in my life. Thank you for the reminder to start my gratitude list for the day. Your friendship will be first on today’s list.

    1. Thank you, Denise. How I appreciate that. Your friendship is on my list as well–followed by my cat, snoring on the pillow beside my computer as I work. It all makes for a lovely start to the day!

  2. Thanks my friend for sharing this beautiful moment. I am so thankful for your friendship !

    1. Thankful for you as well, Joëlle. No doubt you get to see similar moments when you spend time with the littles. Don’t they just have a way of putting things in perspective for us?

  3. Leave it to you to find the beauty everywhere. Look in the mirror, because clearly Denise, Joelle and the rest of us who love you certainly see it in you.

    1. Thank you, dear friend. What kind words to start my day. You (and Denise, and Joelle and so many others like them) are certainly on my gratitude list!

  4. What a sweet, sweet reminder. Whispered words of gratitude are one of the things I love the most about my husband. I’m so glad your faith in humanity caught a glimpse of what is possible.

    1. She was so honest in her thanks giving, and I think sometimes we grown-ups get caught up in using the “right words” or being at the right time. She simply said what was on her heart, and it was the loveliest moment.

  5. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I too, craved to be around peace and gentleness. Two things obviously present in this woman’s home. Loved the beautiful reflection of this little one and how it touched you…and you passed it on. Thanks.

    1. I think, Anne, you and your poet heart would love the feeling there. Candle on the counter, true peace, quiet, calm, love. It’s a beautiful, simple, home that is bursting at the seams with people who love and respect each other, who genuinely appreciate each other’s company. The siblings were totally loving on each other, and the mama delighted in them. There were stories, there was kindness. It was as it should be. I was (and continue to be) so blessed.

  6. Honest gratitude. Thank you for the refreshing reminder, Crystal. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…

    And how I respond is my choice. Kindness is a choice–a series of tiny choices, one after the other. So is gratitude.

    1. And the little children shall lead us. Her mama was telling me how awestruck this child is by the world right now, how amazed she is by space. Shouldn’t we all be amazed by what God has created? I love that. Thanks, Laura!

  7. Beautiful post. Growing up in a house with one parent who was ever calm and pleasant and another who was screaming and unkind, I wanted something very different for my kids and vowed as a teenager I would never live in a house where yelling was a form of communication and I have kept my word. There is no need ever for things to get nasty. Children are wonderful mimics and invariably return kindness and compassion. Half the fun is waiting to see how long it take to soothe a child or adult with solicitude. It’s once of the greatest gifts we can give. Enjoyed your post so much.

    1. I appreciate this thoughtful comment. I also admire your ability to see the “fun in waiting to see how long it takes.” I’ve never been great at doing that. My buttons are fairly easy to push, to be honest, though I’ve learned over the years to to add resistance to the springs. I value peaceful surroundings so much now that I expend considerable effort keeping them thus. That has meant working on me, more than any other single thing.

    1. You’ve shown that to be a part of your life, my friend. I’ve seen you treat so many people with kindness and gentleness. It’s why your kids respond so well to you–and one of the many reasons I hold you in such high regard. You are on my list of people to thankful for.

  8. I enjoyed your heartfelt reminiscence and reconnection with a meaningful figure from the past. You painted quite an evocative image of the young woman’s current environs inhabited by her loving and kind children. It was touching, and your encounter with her alive in my mind as I read, making comparisons to my own household growing up with those of some of my friend’s. I’m grateful for your post and will lovingly whisper words of gratitude before the day is done.

    1. Such kind words, Gloria. May the day give you many things to be thankful for.

  9. What a great post of gentleness and thankfulness. The ugly is always there, but the kind things help erase some of it from our souls. Manners are more than saying thank you and please, they are about appreciating what is given. What love there was when the little girl leaned into her mom and thanked her. Thank you for this.

    1. The precious part is the simple honesty she demonstrated. There was nothing but sincerity there, and it truly spoke to my heart. Thank you for stopping by!

  10. I get overwhelmed by awfulness sometimes too, and honestly, is there a better cure than hanging out with children? They find wonder in everything. Thanks for the beautiful reminder to practice gratitude.

    1. There is no better cure, I’m sure. Some of my best life lessons have come from kids who haven’t lost the innocence of it being okay to “feel all the feels” (quoting our friend Denise here!).

  11. When I read this I couldn’t help contemplate what others wonder. What inspired this little one to appreciate her mother’s efforts to provide lunch, to respect the conversation? This eradicates ugly, it goes head to head with it and wins! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience.

    1. Clearly she has been raised to appreciate both what others do for her, and to be polite and kind. However, her mama has also relayed stories of how she has been awestruck–in ways we grownups have lost sight of–while she sits in the back seat of the car looking out at the world God has created. Her authenticity is what I think we miss out on sometimes, and why we reminded to have childlike faith. I’m not ever going to forget it.

    1. I love what you said here–I think it is how I would like to reparent myself too.

    1. Yes, Rachel. So nice to see you here again. And a belated happy birthday to you, friend. I owe you a nice long chat–let’s do that soon, yes?

      1. Yes, definitely! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here. I need to take more time for reading. Your blog is always time well-spent!

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