KINDNESS SHOULD BE NORMAL!
For the basic premise of this article, I have to tell you a little story, which is good about myself, so I feel funny writing it. It was much easier for me to tell it to you verbally, so I hope you’ll watch my latest YouTube video, before you finish reading this essay, (which just may be the most important piece I’ve ever written!) Here’s the link to my vid, which also includes a fun companion story that inspired me to write this piece to begin with!: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mon4s6dE7TU.
So, here’s the embarrassing story: Many years ago, a no-nonsense male friend asked me if Mr. X was in love with me. Before I had time to give my jokey answer, (which would probably have been, “He said he’ll let me know when it happens,”) my pal answered it for both of us. He said exactly, “How could he not?! You’re beautiful, sexy, witty, bright, and kind.” I was in shock because I had never even thought of myself in those terms; I was just me.
So, all these years later, I was shocked once again when that same man remembered word-for-word what he said to me those many years ago. And he even knew which of that quintet of attributes was the one I cared most about. I’ve since asked some other of my peeps that same question, and they must think that I’m as shallow as I pretend to be because they all got it wrong. Except for the original author of the statement—without hesitation, he knew that being kind was my number one priority in life! As it should be for everyone. (But, quite sadly, is not!)
So when I recently read a news story about how a waitress was rewarded for her kindness in cutting-up the food of a disabled customer, as happy as I was for her (because her reward was a college scholarship,) I realized right away that I had to discuss this here.
That story reminded me right away of a little story that happened with my own friends in Aspen several years ago. You need to hear it spoken to get the full impact, so you should click here for my new short video about it on my YouTube channel, (but then come back to finish this article): www.youtube.com/watch?v=mon4s6dE7TU.
I was amazed by that concept back then, (which is basically that acts such as the one in the news story should be considered normal, not nice,) as I still am all these years later. (You have to see the video above to fully understand of what I speak.) Shamefully for this entire world, kindness is far from the norm these days. It should be innate to human beings, but nowadays, kids seem to learn to be ruthless and even mean, because that’s the majority of behavior they see from their parents, celebrities, and in the media. I don’t have high hopes for this new generation at all, especially because they’re learning evil straight from the supposed leader of this country right now!
In this cutthroat world, hardly anyone I know is kind anymore. And being good to people for money is not kindness—that’s business. The trio of kindest people I’ve ever known are no longer on this level of life.
My mother was the absolute kindest person I’ve ever met. So, I learned from the best. I truly always thought this way of life was indeed, normal. My family dining room was constantly loaded with goodie bags for us to fill for children in hospitals. (And, as someone who receives goodie bags now, I can assure you that it is, indeed, more fun to give than to receive. I adored putting those gifts together, knowing how much joy it would bring to the recipients.) As a teacher, Maybelle organized talent shows with her students to go entertain in those hospitals. And she always gave clothing, food, and lots of money to the families of her cash-strapped students.
She also threw many parties at our house for her students each year, which got them all to bond. I never even realized this one situation until a former student told the story at her funeral: He’s a gay man who said that my mother was the first person to ever not only accept that he was gay as a teen, but make him feel good and special about being so. She gave him the confidence to be himself, which has continued throughout his very successful life. That story reminded me that my siblings and I were the only white Jewish kids who had black and Asian friends back then. My parents never made us think that people are different.
One last note about my little mo: every time I was in town, (which was often after my father died,) she had me buy dozens of little boxes of chocolates, so that she’d always have a gift to give anyone who did even the smallest thing for her! Have you ever heard of such a thing?!
Then there was my kindest friend, Alicia Maczuga, who was a true angel on earth. Every time I stayed with her in Rhode Island, I was overwhelmed by her kindness, not just to me, but to the world. I’ve honestly never seen such a great mother. And she spread sunshine wherever she went. She brought a smile to the faces of every worker in every store we walked into. This is just a small sample of what she did for me: First of all, she made plans for me before I even got to town. She made time in her busy life to search for new tea places to open up, just to surprise afternoon-tea-loving moi. (And this was before everything was available on the world wide web!!!) She always had a nightgown laid-out for me when I got there, with flannel on the inside and silk on the outside, so I could be cozy and attractive at the same time! Then, she’d go out every morning to get me freshly-baked muffins, wait to hear me get out of the shower, and pop one in the microwave, so that I’d have a hot fresh muffin right away. Wow.
And then there was my best friend of recent years, Carole Wilcox, who has sadly joined Maybelle and Alicia in heaven. This was a lady with all rich pals, (outside of me, of course,) who was a single mother and very low on funds herself, but, rather than working at a paying job, she volunteered full-time at a hospital!!! And, trust me, she didn’t do it as a trick to meet doctors to date; she actually spent her time fending them off! She was just kind. If she had a free day, she spent it driving an elderly neighbor to appointments. And if she got a gift certificate to a restaurant, she always included me in it with her son and herself. On top of that, she was my first friend in my entire life who gave me gifts just for being nice to her! I’ve rarely even had pals thank me for including them in my glamorous activities, let alone get me “thank you” gifts!!!
And I’m lucky enough to have a few kind living pals. I could not have gotten through the death of my little mother, and the aftermath, without Lauren Bennett in New York. This woman drove from Manhattan to pick me up at the airport, took me to my house in Brooklyn, and then stayed with me, so I wouldn’t have to be alone until I got used to the house without my mother. And on my last Mother’s Day there, which would have been a killer for me, she and her husband drove from the Hamptons to get me in Brooklyn, then on to Manhattan just to take me out to dinner with her family, and then back to Brooklyn to stay with me, so that I would not have to be alone on that heartbreaking day. There’s so much more than that, too, (but I can’t list any more because I don’t want others to feel inadequate.)
And then there’s Sheila Tracy. Sheila drove from Ohio to help me clear-out my Brooklyn house every time I was there!!! She never even takes a vacation for herself, but she came all the way there to help me, time and time again!!! And she did all the work!!! I’d wake up, and she would already be cleaning for hours. My house, not hers!!! Who does that???
And then we have Carol Rampino, the most pleasant person ever. Besides being a single girl working hard for her money, and then using her earnings to buy so many things for her family, instead of herself, she did something wonderful for my family, too. She lived in Brooklyn when my mother was alive, and she’d print every single article I wrote and bring them to my mother, who didn’t have a computer, so therefore would never have been able to read my columns otherwise. Someone being good to my mother was always the most important thing to me.
Which brings me to Betsy Abramova, who I’m thrilled to announce just became a nurse, which is perfect for such a kind person. This girl volunteered to visit the elderly when she was just a young teen-ager. For no other reason than to be kind! How many other young people can say that?! Not many, I’m sure. (And, sadly, only two others whom I’ve ever met.) And that’s how I met Betsy. No—she did not help me, you mean people! She helped my little mo. She went over after school and read all my columns (that Carol had printed-out) to my mother, organized her meds and her schedule, and just generally cheered her up all the time. Can you see why I call her my little sister? She’s more of family to me than my own blood relatives! Whoever hires her as a nurse now will be lucky to have her.
By the way, this is not at all what I was planning to write. I just wanted to say that kindness should be normal, but, as I continued writing, I realized that I’m lauding these kind peeps because it is so not what we find every day. And that’s so sad to me.
One more tidbit about kindness, in general. One of my favorite aspects of the Academy Awards, since I was a little kid, has always been seeing who gets the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. That continued kindness effort is so much more important than an acting award, don’t you agree? It didn’t dawn on me until a few years ago that this award is so special, it’s not given-out every year; just when there’s someone in Hollywood who merits it. And the very sad news is that in the ninety years of the Oscars, it’s been awarded only thirty-eight times! And only nine times in the past twenty-eight years!!! I’m sort-of ashamed to be even a minuscule part of the industry with stats like that.
When I tell people of my admiration for Angelina Jolie, and they think I’m nuts, because she’s been a tad nutty herself in the past, I explain that it’s her kindness and humanity I’m talking about. What a shame that people don’t realize that to begin with. But at least Hollywood has recognized her many kindnesses because she received a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2014.
So, if you’re one of the kind few in this world, I hope so much that you will stay that way, and not let the sad state of the world jade you. Someone asked me recently why I wasn’t cutting-out one of my pals who never gives back to me in any way. And my true answer is that I never want anyone else’s bad behavior to make me change my good behavior.
And it’s never too late, for any of us, (because I should do better in that department, as well.) Kindness should be normal, (which is my whole point to this essay to begin with, before I took all these detours,) but when it’s not, I hope that all of us can dig deep and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. And be happy to be doing so!
[Note: So, now that you’ve read all this, if you haven’t yet seen my companion video, this would be a good time: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mon4s6dE7TU.]