21/300: When Kindness Takes You By Surprise

I never really see it coming and I’m a person who always looks ahead on the road. I anticipate. I predict. I’m always thinking if this, then that. Trouble, I can usually see that coming a mile off. I don’t always avoid it, but I usually get a sense that something bad is about to go down.

So why is it that I am almost always blindsided by kindness? Maybe I’m a pessimist, maybe I just have a hard time expecting the best from others. Either way, I’m often overwhelmed by kindness.

I won’t embarrass them here by using their names, but suffice it to say they are friends who caught me by surprise this weekend. We saw each other at a basketball game and they had something for me. It was a check to help with theĀ self-publishing project that I wrote about here. The note said it was ‘a little faith and a little support.’

But it was much more than that.

It was an unforeseen act of kindness that left me without words. I thanked them profusely. They thanked me back for the opportunity to help me pursue my dreams.

How can you ever see that coming?

My wife’s family experienced a loss this weekend. People she is close to, people who I love, are hurting. She left town a couple of days ago to be with her cousins, their kids, her parents, aunts and uncles. She wanted to be there. She needed to be there. That this happened the same day as my friends’ act of extraordinary support and kindness is not without meaning to me.

I’ve spent the last three weeks working against a plan. I’ve kept my sights squarely on the forward. Tunnel vision. I don’t mean that I’ve become so focused to forget about other things in life, just that having something to focus on has calmed my usually restless mind, kept me from wandering back and forth among the possibilities. Having a plan is important. Having something to focus on will keep you moving forward. But just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you can’t be blindsided. I was blindsided twice within 24 hours. Once by loss, the other side by kindness.

You never really see either of them coming.

The former makes me want to appreciate every moment, to hold my family tight, to give them one extra hug and kiss before I leave for work. The latter reminds me to leave myself open to kindness, to allow for the possibility of extraordinary good in others while seeking opportunities to create extraordinary good for others.

I was caught by surprise twice this weekend and it didn’t throw me off track. I managed to stick to the plan – even while juggling the kids’s crazy schedule (again with the help of friends) – but the kindness I received reminded me to not be so dogmatic, to follow my plan, but take time to let others in.

I’m thankful for both experiences. I’m thankful for the kindness of my friends. I’m thankful to be able to give my wife the opportunity to be there for her family. Both remind me that your best laid plans are just that – plans – and you have to able to adapt. I’m reminded that people who love you will surprise you when you least see it coming and that the only way to feel love is to not have a plan, to just let it happen. Mostly, I’m reminded that you can’t control everything, the good or the bad. The best thing you can do is try to find a way to focus and allow yourself to be surprised every once in a while.

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