Surprised by Kindness

Hey everybody! I’m participating in the One Word At A Time blog carnival over at The deal is, they choose one word– this week’s word is ‘kindness’– and then participating bloggers write a post on the subject. There are some really good ones over there, I encourage you all to check them out! So here’s mine:

‘Kindness’ ought to be an easy one, right? I mean after all, I was raised in the South and kindness (at least on a surface level) is part of the atmosphere. Like the humidity. We are a civil bunch down here, and if your car breaks down on the side of the road or you’re a pregnant woman loading groceries, you can always depend on the kindness of strangers. But frankly, waxing rhapsodic about the land of my birth didn’t feel very personal to me. I couldn’t really emotionally sink my teeth into it.

So I started thinking about people, specific people and specific acts of kindness. That took me all over the place! I have a tendency to think in pictures (Yes LindaB, just like Temple Grandin, only without the math) so there were some scenes that immediately came to mind…

I remembered Madi’s birth. My water broke exactly 15 minutes after Russ left town for a weekend concert. He was supposed to be back in 24 hours. It was my first baby, and it was two and a half weeks before my due date. I was alone and scared and couldn’t reach him for the next 8 hours, despite having the state police in three states trying to locate the bus (pre-cell phone era.) My brother Matt and his wife Carol came over and stayed up with me all night, because I refused to go to the hospital until I knew Russ was coming home and also my labor hadn’t really gotten started yet. Long story short– we finally found Russ, he immediately got on a plane home, we went to the hospital together, my labor dragged on for about a year and a half (long enough for my entire family to drive here from Arkansas!) The hours passed in a haze of pain and joy, and there was never a time in my life that I felt more kindness extended towards me. A nurse sat at my bedside until my family arrived, urging me to rest and softly stroking my hair until I did. The anesthesiologist patiently tolerated the (in retrospect, RIDICULOUS) requirements and protestations of this frightened first-timer with a ‘birth plan’ and an attitude. My mother, my sisters and June (Russ’ mother of choice) arrived like the calvary and engulfed me with their tenderness and care. I gave birth holding Russ’ hand and surrounded by all the women I love. It was glorious.

But, actually that’s not really the ‘kindness’ story I want to tell.

I also had a flashback to a childhood memory as clear as a snapshot. My brother Jonathan is 6 years older than I am, which is more than enough distance to guarantee that for the first oh, 20 years or so of my life I was destined to be cast firmly in the role of pesky little sister. To be fair to him, he wasn’t ever really cruel or mean to me –well, there was that one time that he opened the secret trap door of his treehouse and KICKED me off of the knotted rope I had just spent 20 minutes climbing in my attempt to break into that dang treehouse…  But for the most part, he just ignored me. I was the youngest of the six kids and my sister Liz, who was three years older, barely put up with me and my tireless attempts to tag along with her. With Jonathan, I knew better than to even try. His life was full of all the things that consume an almost-teenage boy– baseball, friends, school. At six years old, I was virtually invisible to him. But one night, I had a bad dream. Liz, who shared a room with me, wasn’t there for some reason. I guess maybe she was at a sleep-over or something. I don’t remember what I dreamed, but I do remember that feeling of waking up in a panic, looking desperately around my dark bedroom and being too afraid to get out of my bed and go running to Mom and Dad’s room. I must have been crying, or whimpering or something because Jonny, whose bedroom was across from mine, stuck his head around the door to see what was wrong. I was embarrassed to reveal what a big baby I was, especially to him, but eventually I choked out that I had a bad dream and I was scared. He asked me if I wanted him to go get Mom. I lied and said no. He stood there a minute, sighed, and said, “Oh, all right. You can come in here with me.” I couldn’t believe my ears and I scrambled out of bed before he could change his mind. I padded in my bare feet behind him, right into the sacred inner sanctum of his bedroom that of course, I was usually forbidden to enter upon penalty of death. He climbed into his bed and said, “OK, you can lay here ON TOP OF THE COVERS for a few minutes. Just until you get sleepy. Then you are going back to your own room.” He turned his back to me as I eased onto his bed and lay there silent and still as a corpse, barely daring to breathe. After about ten minutes, I was still wide awake when Jonny turned over to check on me. Another deep sigh, then he said, “So what was the dream about, anyway?” I said I didn’t want to talk about it because I would get scared all over again. And then for some reason, my usually indifferent older brother did something amazing. He started talking to me, there in the dark of his room, telling me all about the planets and the stars and the constellations in the black velvet night sky that we could see out of the window next to his bed. I have no idea how he knew all of those things, maybe he learned them in science class or Boy Scouts or something. It was a monologue, not a conversation, but his voice was friendly and engaged, and he actually pointed things out to me in the sky, like Orion’s belt and the Big Dipper. My eyes started to grow heavy, but I willed myself to stay awake so I wouldn’t miss a minute of this once-in-a-lifetime experience– my big brother was talking to me, like a real person! Eventually sleep won, and my last memory of that magical night was the feeling of my head baaaarely resting on his shoulder and his voice softly explaining how ancient astronomers had believed that the heavens were a giant bowl that covered the earth. When I woke up the next morning, I was back in my own bed and Jonathan was back to barely acknowledging my existence. But I never forgot that night, and the unexpected miracle of my brother’s kindness towards his scared little sister.

But that’s not really the story I want to tell, either.

Can I be honest with you, at the risk of sounding self-serving or smarmy? Here is the God’s own truth– when I thought of the word kindness and all that it implies, the first thing that came to my mind was…. you guys! Seriously. This community, this little Babybloomr Nation that has sprung up will-nilly and completely unexpectedly as a result of my decision to start a blog has come to embody that word to me. It’s not just the kindness you have relentlessly shown to me with all of your loyalty and encouragement, although honestly that would be enough. (You’ve even sent me presents for crying out loud– I bet Dooce doesn’t get homemade jalapeno jelly, red velvet cakes, personalized tote bags, Christmas decorations, candy, photographs and Mardi Gras king cakes from her jillions of readers!) But even though your kindness towards me has been unprecedented and has created a bond (imaginary or not) that I feel with every one of you, it’s your kindness towards EACH OTHER that has been, well, life-changing for me. I can’t take credit for what has happened in the comment section of the ‘bloomr– that has been entirely your creation. Forgive me for the cliched, over-used term, but you guys have truly formed a kind of family there. You talk to each other, pray for each other, laugh with each other. You exchange recipes and advice. You are interested in hearing about everyone’s daily lives– their homes, children, professions, opinions and dreams. You are respectful and sympathetic. You reach out to newbies to welcome them into the fold, and you get as excited as I do when a longtime reader finally delurks. You honestly care about each other. You are kind.

I always joke about my desire for world bloggy domination. I’m forever trying new things, hellbent on making this site look like a Real Live Blog. I’ve been (way too) honest about my insecurities at all the conferences and bless your hearts, you’ve had to put up with my breathless reports about how much I’ve learned from them.  But you know what? If I never achieve impressive readership stats, and if the big advertisers never ply me with Disney trips and free appliances, and if the Big Name Bloggers never clamor for me to be their new best friend, the truth is this blog has already far exceeded my initial vision of what it could be. I had no way of knowing how important my relationship with my readers would become, or how much I would look forward to interacting with you and reading what you have to say. You enrich my life, and I want to continue to provide a platform for you to do that for each other.

Actually, I might need to bend the rules a bit and make a slight adjustment to the ‘One Word At A Time’ carnival theme. (I’ll make it sound all Biblical, so I’ll probably get away with it.) There’s a better word, a hyphenated word that describes what all of you display towards me on a daily basis– it’s not just kindness, it’s loving-kindness. And I thank you for it.

39 Responses

  1. Bridget

    I have been amazed at the kindness of my online community of friends! They are there when I need them… for prayer, laughs… whatever it may be.

    Thanks for posting, Tori.

  2. MostlySunny

    Well, DANG!!! That’s about the nicest — kindest — thing anyone has every said to me (I’m taking this personally!).

    Loving-kindness – Hebrew “Chesed”. Other English versions render it as “steadfast love” (NRSV), “lovingkindness” (NAS), “loyalty” or “constant love” (REB), “love” or “unfailing love” (NIV), “faithfulness” (TEV). A love that continues inspite of circumstances.

    We’re here for you and each other. Thanks for taking time to connect with us and making us laugh, cry, think and crack each other up! It’s a good thing!

  3. Helenatrandom

    I have been having a rough time lately.
    My twitter and blogging friends have really helped carry me through.



  5. Jessica Benzakein

    It’s a new age for sure when virtual friends can be as close and sometimes closer than those we can see and touch daily (ok, well, I do try to keep the touching down to a minimum but I tend to talk with my hands).

  6. Silver Hair Fans

    What Beautiful Thoughts Tori. I’m fairly new here but right away I felt the love, care, and concern your members have for each other…and the love and trust you have in us to share your deepest thoughts.

    Love coming here!! :-)

  7. teegeesykes

    Tori, I haven’t read the last paragraph yet because I’m still CRYING from the story about you and your brother. That was so moving. K-bye now, gotta go find the Kleenex…



  8. delightedabroad

    If you’re right, Tori, that this blog community is acting like a well-functioning family (and I agree with you in that respect) then you have to know that there is a precondition: YOU are the one providing the opportunity to do so !

  9. ginnh

    OK delurking here. This topic is exactly why I love your blog. What a wonderful word – loving-kindness. I’m right there with you teegeesykes loking for the Kleenex.

  10. ginnh

    Oops – that’s looking for the Kleenex. First comment and I already messed it up.

  11. rachelbaker

    Yay! A delurker – welcome ginnh – you’ll never look back now!

    Tori, the stories of the kindness of your real-life family are very moving. Thanks for providing us with this cyber family where everyone is so encouraging and accepting. May the loving-kindness continue!

  12. KellyBurton

    Oh yes… our little internet homes can be the most amazing circles of kindness. My LiveJournal pals shared my road through infertility, and were the first to know about my pregnancy suspicions, my test, and among the first to know of our miracle :)

    Speaking of which, I’m going to need to hear more of this birth story.

    Thankful for you, who is deserving of kindness.

  13. bettyrwoodward

    I certainly felt at home here right from the start but I’m sure it is Tori who sets the scene. Her loving-kindness extends to us all and spreads. Thank you Tori.

  14. jonny

    “ginnh,” how does one pronounce that?? Is the ‘h’ silent?? Are both ‘n’s said as one long extended ‘n’, similar to what th Finns do with their double ‘r’s?? That’s a tricky one = /

    OK, back to passing the tissue papers around and sharing childbirth stories…

  15. Stribet Kat

    Wow. Realizing that more than a ‘community’ gathers here but family.

    aka Stribet Kat

  16. jonny

    Oh, and to help ginnh feel right at home, I purposely left an ‘e’ out of one of the ‘the’s in my previous Say it!. = ) OK, LB, you can stop rolling your eyes now!

  17. belinda

    This is one of my favorite places to come. I love reading all the stories and we are a family here. Tori, thanks for having all of us and letting us be a part of your life. You, Russ, Madi & Charlotte hold very special places in our hearts. Love the stories, and yes pass me one of those kleenexes please.

    Thanks Tori, for the kindness you have given back to all of us! It always seems like you know exactly what we need and when we need it. Just the right story, just the right picture.

    I can honestly say that mine and Troy’s lives have been blessed by kindness and love from the Taff’s and we are so very thankful for it.

  18. tori

    OK, we are having such a sweet love-fest all up in here that we are in imminent danger of coming down with adult-onset diabetes! Which is just the way I like it.

    **Bridget: Thank you for the writing prompt and for stopping by! Come back anytime!

    **MostlySunny: Wow– I LOVED reading those different translations.

    **Helenatrandom: I am sorry you are going through a rough time, but I am really glad you are hanging out with us.

    **DELIVERED: *passes you a kleenex, pats your back*

    **Jessica: Ha! Talk with your hands all you want around here! (And I love your blog.)

    **Silver Hair Fans: So glad you started hanging around with us…

    **teegeesykes: I really ought to email Jonny and have him read this. He actually talks to me now!

    **delightedabroad: Well I don’t know how functional we are– but we are FUN!

    **ginnh: YAY! YOU DELURKED!! And trust me, we mess up comments all over the place around here! Well, OK, I do.

    **rachelbaker: I cannot imagine the ‘bloomr without you and your mum.

    **jonny: If you ever try to leave this community, we will hunt you down and force you back! And you know us well enough by now to BELIEVE THAT!

    **KellyBurton: My sweet new friend… (Let’s do some damage this weekend!)

    **bettyrwoodward: You add so much to all of us. And you write with such a lovely accent!

    **Stribet Kat: And you are a very welcome addition to this family.

    **belinda: You and Troy are so dear to Russ and I.

  19. LindaB

    This IS a family, but more than that, it’s a NICE family! I’ve been on other “community” sites and I’m tellin’ ya, it seems there was always some argument or outright brawling going on all the time! This place is like an oasis. It’s refreshing! I battle mental illness in two immediate family members 24/7. And there are some serious stuff going on here. And when it starts getting to me, I know I can come here and enjoy myself and relax for a few minutes! Maybe make a couple people laugh a little, if I’m lucky. Get some good advice from some wise people………and some “wise guys” too! It’s all good. I love it here.

    And the reason, I believe, for all this good family “Ma and Pa Ingalls” atmosphere is because of you, Tori! You are an outrageously kind person. There’s not a pretentious bone in your body. Anyone who would tell folks on her blog about her poop-eating dog is not a person who puts on airs! You are sympathetic, compassionate, honest, sincere, and a lot of other nice things! And you are very very funny, but you know when to be funny and when not to be. You have a good “mix”.

    And some credit also goes to this particular group of people. It’s like someone purposely brought together a bunch of people who know how to discuss things politely and respectfully. I think that’s kind of rare, isn’t it? You even broached the subject of politics, a deal breaker just about anywhere, and it was discussed fairly and gently. And no one got hurt! Just try that one anywhere else!

    I didn’t know anything about blogs when I joined up——-still don’t know much except for what you’ve told us, but I’m glad a found this place. It has brought me much joy. Thank you, Tori Taff!

  20. tori

    Aw, crap– so now I need a kleenex too!

    (I love you, LindaB.)

  21. LindaB

    Here’s one! I only used it a little bit. ;)

  22. LindaB

    And I love you too!

    Have you ever sit in church when you were a kid and your nose started running and you didn’t have anything to catch it with, and without saying a word, your mother passed you a wadded up used Kleenex from her coat pocket with some lipstick on it where she had blotted her lips? And it kind of grossed you out, but you had no other choice but to uncrumple it and use it? I don’t know why that came to mind, but it did.

  23. jonny

    “but you know when to be funny and when not to be. You have a good “mix”.”

    OK, was that indirectly directed at me! Basically you hightlight the fact that Tori’s got a handle on it, at the same time sending a little message of love letting me know I’m not quite up to speed on that one yet!?! You know full well I have a hard time reading between the lines, that neuro-not normal, or was it typical??, thing I got going on, so you gotta give it to me straight, girl!!

  24. jonny

    Oh I’ve easily used a whole roll of toilet paper by now, but it has more to do with a killer head cold I’ve had for some time = /

    “Have you ever sit in church when you were a kid and your nose started running and you didn’t have anything to catch it with, and without saying a word, your mother passed you a wadded up used Kleenex from her coat pocket with some lipstick on it where she had blotted her lips?”

    uh… no. BUT, said piece of paper would come out to wipe something off the corners of my mouth, or face with, AFTER she first put a little bit of her spit on it! Talk about gross!! It was better at restaurants, though. Clean napkin, water from one of the cups, glasses = )

  25. LindaB

    Jonny, I assure you I was not sending any message to you at all—-except that you are a valued member of this community and I enjoy whatever you write, be it funny or not! Honest! That’s as straight as I can say it!

  26. swerchon

    Tori your blog is always fun and uplifting. You have welcomed all of us with open arms and your Southern hospitality drips out of every word you post (mostly – tee hee). Y’all have welcomed this Canadian girl, and “dang” y’all wooped our Canadian butts in Hockey (at the Olympics) – arrggggg

    GHINN – I was a “lurker” for a while as well, I was too shy to join in, but I’m glad I de-lurked and glad you did as well.

    LINDA B – I still look forward to meeting you at my next trip to Frankenmuth in the future.

    JONNY – love your posts

    Tori loved your story about Madi and your brother – you are truly blessed !!! I come from a family of 3 sisters (me included) and I am youngest (and don’t think I remind them constantly about it – tee hee)

    KINDNESS and LOVING-KINDNESS abounds here in BLOOMR-LAND — now where is my box of Kleenex

  27. LindaB

    Oh yeah! I forgot about the “spit shine” our faces would get sometimes. LOL

  28. LindaB

    Swerchon, just call me! I’d love to meet you!

  29. delightedabroad

    It’s so easy to find you – just follow the Kleenex path :-)
    These are occasions where I wish I had more of the writing talent others in this blog show…but as long as you understand what I mean it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, in Germany we have a saying which fits perfectly in here: Wie man in den Wald hinein ruft, so schallt es heraus – meaning: it depends on your own way of expressing/ communicating how your counterpart will react. Or in other words: you reap what you’ve sown. So, Tori, you need not be surprised by your great bloggers, you see ? It’s a reflection of yourself !

  30. jonny

    I always thought it was a reflection of Christ in her…

  31. jonny

    Or a reflection of Christ working His mojo in her…

  32. delightedabroad

    I thought this too obvious to even mention it… :-/

  33. delightedabroad

    “this is too obvious”

  34. jonny

    Clearly. My bad.

  35. ginnh

    Thanks so much everyone for the welcome. Jonny – ginnh is Grammy in New Hampshire. Real name is Bobbi Jo – nice southern name for a girl born in Iowa. Been struggling with religion my entire life – not the concept or the belief in Christ but with formal organized rules and regulations that come with most churches. I love gospel music and the Gaithers and YouTube led me to the individual artist’s sites which led me here. Tori, your writing draws me into your family.

    Like Linda B said, “This IS a family, but more than that, it’s a NICE family! I’ve been on other “community” sites and I’m tellin’ ya, it seems there was always some argument or outright brawling going on all the time! This place is like an oasis. It’s refreshing!”

  36. auburn60

    Well,dang,35 comments and I haven’t even spoken up yet…

    And ya’ll have covered all the good topics like snotty noses and spit-shined faces!

    OK-I can only reflect on the last few years of this blog. I commented and expressed my myriad opinions pretty regularly, then hunted Tori up at FF a few years ago. I looked everywhere, asked Russ if he was hiding her out somewhere, stalked the corridors–no dice. Finally, when we met face-to-face and I said,’I’m Alyson…auburn60′, she grabbed me,we hugged and squealed–LIKE I REALLY MATTERED!

    Tori, you are definitely the difference: in this blog and in blazing a path for those of us who participate and those who sit quietly by and admire. You are my FRIEND and SISTER.

  37. jonny

    Man, if Tori and I ever meet face to face, there’s no way I’m caughing up my name!! I think it’s best I just let her know about it here afterwards = /

    And thanks for the explain on the name, Bobbi Jo!! Good to have you with us!! = )

  38. tori

    auburn60– And YOU, my friend, are one of the most squeal-worthy people I know.

  39. VA-Cathy

    I am also the younger sister of 2 brothers and 1 sister. I had to cry when I read about you and your brother. Now I have a son and daughter 41/2 years apart. I wonder if she will have any memories like ours??

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