Nearly 30 years ago, in the midst of an obligatory childbirth preparation course, I had a thug-inspired moment of parental clarity.
We mingled awkwardly, due to our increasing girth and decreasing patience, a bunch of strangers sitting pretzel-legged on the floor.
Our perky instructor asked us, one by one, to say what we wanted for our child.
“To be a football player,” said one.
“To dance,” said another.
“To be kind,” I said.
“To be kind?” said the unpleasant man and hopeful football father to my right. “What a wimpy thing to want for your child!”
Shocked into silence, I only stared.
In the car, on the way to our customary post-childbirth-class stop at Dairy Queen, I raged.
“Kindness is NOT wimpy!” I said.
“I can’t believe my child has to grow up in a world where THAT MAN is a father!”
And then I became decidedly unkind.
“And if that scrawny man thinks his kid is going to grow up to be a football player, he’s delusional!”
Here’s the thing, though. In some ways, that scrawny man was right. Kindness, without courage, is weak.
It’s not enough to care. It’s not even enough to notice. You have to take a stand. Effective kindness requires strength.
I am proud to live in a community, a school district, a parish and a family that elicits from its members the courage to be kind.
I am grateful to every teacher, director, coach, pastor, mentor and friend who instilled confidence in my children, and kindness in their souls.
I recently bought a piece of artwork for my mantel that makes me smile each time I pass it.
“Kindness matters,” it reads.
Today, as I look at my grown children, just like 27 years ago when I sat with my bulging belly on that uncomfortable living room floor, it does.
Kindness matters, maybe even a little more than football.