Kindness is a Muscle

I am in Charlottetown-area for a five night camping expedition with the fam-jam. One of the highlights of camping here in Cornwall is the bakery just around the corner from the campground. I’m serious. You have never tasted anything until you’ve had their bread. Or their cinnamon rolls. Or their scones.

Don’t get me started.

So the other day, I went into the bakery to pick up a coconut cream pie for dessert when I remembered that my daughter had specifically requested raspberry scones. These scones that she asked for are to die for- my children would fight to the death for the last one. Actually, they would fight to the death anyway, but a scone never hurt as incentive.

Anyways.

I asked about the scones, and they were all out but suggested I place an order for the next day. I never place an order for much these days because I am so unpredictable with my commitments. Especially when camping. But the cashier was so sweet and my daughter’s crestfallen face imprinted in my memory made me do the unthinkable. Place an order and commit to a time frame wherein to pick them up.

The next day, and hour and a half late for the designated pickup, I roll into the bakery. I had almost decided I was going to forgo, because who knew if they were even there anymore, right? I walk up to the counter and request the scones I had placed an order for, and the cashier goes over to a shelf and brings back to me a bag with the most beautiful, plump, delicious-looking scones I have ever laid eyes on. The raspberries were practically falling out of them. I had near heart-failure wondering how they would ever survive the two-minute drive home without being devoured, bringing new meaning to the words child-abuse (a very specific form of such which involves one’s children discovering their mother has eaten all their highly preferred treats and as a result of which, emotionally fall apart on the spot).

I made a remark to the cashier that these scones looked really good, and she replied back, “The baker knew you had placed an order for these and she wanted to make them look really pretty for you.”

Say what?

I was stunned. I have never seen the baker. I just eat her stuff. I have never thought to thank her, never thought to ask of her and her well-being. And yet. She thought of me- the faceless, nameless customer and tried to make these scones pretty and tasteful for me and my family.

Absolute, pure kindness.

I never cease to be blown away by the impact of kindness. While complicated at times, yet ancient in scope and influence- it’s everywhere. Kindness is what makes the world go round. And without it, we are left feeling lost and aimless.

This morning, I am again driving- this time with my mom- when she relays to me a story. A story that she has no idea will completely sync with my line of thinking about kindness as soon as she tells it. For all I can think of lately is kindness. It consumes me. How to show kindness, who is showing kindness, whether or not I am showing kindness, how kindness impacts the lives of others.

I can’t get it out of my head.

So as I drive she tells me a story about being at the drug store in the line up and while there, she is using a points card to obtain incentives to shop at this particular store again in the near future. She then tells me that after having finished her purchase, the woman behind her in line, who has a sizeable pile of items to put through, tells my Mom that she can use her points card to include the purchases she is about to make, as she has no points card of her own. My mom then strikes up a conversation with this woman, all around that fact that this woman has no point card of her own and thus this is why she is offering my mother the opportunity to obtain more points at her expense.

My mom remarks, “That is so kind of you!” to which the woman replies, “No, I am not a kind person ordinarily.”

Mom is a little dumbfounded at this revelation. Who tells a complete stranger in a store line-up that they are not a kind person under ordinary circumstances? My mom says to the woman, “Well you were kind today” so as to affirm to the woman that she does indeed see the good in her as an individual, but the woman asserts again the fact of her nature to not be kind. Twice she makes this statement. My mom in the telling adds the detail that, by now, the cashier’s eyes are like tea-cup saucers. She can hardly believe the conversation going down.

As Mom and I talk, I start to remember an article I just read the day before about kindness in marriage. And how kindness is like a muscle we exercise- the more we exercise it, the stronger that muscle becomes. And it confirms in my mind that kindness is indeed the very balm that soothed a thousand wounds. Because who knows what this woman will do now. Now that she has made the choice to act in kindness to a total stranger. Maybe it will be the catalyst for a lifetime of kindness. Maybe it will not. But this I now for sure- even those who say they are incapable of kindness do not give themselves enough credit. We are all capable. It’s just a matter of using that muscle more often and exercising it more deeply.

It’s a matter of working it. And choosing to do so often.
For we all have the potential for kindness. Even the ones who think they don’t. Even the ones whose muscle for kindness is a little neglected and shriveled up. Even for them. They have the goods- they just have to use them.

So don’t we all.

Summertime Camping: Sure Does Beat Having a Root Canal

I am clearly in no shape to write glowingly or positively about camping having come through a partial emergency root canal the afternoon we checked out from our campsite. The pain meds are certainly doing most of the talking, people. But let me say, toothache aside: I swear. Everything you will read below is a true testament to the highs and lows of camping. And I should know, having not only survived a four-day toothache all whilst suffering through the rainy season that is our July camping weather here on P.E.I..

Camping. Oh the joy. Oh the bliss. Oh the pain and agony.

And oh, the memories we have stored away inside. Painful, searing memories that haunt us by night and jeer at us by day. Pushing me ever closer to happy pill prescriptions and mental health counselling each and every summer. Good times, I say.

Good times.

And I especially love camping in the rain. LOVE IT. I love when it downpours and the mud is running off in every direction. When the kids go for a bike ride and come back looking like a chocolate-chip cookie. That’s putting it nicely. Gotta love the rainy camping days. Forcing otherwise respectable families to gather inside damp, grass-covered tents and humid, steamy campers so as to do what families in these circumstances do best.

Fight with one another.

But the best part- my favorite thing of all. Hands down. It has got to be when a certain Someone got the bright idea, before the evening Rook game ever began and while the fighting was just starting to gain momentum and reach a feverish pitch. That certain Someone thought it would actually be FUN to play the “Let’s Say Something Nice About Everyone Game” otherwise known as “What Absolute Foolishness Was I Thinking?”

And that was how the first evening ended. With Someone crying, Someone instigating the crying and still another Someone considering pulling their own eyebrow hair out (but whom instead opted to crawl to the back corner of the camper so as to pretend they were on a real vacation.) Because no one. AND I MEAN NO ONE. Can think of anything nice to say when they are stuck inside a smelly, wet, steamed-up camper during a downpour. Not even a saint like Mother Theresa. No one. Because camping is a private form of torture and punishment saved for people like us who think they are on holidays, but whom are really just living the same life they always lived, only now it’s inside a tiny, stinky square box. So much better, really. Same people, different location. Smaller venue.

That’s what camping is. A good time, had by all. Really. GOOD TIMES.

But it is not all fun and games. Camping is hard work. Ask the man who forgot to bring the rubber gloves to hook up the septic system how much fun he’s having now. And then ask his wife who also forgot (even after he called to remind her), but whom- when she still forgot, supplied him with two plastic grocery bags, thus saving the day. And as if that wasn’t heroic enough. She then stuffed those two grocery bags inside her hubby’s coat so as to create the hand-less look (so popular in the more retro campgrounds). And she did so to prove a point. Just in case the neighboring campers hadn’t already thought the two of them were bonkers already.

And the saving grace, truly- the thing that makes camping all worthwhile… is that the all the various campers and tent trailers and tenters and the like are so densely packed in there together. They’re all just squished in together like a can of ripe sardines. You would think that One such as myself might not like that so much. But, NO. It is sheer entertainment, for lack of a television station for those who also forgot the satellite dish. Entertainment, I say. Just to hear the neighbors growling at their own offspring, makes me feel good. So much more patient, so much more kindly to the kiddos. Like so much a better camper than they. And if one times it just right, it is possible to watch the whole delightful episode unfolding as one squints through the mini-blinds above the couch in their own living space. Just like watching a good sit-com at home. Nothing better, really.

You gotta love camping. And to say the very least: it sure does beat having a root canal.

The Joy of camping…

Husband and I finally went on a date this evening, we even had our children’s blessings.  The tyrants, I mean children are not usually so generous.  I recall tears and sobbing the last time we tried to go out, and it was so frustrating we stayed in and I cleaned the bathroom instead.  Not.happening.tonight.   I know, I know- the children are not suppose to be the boss.  And they aren’t.   Really.  It’s just that these bosses get tired of leading the masses and troubleshooting for the  (free) labour, and I for one sometimes feel a little too much like I am Michael Scott and living an episode of The Office.

Anyhoo, Son came up to me before I had finished mopping the bathroom floor and as I was still frantically trying to make the girl’s beds at 7:00 p.m. before we left (yes I am crazy; I stripped the sheets on two beds this morning because both of my older girls insist on going to bed and sleeping in between the cover sheet and the quilt.  The dirt has nowhere to settle, and it just rolls around on top).  He said to me, “What are you doing on your date?”  Quite honestly, I hadn’t thought that far.  All I knew was that I had not been out of the house past 8:00 p.m. in a very long time, and I needed to see what the sky looks like after dark.  After I admitted I did not have a plan, he recommended that his father and I might like to go watch a romantic movie at the theatre.  His suggestion.  Not sure what that would look like to an eleven-year old boy, but I like the fact that he thought of it first.  I will try not to believe it was for the selfish reason that a pretty babysitter would be in the house.

Our date: looking for a camper for our month-long reservation at KOA Cornwall.  Just the thought of a month away is enough to propel me toward a stroke or in like manner, congestive heart failure.  I can hardly wait.  We can finally say goodbye to the pop-up trailer and live the life of luxury afforded by a R.V.  Ah, one can only imagine coasting into the campground, squeezing one’s camper into the 12’ by 12” postage stamp-sized lot and then letting it all hang out for the neighboring campers to see.  And I do mean let it all hang out.  We have camped enough to know that camping families are a breed of their own.  One of the most memorable neighbours we had was a friendly marijuana grower from down along, and let’s just say that this mother wished she had bought hospital approved face masks for all her children to use during this particular camping experience as the man might as well have been sleeping inside our tent trailer for all the privacy our walls were able to muster.

Another particularly memorable camp-out was one of the first we took as a family of six.  All I remember was the baby crying all night and the rain that came down in sheets the following morning.  I don’t know why that night didn’t do me in forever.  It was a horrible experience.  And as it was too wet to continue on with four children in a soaking wet tent, we packed everything up drenched the next morning and made like a Ben’s Bakery truck and got our buns out of there as fast as was humanly possible.  I’m sure my mother has still not gotten over sight of the six of us arriving in the rain with our water-logged gear that specific morning.

So it is with a tinge of sadness and a pound of mad love that I bid adieu to our little Love Bug, a.k.a. our tent trailer.  I hope she will once again see green pastures, or at least get to live out her days on a crowded field with children’s muddy feet tramping grass throughout her unstable floors once again.  She served us well.  She certainly lived up to our very low expectations and then some.

So I say, long live the tent trailer!  And let me hear a whoop, whoop for the R.V.