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Bad Teachers, Rednecks, & Lessons in Kindness

I feel a little bad for two reasons. One, I haven’t made a post in almost a month. Two, my last post was a tad negative. Don’t get me wrong, I think I made a good point with it but I think it’s important to reitterate that not everyone sucks and is mean or judgmental. So I’m taking the exact opposite approach of my last post.

Over the past few months, there have been some things that have been said/done that stuck out to me, really made me rethink how thoughtful people are and how we don’t tend to notice how thoughtful people are. Most of the time, these things are considered side action. What’s even crazier is that with every act of kindness, comes some kind of lesson. If only we’re open enough to see it.

So I’m going to lay out a few brief descriptions of involuntary, but very small and ordinary, acts-of-kindness-turned-lessons to restore some faith in humanity…

1) I was flipping through a copy of a local Texarkana magazine in the passengers seat of my brother’s car. I was specifically looking at all the wedding and engagement pieces. 

“Ooh I love that dress…man, he needs to rethink those shoes…Matt, her flowers!” And Matthew was generally ignoring everything I said while navigating Richmond Road at lunch time. Up until he heard, “Ew. Hate her.”

“Who?” He glanced over. “Oh…yeah.” I paused on the page of a former teacher of Matt’s. I had never had her and she had never done anything to me but she had been pretty nasty to Matt in high school. To say we had had some difficulties with her would be an understatement. I quizzed him on her for a second asking if he knew the guy, how long  they’d been together, was she married before, etc. I finally moved on and, flipping to the next page, made one more final rude comment about her.

“I hope she’s happy,” Matt replied offhandedly as he checked the lane next to us. “You what?! I thought you hated her!” “Well, yeah. I hate her but I still hope she’s happy.”

And this is the part where I felt infintely bad about myself because my little brother embodied Agape Love while turning into a Wendy’s drive-thru. 

2) The four of us girls were well into tipsy as we continued our bachelorette party shenanigans at the Honky Tonk bar in Nashville. We were only there for about twenty minutes before running into an equally small bachelor party. They were all in boots, jeans, ball caps, and rocking Duck Dynasty-esque beards. I’m pretty sure they were the most gentlemanly, respectful, drunk rednecks I have ever met in my life. They pulled chairs out for us, they offered to buy us a couple drinks, we all shared some dances. And every single one of us there, bachelors and bachelorettes, were engaged, married or at least in relationships. These guys didn’t want to hook up and they weren’t trying to take us home, they were simply having a good time and wanted us to have a good time with them.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I caught our bride-to-be and their groom-to-be sitting at a table together, hunched over drinks, having what seemed to be a very exciting conversation. As I walked by, I caught a few sentences…

“Okay, so I’ve gotta question…are you not SO excited to get married?!” “Oh my gosh, yes! Bret is literally the coolest person I know.” “Right?! My fiance is the hottest and the funniest. I am one lucky dude.” “I know what you mean. Mine is so awesome.”

This conversation continued for a good half hour.

And this is the part where I realized that good couples, the ones that are really going to last, aren’t the couples that spend every waking second together or the couples that know where and when and what the other is doing at all times. Good couples are the couples that are confident in their relationships when they’re together and when they’re not together.

3) We stood in the basketball-court-made-dining-room after the post-mass Chili potluck that had just finished. The man in front of us was grilling me on what I did in school, what I want to do for a career, and whether or not I was worthy to date the Sonnier boy he’d watched grow up in church.

All of a sudden, this ten gallon hat clad Arkansan traditionalist shifted his eyes back and forth from me to Will before saying, “Son, you know she’s taller than you, right?” 

An awkwardly embarassed laugh leaked out as I ducked my head down and instinctively shifted my feet and dropped my shoulders even lower, trying my hardest to appear a fraction of an inch shorter. There was a half a second of pause before I felt a hand on my lower back pull me right up next to him and Will say, with a smile in his voice, “Yeah, and she looks really good in heels.” 

And this is the part where I realized that my insecurities aren’t insecurities to the people that love me. 

4) Matthew has these two friends. Rephrase: Matthew has these two BEST friends that have probably spent more time in our house in the past few years than they have in their own homes. Slowly but surely, we all got close to them and I joke about how they’re my extra brothers. In ways though, up until recently, they’ve still always been ‘Matt’s little friends’.

One night I was pulling into a house party in town when I found out one of these boys was going to be there. Through strange events, he ended up standing next to my car with me around 11 p.m. helping me handle something that I had not told a single soul about.

A few weeks later, I was barely navigating I30 while sobbing my eyes out because of this thing that I still had barely told anyone, so I picked up my phone and dialed his number. This eighteen year old kid sat on the phone with me while I cried (a little bit hysterically to be honest) and reassured me and comforted me and told me he loved me.

And this is the part where I truly realized, and really understood for the first time, that your family doesn’t have to be the people you share blood with and they don’t have to be anyone you ever expected to become your family. 

People are amazing. We forget all the time that people are amazing. We don’t expect those amazing people to be your ridiculously aggravating and immature sibling. Or drunk guys at a bar. Or an uncomfortable, new significant other. Or that kid that plays video games in your basement. But people notice things that we don’t think they notice and, when we’re least expecting it, they throw kindness at us that knocks us off our feet and confidently stands us upright all at the same time.

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