All Kinds of Kind

Lori Hoffman's watercolor portrait

In years past, my New Year’s resolutions have included: stopping biting my nails (I finally kicked the habit once and for all when I saw Ruby chewing her nails and decided I had to set a good example), losing weight (not an option right now as I’m nursing the baby, and I really can’t restrict calories) and keeping my car cleaner (at 32, I finally have accepted that some things just aren’t in my nature).

I’ve been hearing about people doing 26 Acts of Kindness lately in honor of the 26 Sandy Hook Elementary victims, and I think it’s a great idea – although I have to wonder if maybe it should be 27 to include the shooter’s mother or even 28 to include the shooter himself – honestly, the more kindness, the better, right? Doing an act of kindness in the name of the shooter seems more like praying for him and his family – which I totally understand and support – rather than marking his loss at memorials for the victims – which seems off to me. I don’t think he should get a memorial candle next to the victims’ or anything like that, but I do feel like he was a victim in his own way, a victim of severe, unchecked mental illness. In any case, I like the idea of doing random acts of kindness, however many one chooses to do, and this just might be my New Year’s resolution: to be just generally kinder to everyone, from the guy at the McDonald’s drive-thru to my coworkers to my daughters.

However, way before the Sandy Hook Acts of Kindness came into being, there was a woman – actually in a city called Newtown, though this one is in Pennsylvania – who was performing random acts of kindness just because she wanted to. Lori Hoffman is an artist who does fairy tale-inspired artwork of kids who are going through a tough time.

She read about Mia, a friend of Ruby’s who was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2010 and is now, so so so happily, in remission, on the Web site for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (they did – and do – amazing work) and was inspired to create a gorgeous watercolor of Mia as the princess from "The Frog Princess."

I got an email from Lori a few weeks ago, a complete cold call; she had seen my blogs about Mia and was hoping I could connect them so that she could send the picture to Mia. I was honored to serve as the go-between and truly impressed by both her work and her generosity. I think what I like best about the painting is that it’s not overwrought or even the slightest bit sad. There is nothing in the painting that even hints at cancer. It just shows beautiful Mia with fairy princess wings and a big smile.

At the time I got Lori’s email, just days before the Sandy Hook tragedy, I was inspired and delighted to be reminded of how much good there is in the world amidst the jerks – but I was thinking of jerks in crowded Christmas parking lots, not mentally ill young men with guns in first grade classrooms. Now, though, I am even more inspired by Lori’s work, by her just plain everyday kindness, not tied to any certain number or to somehow atone for someone else’s atrocity, just offering up her talents to brighten the days of someone who needs it.

I would like that to be my New Year’s resolution, as I said. And I must not be the only one who is aiming for the goal of greater general kindness. As I was writing this, I took a break to run to the store. When I got back, my upstairs neighbor had left a bouquet of tulips, my very favorite flower, on my doorstep because she knew I was having a stressful week. It was the nicest surprise and just what I needed.

I can’t create art like Lori Hoffman, but I can buy flowers with the best of ‘em, and I know from being on the receiving end that even smaller gestures can make a big difference.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 21013 is kind to you all.

Categories: Joie d’Eve