I’ll be the first to admit that I am not as friendly as my husband. I am barely a church hugger; always the receiver and not the giver. I don’t like wearing someone else’s makeup, cologne or perfume. My reserved personality could be in part because of where I am from (up North) or where I was raised (a Southern city where the confederate flag still has its place of honor on the State House grounds).
Regardless of what that flag represents to some, let me just say, I have experienced my fair share of prejudice and racism.
Now a 14 year veteran (active duty military spouse), I have lived other places and I have grown tremendously.
When we first moved into the neighborhood we live in now, the neighbors were so friendly. We learned that quite a few active duty and mostly retired Marines lived in the neighborhood. Aside from living on base, this was the friendliest community I had ever experienced.
People would drive by and beep the horn, slow down and talk, or wave their arms off. I used to look around to see if there was someone behind me that they knew. I would try to avoid checking the mail or rolling the trash to curb if a car was coming. On my morning walks, everyone that passed by in a car waved like they knew me. What was wrong with these people?
Within a few days of being in the house, someone brought us a dessert and another brought us a plant. I was already used to the hospitality and fooled when I answered the door to someone holding a bottle of Spic & Span welcoming me to the neighborhood. It was the Kirby vacuum people; which turned into a two hour demonstration. I wasn’t so soft yet; I gave them a stern and firm "no thank you" AFTER they cleaned my carpet.
Years later, I have turned into the cupcake/brownie/cookie/cake lady. Whenever I make desserts and especially around the holidays, there are a few neighbors that put in their order. I give them all away – with cheer. My dessert giving has extended to my son’s teachers, his bus driver, deployed military and even a man that works at Lowes.
Last week after Hurricane Irene, everyone was outside cleaning up debris and pitching in with other yards. One of the gray haired retirees had a huge tree to cut up and lots of debris to take to the landfill.
I watched as the men in the neighborhood walked over with their tools (my husband included). As I watched from the window (to the tune of how many men does it take to screw in a light bulb?) I thought the same about cutting up the tree. My husband came in to get some Gatorade. While looking exhausted he also had a twinkle in his eye. Despite the cause, they were having a good time.
As my eggs and butter cooled to room temperature in the refrigerator, I would bake something if the power came back on in time. It didn’t. A few days later when I went grocery shopping to restock, I replenished my dessert baking supply. I even replaced my flour. The house got hot enough that I imagined something could have hatched and would fly out of the flour bag. Yes, that happened once.
My parents came to visit for the long weekend so I had an excuse to bake. The gray haired retirees’ wife was outside still cleaning up from the hurricane when I took her a few of the cupcakes. She surprised me and gave me a big hug. I grimaced a little. She was sweaty, but I hugged her back.
She was so grateful for everyone that had pitched in with the tree and the cupcakes were either “the icing on the cake” or the “last straw” for her emotions. She wanted to do something for us and here I was bringing them cupcakes. I explained that it was “just because”; someone always benefits from my baking spree and she just happened to be the one.
The next day my husband was outside on the grill and he came in with a card from the gray haired retiree and his wife. It was a VERY sweet card that read:
You are a gift to others…Some have a gift for helping others to see the world as a place of possibility… Some impart wisdom or comfort and care. Some point out the path, and some take you there. Some warm the heart with a human touch. You have all these gifts… Thank you so much.
In her writing it said: Thanks for sharing your time and for helping us recover from the hurricane. We truly appreciate your kindness. P.S. We all enjoyed the delicious cupcakes!! Included in the card was a $50 gift card to Olive Garden!
While I have grown over the years in my sociability, there is always room for improvement. Just because some drivers are rude, some store clerks are unhappy, some people in line are impatient, some people don’t want to nod or speak, doesn’t mean I have to share their sentiment.
Here's the thing...if I can brighten someone’s day with a smile, a word, or a cupcake – then a change shall begin with me.