Kindness. Think about that word for a moment. Kindness. Does it bring a smile? A tear? A shiver? When was the last time you were treated with kindness? When was the last time you performed a random act of kindness? Maybe kindness, along with humor and creativity, has a kind of power that’s an integral part of our healing from narcissistic abuse. Perhaps 2019 should be about the power of kindness.
When someone is kind to me, it’s like something cracks inside. Like I don’t have to have my dukes up to protect myself and stay strong against narcissistic abuse. Like a brittle exoskeleton I’ve grown over my heart for my own protection shatters and tears come pouring out. Even just a tale of kindness is enough to melt me. One such story recently hit the news and inspired this article.
Candice Marie Benbow lives in New “Joisey” in an apartment building. As so often happens in apartments, she had a noisy neighbor. A very noisy neighbor. Candice’s neighbor blasted his music all…night…long. This went on night after night after night.
Finally, at 3:30 a.m. one morning, Candice had it “up to here.” She couldn’t sleep! Now, most people would either bang on their neighbor’s door and read them the riot act or call the police. Not so, Candice! She used the great power of kindness.
Donning apron, Candice made a pound cake for her noisy neighbor. Have you made a pound cake??? A lot goes into them if you’re making them the old fashioned way. Back in the day, the cake got its name because it was made from a pound of each ingredient. But did Candice stop there? No!
She also wrote a beautiful letter to accompany the pound cake. It achieved the perfect balance between understanding, kindness, humor and yes, a gentle irritation that got her point across without ruffling feathers. She wrote:
“…At 3:26, I couldn’t tell if you were playing some uptempo hits from The Weeknd or you pushed shuffle on some house/techno. Either way, I could have done without that part of the set. At 3;47, I realized it was much more advantageous to reflect on your musical tastes and eat potato chips than try to sleep. You really love a piano solo and some soulful drums….At 4:07, you settled down. I really appreciated that. In the future, as you’re hosting your kickbacks and come-throughs, please remember the rest of us. As a peace offering, I hope you will enjoy this pound cake.”
She left the cake and the letter outside her neighbor’s door and skedaddled. After all, as Candice put it, “…as a single woman, I gotta be mindful of how I navigate tense situations.” Plus, she adds, “And it was 3AM!!! I’m not getting dressed to leave my apartment at 3am…Plus, I couldn’t find my bra. It was 3am.” I hear ya! Once you find the vile bra, good luck trying to struggle into it at 3 am in the dark! If there’s a gas leak and we’re told to evacuate at 3 a.m., I’ll still be trying to put on my bra when the neighborhood blows up!
What follows shows the power of kindness. The first thing that happened was the cake disappeared. The second thing was that her neighbor turned the volume way, way down. The third thing is that she met her neighbor, Tommy, and found out why he was blasting his music. It was his first Christmas without his daughter, who died in a tragic car accident earlier in 2018. He was just trying to drown out the pain with music. Since then they’ve become friends and Candice says Tommy gives the best hugs. They’re pictured together above.
Candice’s kindness inspired others to be kind. It went viral! Forty-one thousand retweets viral. Television interviews viral. Hashtag #prayerandpoundcakework viral! Best of all, other people were inspired to follow Candice’s example. One person tweeted, “I did something similar with my neighbor. Went over with a plant to explain I could hear every footstep. She was so lovely and haven’t heard her since. Plus I have a new friend!”
Even as the twentieth century was the bloodiest century in world history, I’ve come to believe that the normal man-on-the-street of every nation is probably a pretty nice person who just wants to live and let live. If you watch travel vloggers on YouTube, almost every single vlogger in every single country will exclaim how kind and friendly the people of each nation are. Most people are nice, but then again, my view might be skewed by growing up in “Minnesota nice.”
But how do you balance kindness vs strength, kindness vs standing up for yourself, kindness vs righteous anger? Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Every time I get mad at someone and want to spout off, I think of that verse. A soft answer…a soft answer…a soft answer. Oh, darn it.
Like the time, last year, when we got a I’m-freaking-out $1,600 bill for propane we never ordered and never received billed to the wrong “Michael Thompson.” I wanted to rip the propane company a new one for the incompetency of their Billing Department rounded out with a nice lecture about “the sad state of Customer Service in America today,” but I bit my tongue, took a deep breath, calmed down and approached it with “a soft answer.” The nice lady at the propane company said, “Oops, our bad. Sorry about that. Just ignore the bill, it’s wrong.” Problem solved … pleasantly.
Sometimes a soft answer is no answer at all. That’s not weakness. It takes strength not to spout off and attack back. It takes strength to maintain No Contact. Does that stop harassment cold? No, but it slows it down. Maybe Mom was right. “Just ignore ’em,” she’d tell me about the bullies on my schoolbus. “If you don’t react, you take all the fun out of it for them.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if 2019 is the year of Kindness? Just little, random acts of kindness. Holding a door for someone. Fetching an item off the top shelf for a short customer. Biting back an angry retort. Making faces at a laughing baby in a shopping cart. Picking up something someone dropped. Ah, I’ll never forget the old lady at WalMart who was woefully staring down at a package of batteries she’d dropped. You could just read her thoughts: “Oh, darn. My back. My hips. My knees. What would hurt worse? Leaning over to pick them up or walking back to get more batteries.” Well, my husband has a bad back so I’m well trained. “I’ll get ’em!” I hollered, rushing over. Her smile was beatific! She made my day.
Kindness: That’s our theme for 2019. Kindness heals our souls as surely as it heals the soul of the person we’re kind to. This’ll never be a perfect world but maybe we can soften it … just a little around the edges. And as we do, our own hearts will soften, we can put our dukes down and find some healing for our bruised, angry, weary, brittle souls. #prayerandpoundcakework
P.S. Tommy said it was the best pound cake he ever ate. I want Candice’s recipe! 😀