A Lesson in Kindness


We recently spent a few months at the beach with my sister, enjoying the summer and trying to get Momma into a more positive mindset. While we were there, amongst the hustle and bustle of Ocean City life, my daughter managed, once again, to teach me a very important lesson.

We got there in May, so the beaches were pretty empty. This meant we got all the waves, and more importantly, all of the shells to ourselves! Bug loves to collect things, and she was thrilled to find so many shells just waiting for her to scoop them up. Personally, I was excited to find so many big unbroken shells. Of course, Bug didn’t care if they were big or small, whole or broken into a tiny sliver. She collected them all. I suggested once, as our second bucket began to overflow, that we consider leaving some of the broken ones and just find the rest of the pretty ones to take with us. As soon as she glanced up at me I remembered I was reasoning with the wrong child. With a huge smile she reached down, grabbed a busted up shell with a purple smudge on it and declared “ok, you hold onto this one and I’ll find more pretty ones”. That is the beauty of Bug. To her, all things are beautiful. Rocks, shells, grass, clouds, flowers, bugs, shadows, pictures, people… she sees the beauty in all of it, without even trying. Boo, on the other hand immediately cause a ruckus by snatching her bucket and proceeding to weed out the imperfect ones, which then got rescued and crammed into Bug’s bucket, of course.

So these beautiful shells (big, small, broken and whole) all ended up in a massive plastic tub on the deck. They played with them every day, washing them in the water table, building towers and hiding them for treasure hunts. A few days after we brought the first load home, we decided to go for an afternoon walk. As we were headed out, I noticed Bug was still on the porch. When I called her down she had a small bag filled with shells. I noticed, and knowing her, decided not to comment on it. After two or three blocks we came upon an older couple walking in the other direction. As  we drew even with them, but waved and started to approach them. We have been trying to work on caution with strangers, but my amiable child is having a tough time with the concept. As I reached out to reign her in, I caught her words.

As she reached into her tiny bag, she blocked the path of the unsuspecting couple and beamed “Hello,” she started brightly, “I am taking a walk, and I brought along some of my beautiful shell collection to share with strangers today. Being kind is a great way to make a friend!” and with that, she reached out and put a small chipped seashell in this man’s hand. I stood there, torn between pride and amusement, or mild embarrassment. Luckily, the couple didn’t seem to mind. In fact, quite the opposite. They smiled right back at my sweet girl and thanked her for the wonderful gift. The man put it in his pocket, told me what a good girl I was raising, and continued on with their day. With a skip in her step, and no further comment, Bug continued on her way as well.

And just like that, my 6 year old reminded me how easy it is to spread kindness. I still don’t know if she brought her shells with the intention of sharing, or if it just struck her in the moment. Either way, she decided to share one of her treasures with a complete stranger, with the aim of making a new friend. And not even a new friend to keep, just one more person on the street who didn’t have to be a complete stranger.

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Being her, Bug certainly did not stop there. Since the first attempt went so well, she continued to bring a pocket full of shells every time we walked to the beach. She would see people, young and old, and randomly decide to share her treasures and a smile. Most times she was given a smile and a kind word for her offerings. There were a few people who were not feeling particularly friendly, but Bug didn’t mind. These people got a smile anyway as she went off to find someone more receptive.

While I know, as a parent in this crazy world, I should maybe try a little harder to remind my overly friendly child about dangers. I try to remind her to only talk to people when I am with her, and I constantly remind her not to share personal details with people we do not know. I can’t, however, bring myself to scare her into hiding from people instead of spreading her joy. I hope that first couple had a wonderful day, and I hope that my little one never loses the ability to spread kindness wherever she goes.