Column: Growing up with goodness


During my growing up years I often heard my mother exclaim, “Oh, my goodness” or “for goodness sake.” I don’t know what, exactly, they meant, but the message that was communicated meant she was either startled or provoked. My brothers and I knew to pay attention immediately (these gracious terms are often replaced with 4-letter expletives today)!

I’m thinking now about how many times I heard the word goodness and the secret message carried to me. I don’t know if I’m a better person because of hearing about goodness, but I’m guessing that it’s a lot better than hearing four-letter words, which weren’t allowed in our home.

I was reminded of this today when I heard a radio guest talk about his upbringing in rural Alabama. He referred to incidents, accidents and providence (the protection of God) for molding his character and values. Just think of all of the “accidental” events in your life that changed your thinking or direction. Being exposed to good, caring people on a daily basis will probably have a strong influence on the outcome of an individual.

Don’t you wonder why some people seem to be naturally kind and considerate while others are always finding something to complain about? This question has caused me to think about the impact of change on our lives and how it can cause happy people to become bitter and angry.

Looking around my retirement community, I’m reminded that most of the folks have endured one of the biggest changes of their lives. They’ve given up their independence, their home, maybe a spouse, maybe their longtime community and friends and even their health.

Being cheerful is a daily struggle. When we understand where people are, both mentally and physically in their lives, we can begin to empathize and sympathize. When they grumble, we can provide a kind word or gesture and most importantly, we can listen without advice or judgment.

A recent Wall Street Journal article proclaimed that there are no “random” acts of kindness. We are usually deliberate about being kind. I felt great pride when I saw my son leave a payment at the ice cream shop for the elderly nun in the line behind us. Then he mentioned that he does this on a regular basis in his daily life. He never hears the reaction to his kindness, but he feels the joy of the action.

Isn’t that what life is about – sharing, goodness, kindness – finding our tiny spot in the universe?