Monday, June 16, 2014

On Laura and Kindness

I've been thinking a lot about my friend Laura.

I mentioned in my release day recap that I got the news on PUSH GIRL's book birthday that one of my friends passed away. Laura was healthy until she wasn't, and she was okay until she wasn't, and then she was hospitalized and she needed a double lung and heart transplant immediately. She didn't get it and then she got it and then she defied all the odds and then she didn't make it.

Laura leaves behind an amazing husband who loved her (loves her) like crazy and two sweet, beautiful daughters. (Her husband, Johnny, has been very honest and transparent about their entire journey on facebook. You can read more about them here if you are interested.)

Laura also leaves behind a legacy, and that's what I have spent so much time over the past days thinking about.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking through my DMs on Twitter for something else and I came across an exchange I had with Laura over a year ago. I was having a tough time and she reached out to me, offering advice, sympathy, and a shoulder. This was unsolicited...but not in an "unsolicited advice" sort of way. More in an "I can tell you don't want to come out and say it, but I know you're having a rough time and I'm here if you want to talk" kind of way. An "I've been through something similar; you aren't alone" sort of way. It meant so much to me at the time, that she noticed my struggle, and that she took the time to reach out to me.

As my group of friends started to share memories of Laura after she passed, it came out that we all had a story like this about her. About a time she reached out, usually privately, when one of us was struggling and offered sympathy, advice, a shoulder to cry on. A time she shared her own struggles in an effort to let us know we weren't alone, and an offer to always be there if we needed to talk. A time she sent a perfectly-timed email to say how can I help or congratulations or just hi.

It tuns out that this was just Laura's way.

In the MG novel Wonder, the school's principal Mr. Tushman uses a quote from J.M. Barrie to urge his students to always be a little kinder than is necessary. This is how Laura was, always. Kind when it wasn't expected. Kinder than was necessary. She went out of her way to offer kindness to everyone.

I like to think of myself as a nice person, but I am very, very selfish. I know being selfish is just a part of being human, but I feel like I might be more selfish than the average bear. And I'm just not naturally thoughtful. I don't think of picking up gifts for people. I don't consider calling you to see if you want anything while I'm out. I forget to ask questions about you when you ask how I'm doing.
I don't do any of this on purpose...I don't know if it's just my brain being overloaded or my fierce introversion or a complete lack of focus or what, but I always find myself leaving a situation and wishing I had been more thoughtful or kind, but it didn't occur to me until it was too late.

As much as I wish it did, that sort of kindness, that extra kindness, just doesn't come naturally to me.

My friend Tameka talked about making an effort to be more thoughtful toward others in honor of Laura's memory, and I love this idea so much. I really want to try to focus on being kinder than is necessary. I want to be a person who leaves behind a legacy of kindness. I want to be the kind of person my friend Laura would be proud of.

So I'm going to try. To be kinder. To be more thoughtful. To be more like Laura.

I wish it wasn't going to be so much of an effort for me to do this, but part of adulthood, for me, anyway, is brutal honesty with myself about the kind of person I am. I'm nice, and I'm not unkind, but I'm just not naturally thoughtful. I'm not kinder than is necessary. I'm not like Laura in this way. But I want to be. I'm going to try to be, every day.


  1. I love how you're going to try even though it's not in your nature. A wise person told me once that just because that's always who you've been, doesn't mean it's always who you have to be. You could create kindness affirmations to inspire you. Maybe even tweet,tumble or FB them every day to help you? I admire you for making a positive noble change in your life in honor of your friend. And I love this idea of "kinder than necessary." It's something I want to focus on now too.

  2. This is such a great tribute to your friend. It sounds like she was such a wonderful person - again, I'm so sorry she's gone. I love that you're taking this opportunity to learn to be a little kinder. It's something I'd like to do more of as well! xoxo

  3. I love this. It's so beautiful and it honors your friend in such a wonderful way. Kindness is a great thing for all of us to remember. Such an underrated virtue in a person. Thinking about you and Laura and her beautiful family. <3

  4. You sound a lot like me - nice, but not exactly thoughtful. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and I am heartbroken for her family. This post, though, was beautiful. And a lovely tribute to what sounds like an amazing woman. I still have yet to read WONDER (must get on that!), but that line is inspiring. Be kinder than necessary. Great words for all of us.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your friend, Jessica. She sounds like such a wonderful person, somebody I would have loved to know. I think we could all stand to be a little kinder, you know? I'm so quick to get snarly when someone annoys me, rather than reminding myself that I never have enough information about that person to judge them or to respond unkindly. I'll be thinking about you, Laura, and this reminder to be kinder than necessary.

  6. This was a beautiful and honest post. Laura sounds like she was an amazing person and seriously must have been to inspire a resolution like this. You're serving her memory well, and I think we can all afford to be a little kinder.

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss of someone who sounds really amazing. This is a reminder I need right now--we have some family stuff going on and it's hard for me to welcome tons of time with a million relatives happily. I will try to keep Laura in my head and do my best to take care of everyone with a smile. Thanks for this!