If You Have Something Nice to Say

This past weekend at church, I sat a few rows behind a friendly married couple that we've known, at least on an acquaintance level, for years. Their adult daughter and son-in-law arrived a few minutes later and sat beside them. I loved the greeting that ensued: warm hugs, the mom rubbing her daughter's back, huge smiles. Such tangible displays of affection.

I've noticed this about this family before. They love each other. They like each other. It shows.

On the back of my bulletin, I scrawled a little note to my husband, "The bond between members of that family always warms my heart. So evident how much love there is!"

He read it and nodded. He had noticed, too.

After service, I waited for the woman and handed her the note, telling her, "I just wanted you to see your family how others see you."

Then I went on with my day. Honestly, I didn't think of the encounter again until I noticed that she had tagged me on Facebook with a picture of my messily written note and this message: 

A sweet friend handed this to me on our way out of church. It’s probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about our family. So appreciated. Made my year!!!

My heart! Do you know how simple it was for me to pass this note to her? It was such a small thing! And yet, it clearly was meaningful to her.

We all know the adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." But this small encounter reminds me that the opposite corollary might be equally important: If we have something nice to say, say it.

We think nice things about people all the time. Once again, I'm reminded that it never hurts to say it.

On Having a Favorite Tree

I'm going to go ahead and state the obvious: I used to be young, and now I have a favorite tree. I get weirdly excited about this particular tree, you see. It's along a road leading to the elementary school my children used to attend. You can pass this tree all winter long and not notice it. You can drive by it all summer without a glace.

But in spring, you notice this tree. You gawk at this tree. You want to let out a low whistle of appreciation for this tree. You annoy your pre-teen (who, for the record, is too pre-teen-y to find it cool to have a favorite tree, although she'll concede that this one is nice) by making her open her window and use your phone to take a picture while you drive by at a snail's pace. 

This tree deserves being noticed. This tree deserves being captured when its in full bloom.

* * *
On Tuesdays I don't go onto campus. Instead, like a throwback to Covid days, I work from home. I grade assignments from my kitchen table, still wearing the exercise clothes from my morning visit to the gym. To break up working, I do other types of work: starting and folding a load of laundry, collecting trash from all the bins and rolling the trash cans to the curb, making sure we have all the groceries needed for the remaining meals this week. These household tasks serve as a buffer, a needed break of doing something productive with my hands instead of my mind. Then it's back to actual work at the kitchen table.

Today, however, I wanted to take a little detour outside of the house. I drove to visit the tree like I'd visit an old friend. It's a mere 10-minute round trip loop from home to the tree and back again, but I took a few extra moments to park my car on an adjacent road, walk toward the tree, and savor the view.

These blossoms don't last long, you know. My eyes wandered from the trunk to the knobby, strong, sprawling limbs. I noticed how the breeze caused the faintest rise and fall of branches, like the tree was shyly waving in greeting. I wondered if this tree is one of the homeowner's most prized possessions, a treasure akin to Jim's watch or Della's hair in O. Henry's Gift of the Magi, something they'd never brag about, but take great pride in owning. We're the people with the tree, I imagine them saying.

Of course, I have to move on. My work from the kitchen table calls, but this detour was just what I needed today.


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