So I'm sitting in the admissions office of our local university with my youngest son. It's late July and we're trying to maneuver our way through the financial aid office and it's maze of paperwork. I've done this every year for the past 7 years with two older children so I'm pretty confident I can get us through this. What I didn't plan for; what I didn't expect was the response of an overworked and indifferent staff at this university. The response was "a failure to fill out these papers back in March is your problem and we're not putting a rush on your paperwork just because you show up at the last minute. Sure, it's our job but you're the one who showed up late". I thought about digging in my heals and refusing to leave the office until someone with some authority showed up to deal with us. I thought about rallying the dozen other students and parents in the waiting room and staging a sit-in. But both would have required a significant amount of resolve and fight from me and this was only one month after David's death. I didn't have any fight in me. So, I did something I never thought I would do and really didn't want to.Before I knew what was happening I --- I played the "widow card".
I sat down in one of those cubical offices with a financial aid counselor and before he could give me the "we will process your request when we get good and ready and not a moment before so get ready to pay up" speech, I jumped in with a preemptive strike. I began to explain, "We know all about filling out the forms in March, but at that time my husband, Stephen's dad was in the last stages of cancer. He died in June- a week after Stephen's graduation party and so please forgive us for our tardiness. Some things are more important than filling out the paperwork in a "timely" fashion." It was the first time I had ever played the "widow card" and so I really had no idea what to expect. I braced myself for another indifferent response. What I got was nothing short of a miracle. That man sitting across the table from us looked up from his computer and said, "wait here" and rushed out of the room. He returned fifteen minutes later with the necessary paperwork in hand and after a few signatures from us we were on our way home with our college admission accepted and financial aid in hand. Who knew they could do that? Apparently when they have a will to, there is a way to get it done in one day. All it took was...."a widow card".
If you have one of those cards in your pocket I am so sorry. No one should have to carry that thing around with them. It's limited benefits do not outweigh the loss and sadness that go with it. The next thing I would say is, "use it when you need to." I have found that this cold, indifferent world is actually filled with caring and compassionate people who, if given a chance and a reason, will move mountains to help a widow or a fatherless boy. My journey through grief has often been paved with kindness from strangers. And the amazing thing is that the ones extending the kindness seem to receive as much a blessing as the recipient. There is a blessing in blessing others. Simple kindness is it's own reward.
So.... extend kindness today to someone. And, when you find yourself in a quandary- whether it's the mechanic or the taxman or the college counselor - ask for a cup of kindness instead of indifference. You just might be surprised at what you receive and you will be giving someone an opportunity to be kind. OH - don't forget to ask with kindness. They aren't used to being treated by the public with anything but rudeness and demands. Kindness is a surprise for them too. Life is hard. Let's make a resolve today to handle it with as much kindness as we can.
See you next Monday