Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
I can be a rather dense human being, but every now and again I will get a good idea. The other day one of these magical creatures jumped into my mind. It was quite obvious and rather simple, both being important qualities for my linear and resolute soul. Your mother and I were going to go on a date and our plans to ditch you two with a babysitter were scheduled. My unbelievable idea to enhance our already stellar agenda was this: give her flowers. AMAZING! A simple plan with a high probability of success. Then I screwed it up. Traffic rerouted me on my way home from work, I became absorbed in a radio story, and I never drove by the flower shop. After pacing up and down the driveway two or three times vigorously debating whether I should jump back in my car and speed off for the flowers, I figured I was already spotted and walked in the door flowerless.
The question that pressed into me as I considered our non-flower filled reality was this: When is the right time to do a good thing? Clearly I must have missed it. My wife would never know I intended to get flowers, and neither of us would miss this total non-necessity. Non-necessities are so easy to skip in favor of the firmly planted realities of a well groomed schedule.
When is the right time to do a good thing? When you get down to it, almost never. Kindness is often costly. Human connection is sure to get in the way. Service takes sacrifice. Accomplishing a bit of good that lasts requires almost a lifetime. It is honestly much easier to go about trying to avoid doing bad things. You’ll see a lot of people deciding to look out for #1 and hoping not to hurt others in the process. Search for ideal moment with the perfect circumstances and you may never find it.
When is the right time to do a good thing? Right now and as often as possible. When I walked in the door, my whimsical notion to get your mother flowers had become a need. As your mom and I rapped about our days I listened intently for any opportunity to slip out the door. Sure enough, within five minutes she was talking shopping lists and weekend birthday parties and I had my window. Now, not only was I going to get the flowers, but I was also crossing an item off of one of her infamous lists. What luck!
Making someone’s day is almost always incovenient. It takes time, attention, and thought. However, I’m becoming increasingly convinced it is these sorts of benevolent schemes that make a decent life into rich living. Did your Mom recognize my flighty scrambling in this flower debacle? Almost certainly. But did it get smile, most definitely.
P.S. Instead of reading this letter, a listen to Wilco’s “Forget the flowers” is a more than adequate substitute. Totally worth it.
“Don’t forget the flowers someday, I know I will.”
– Jeff Tweedy
“Kindness is often costly.”