My wife, Erin, and I were shopping at a gigantic mall with our 18-month-old daughter, Taylor. As we walked past endless rows of stores, I asked Erin if I could do anything for her.
"Yes," she said. "May I please shop alone — without Taylor hanging on me?"
"Of course!" I said. I took the diaper bag from Erin and slung the strap over my shoulder.
After Erin gave me several quick instructions, Taylor and I rambled off in search of a massive bookstore I'd noticed earlier. Once inside, we discovered the biggest children's section I'd ever seen. Not only were there mountains of books but also an enormous stage where kids could play. It was the Disneyland of children's bookstores. Instantly, Taylor situated herself in the middle of the stage and began "reading." I sat down next to her and placed the diaper bag at my side.
As Taylor and I interacted, I felt as if we were being watched. I looked up and saw several mothers smiling at me. I was apparently the only dad in the store. A few moms even commented on what a precious daughter I had.
By giving Erin a little alone time, I had become a shopping-mall celebrity. I'm really on to something with this kindness thing, I thought to myself.
But my celebrity status was short-lived. Suddenly, all those smiles vanished, and the mothers looked at us with disgust instead. I turned to Taylor. She still looked as cute as ever to me — cuter, maybe. She had put away her book and was playing with brown finger paint.
Finger paint? I thought. Where did she get brown finger paint?
Then I realized it wasn't paint. Taylor had messed her diaper, and … well, the less said about that, the better.
By the time I noticed Taylor's, uh, accident, she'd already "painted" several books and a large area of the stage. I walked out of the store after paying for books I hadn't intended to buy but were now too damaged to use.
Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned acts of kindness can be a little … messy.
Why kindness matters
Often parents become so busy working and raising our children that we often neglect each other. We pass in the kitchen without speaking. We greet each other with rote kisses. Complacency and routine push out those small, but important, acts of love. We still care about each other, but we don't take time to show it. And as the years go by for a married couple, the random, kind gestures may slowly fade away
But it's not too late. You can start showing kindness to your husband or wife today.
One of the fruits of the spirit is kindness (Galatians 5:22-23). When you do something kind for your husband or wife, you feel better and he or she feels better and is more likely to pass on that kindness to someone else. Kindness multiplies.
How to show kindness
Acts of kindness don't need to be elaborate or expensive. Make it your goal to find at least one kind act that you can practice for your spouse each day. The first step in acting kindly toward your spouse is to be observant. What needs to be done around the house? What does your spouse love to have done for him or her? Could you wash the dishes? Give a much-needed backrub after your spouse comes home from work? You probably know, more than almost anyone else, what your spouse would most appreciate.
If you don't know, it never hurts to ask. A great way to do this is to have your spouse finish the following statement: "I feel loved when you …"
Still looking for a little guidance? Here are just a few suggestions: Cook your spouse's favorite meal or fill up his or her car with gas. Watch your husband's favorite television show or participate in his favorite hobby. Surprise your wife at work or let her sleep in. Clean the bathroom or fold the laundry. You might even want to surprise your spouse with a special present one evening. Good deeds are limited only by your imagination.
Most important, express gratefulness to your spouse. Show your appreciation for all he or she does and is. Sure, you may assume your spouse already knows how grateful you are. And maybe he or she does. But almost all people want and need to hear just how important and valued they are.
So take a little time to be kind. Even writing a thank-you note can be a nice gesture. (Just don't let your 18-month-old daughter write it for you.)Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books.
Marriage can have its twists and turns, but the detours don't have to lead you off course. The 12 essential elements outlined in the Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage are biblically based and chart the course for a romantic adventure that will last a lifetime.