Kindness, The Clap and Calvin and Hobbes

Way back in my freshman year in college, I was so stupid I didn’t realize how stupid I was. And to be honest, so were my friends. But we all were. We were, 17, 18, 19 and didn’t know any better. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Startling insight, I know. How did I ever come up with that? And why am I boring you with it now.

I’ve mentioned once or twice in this space Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Play Book and Sorta Like a Rock Star. I’m a huge fan, and I know many of my regular readers have become fans — non only because I told you to, but because he’s damn good. I finally met the guy this summer for drinks in Philly. He’s just as cool as I figured he’d be. Well, Matthew Quick is married to a woman named Alicia Bessette and her first book, Simply From Scratch, just came out. I shouldn’t have to tell you to go out and buy it.

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Alicia yet, but I’m going to assume she’s good people, not only because she’s married to Q and a good writer, but because she and Matthew are good people. These two make the rest of us look like dark-hearted ingrates! They started a blog this year called Quest for Kindness, the purpose of which is to highlight acts of kindness in this world we run around in. (Admit it, you can’t even imagine me conceiving of such a thing!)

It’s a simple, thought-provoking exercise and one that, frankly, scared the shit out of me when they asked me if I’d write something. There have been many acts of kindness done for me in my life. But something to hang an entire essay on? Of course, my mind immediately went to scenes from Mawmaw’s house and the gumbo one that I raided for The First Annual Grand Prairie jumped immediately to mind. Obviously I still think of it, but also I’m lazy. (And some of my strongest memories of Mawmaw’s house involve not kindness but playing with fire, catching Black Widow spiders, my brother almost killing himself with a go-kart and Mawmaw beating our asses with a crepe-myrtle switch named Henry.)

At the same time, I don’t like returning to the same well too often. And I figured maybe the world didn’t need from me an essay about little old ladies being nice. I thought about the myriad kindnesses done for me this year in the wake of the split. I’ve been touched and sometimes surprised by the people who’ve reached out to check on me. Some folks I haven’t heard from in years just checked in. Some I didn’t expect to hear from at all ever again dropped a line. And, of course, my closest friends were so far up my ass at times I could barely walk. Trust me, I needed it at the time.

But two things on that. I wasn’t ready to write about it and I wanted whatever I wrote to be funny. I probably could have done funny, but it seems OTHER people aren’t quite nearly as ready to laugh about this whole thing as I am.

So I stretched my mind back to Freshman year in college. I think we sometimes forget just how influential that year — that group of friends — can be. Time takes its toll, of course. But I wonder if another reason we drift from those particular friends — for a while at least — is because of just how open we were around them, how exposed, how naive, how giving. And while we may keep up on one another on Facebook these days — Facebook might make such things too effortless — I never did thank this group of people.

Well, here’s my official thanks, guys. And I hope the rest of you enjoy it as well.

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