Instead of me giving a gift to Ma on Mother’s Day, Ma gave a gift to me.
I always expect a ton of advice from a phone call; some useful, some not, but always well intended.
I received the usual earful about running (“Don’t do it too much!”) and taking care of myself (“How much do you weigh? Eat well! Get enough sleep!”). But then she said the words that turned my night around:
Call me cynical, but what could be a higher compliment than being told you’re have a mark of a Good Person? You can change the world with an invention or you can change the world by inspiring humanity in others. This particular aspiration costs nothing and requires no formal education. It’s not easy, but is within every human’s realm of possibility.
I could be a more gracious compliment-receiver, but there are also some feedback that matter more than others. “You’re smart” and “you’re hardworking” stopped affecting me after graduate school. “You’re a good manager” and “you’re a good writer” don’t move me in the same way coming from friends and family as they do from my professional role models.
Kindness is an awesome gift — to have, to receive and to give. Being kind can stop wars. So I could care less about the other stuff she said I am, like I’m smart”. Of all the things she’s taught me to be and do, being kind to everyone as well as yourself is one of the most useful and most rewarding pieces of advice she’s ever given me, and being told — not in a text, not over the phone, but face-to-face on Skype — that I’m kind is a most wonderful, unexpected gift.
Thank you, Ma, for telling me what I needed to hear, for my life and much more than I can say in public. A three-hour phone call was clearly not enough.
Happy Mother’s Day.