I was going to title this, “Minnesota Mamaleh: May Day, Mother’s Day and Mitzvot.” Why? Because that’s what it’s about silly! I’ll also admit that the former teacher, totally dorky side of me just loves the alliteration. Did you see how many M-words there would have been?! But that would have been a little lengthy and while I do have two extremely fun holidays on my mind today, I’m mostly just filled-to-the-brim happy thinking about kindness and how my kids do it oh-so-very-well.
Before you get all “heathen” and “pagan” on me I would like to point out that May Day is a lovely, earthy, crunchy, spring-y celebration of fun, flowers, spring and doorbell-ringing-and-running-away-ing. It’s just a whole lot of goodness rolled up into a holiday that sneaks in right at the beginning of May. You know, when everyone else is going to the beach and us Minnesotans are wondering if we’ll need to pull out our heavy coats…again. While it’s not on my list of must-celebrates, it does bring out the San Franciscan, “Go Mother Nature!” part of me. And being a now-Minnesotan, it also brings out the, “Heck yeah! Come May I am so ready for some flowers and sunshine!” part of me as well.
So when Kayli came home from school on Friday with a basket in hand and a plan in mind, I was ready to jump on board. And when Chloe woke up at the shudder-worthy hour of 6:00 on Saturday wanting to do a project, I stumbled out of bed, put on the coffee and pulled out the construction paper. I also got out the glue, the glitter and the ribbons. Because we meant business. We cut. We glued. And we made a general mess with a lovely end-product. Some might even say, we conquered.
I would like to point out that Jason slept through this merriment and I think that in itself could very well qualify as the mitzvah portion of this story. Wouldn’t you say?
Well, at the very least it made for a nice transition.
Many of us have defined mitzvot as good deeds for our whole lives. And then we went to a class, or heard a speaker or just simply engaged someone way, way smarter than us in a spiritually meaningful conversation and were told (enlightened!) that, “Aha! You’ve been wrong all this time!” A mitzvah is not a good deed. It’s a must-do. A commandment and a way to connect with God. As in God says it’s so. And there’s a million-bajillion of ’em. So get crackin’. Mitzvah away. Well, there’s actually 620 of them. Which is not quite a million-bajillion, but it’s a lot nonetheless.
But I like my old definition, too. A good deed. A kind deed. Being a thoughtful person just for the sake of being that way. And nothing more. That kindness seems like the fundamental essence and heart of being your best, of living your religion. I just love that! Perhaps surprisingly, enter: May Day baskets.
What I love about the tradition (besides the chocolate. And the doorbells) is that you’re not supposed to know who gave you a May Day basket. In other words: Who rang your doorbell, woke up your baby and then ran away. But that’s really just a matter of perspective, isn’t it?
There’s no recognition, expectation of reciprocity or even a thank you necessary, expected or even wanted. It’s all for the sake of fun. And for putting a smile on someone else’s face. And for doing good just because…it’s good. And that’s what we talked to the girls about as we went May Day basket delivering this weekend.
Did they ask if anyone would surprise them with a May Day basket? Of course they did! They’re four and six after all. But that just opened up the conversation about doing good for the sake of good. And how amazing it feels in your heart to make someone else happy. And how we believe in that. It’s who we are in our core and in our hearts. So it’s just what we do. And sometimes, that’s all there is to kindness. No strings. No kickbacks. No nothing. You go in. You do your thing. You ring the doorbell. And then you run. Fast.
While I now realize that there’s more, oh-so-very- much more, to religion, to mitzvot, than simply being kind, damn if I don’t believe that kindness is at the heart of it all. We want to be good, do good and teach good to our children. And when we see them doing what’s right, just and kind we know that we’ve done something (anything!) right.
And just in time for Mother’s Day, just a few days after May Day smiles (and tears), my kids showed me just how very kind they are. Right down-deep in their hearts. I went to bed way-too-late last night. And the girls got up way-too-early this morning. So when I heard some banging and clanging around in the kitchen this morning, I will admit that I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. I know! What kind of a mom am I anyway?! A few short moments later my sweeties were by my side. With breakfast. In bed. For me! That they had made all by themselves. I know! Chloe handed me my glasses so I could actually see my little ones’ random act of kindness. And then we all piled onto the big bed and shared a bowl of cheerios, a cheese stick, an apple and a Hershey kiss. Something right indeed.
So I hope that someone rang your doorbell on May Day, that your Mother’s Day is wonderful (and perhaps brunch-full as well! Yum!) and that on one of the two, or just somewhere in between, your day was filled with kindness.