Yesterday I read a post on Facebook by one of the most phenomenal woman I’ve had the pleasure to know. Michelle Riddell. She is a multiple published author of many articles, and narrative nonfiction stories, one of the editors of the wonderful magazine: Mothers Always Write.
You can find her insights on Facebook at Michelle Riddell, or on Twitter: @MLRiddell, Mamalode, in @Mothersalways, @HelloParentCo, @SamPsychMeds and so many more.
Yesterday her words were so poignant and inspirational they moved me to come up with a project to celebrate 2018. I am calling this project #tryalittletenderness.
Each day, for 365 days, I commit to posting something here on my blog, about someone, or something, who brings me to a state of breathless gratitude. Somedays it may be the tiniest gesture by a stranger, a friends, a relative that impacts me alone, others something farther reaching that has a profound effect on all of us. But always, it will be positive.
January 01, 2018: I am grateful beyond words that Michelle, this gifted wordsmith and generous, kind, and compassionate woman who came into my life because of my writing, is someone I proudly call friend.
I challenge each and every one of you to join me in this project and share your own stories. In the words of my dear Michelle, “May this year be one of healing, of gratitude, and of growth—flush with vining blessings, every inch tender in its strength.”
I am posting her words here with the recommendation you take the few minutes needed to read them. Phenomenal.
Try a Little Tenderness
Picture this: It’s a rainy Saturday night in Northern California, uncharacteristically cold for June. The second day of the Monterey Pop Festival is coming to a close. Otis Redding takes the stage for a 5-song set, shortened by curfew and weather. He rails through the first four numbers, masterfully weaving a subtext of flamboyance and precision into familiar hits.
The finale, “Try a Little Tenderness,” begins in ballad tempo with bare, whole-note accompaniment on bass. Other instruments drift in as the song progresses—saxophone, organ, a thin trill of drums. The meter hastens, the sound solidifies, and Otis Redding’s voice crescendos in emotional intensity. He ferociously rhapsodizes tenderness in a way that completely defies the word’s meaning.
When, at last, he pleads the final chorus and walks offstage for good, the crowd, which had been standing on its collective feet since the opening number, responds by filling the cold, wet Northern California night with an ovation that lasts nearly ten minutes.
* * *
This tenderness Otis Redding exalted wasn’t a weakness. It wasn’t passive or submissive. It wasn’t dutiful or compliant, pliant, meek, or yielding. It wasn’t a fault to try tenderness—or a failing.
Trying a little tenderness is an appeal to the virtue of compassion. Trying a little tenderness means recognizing each other’s vulnerability; it’s singing the praises of love. It’s being merciful with our intentions. It’s suspending judgment when we find flaws.
We preach to our children the inextricable value of kindness, but do we practice it? We tell them to have grace during hardship, while we become defensive, dismissive, and rash. How can we both prevent and promote such diametrically opposed reactions? How can we foster love for thy neighbor without any tolerance for differences? We aren’t sensitive to ourselves, yet we demand others be, and we denounce in them the very behavior we commit.
What if, this New Year, instead of pairing rough with tough, tit for tat, and brute with force, we infuse a little tenderness?
What if we show tenderness toward our spouses, our aging parents, our children when they’re difficult, and our friends when they disappoint?
What if we consider tenderness instead of sarcasm, dismissiveness, or indifference?
What if we try a little tenderness with ourselves, let ourselves off the hook for being imperfect, allow a modicum of humanity, cut ourselves some slack? What if I try, with the strength and fervor of Otis Redding’s song, to be tender to me?
May this year be one of healing, of gratitude, and of growth—flush with vining blessings, every inch tender in its strength.
Happy New Year
Be tender to yourselves, to each other, to the world.
See you all tomorrow.