Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why I Married (Her)

My beautiful, kind girl.
We were hanging out on the stoop when I pulled out my phone. It was cool, fall evening, and we'd been dating for six weeks. The street was quiet. My housemates were inside, and she flashed me a curious look when she saw the phone.

"What are you doing?"

"Well, now that we're dating, I should delete these other numbers."

As a single guy over the past two years, I'd collected more than a few numbers from women, though nearly all of them had gone uncalled. As a "playboy," or serial dater, I was notoriously bad. I seemed to have the ability to coax women to give me their phone number, but absolutely no ability whatsoever to "close the deal." Not that they (or I)would have been interested anyway. My friends had found me, more than once, listening to an available single woman telling me her "story" and providing counsel and encouragement. In other words, I was a dating moron.

Bethany did not know this, however, and she frowned as I not only deleted the numbers, but happily provided details on each of the women. (What I remembered, anyway.) I thought it was funny. She did not. What she didn't know was that while many of the women I'd met were pretty or smart or both, I was looking for more. I was looking for someone like her. Pretty was important. So was intelligence. But she had something else, something more, and when she agreed to marry me seven months later, I was overjoyed. (Yup. Seven months. Doesn't take long when the most amazing girl ever says she loves you!)

A Kind Life

Bethany came home yesterday and told me that she'd met someone at the grocery store. A developmentally disabled woman had randomly approached her.

"Excuse me, do you know where the Feta cheese is?"

"Um, sure. It's right over here," Bethany said.

The woman stared at the different packages, and my wife patiently explained the differences between them.

"Do you know how they make feta cheese?"

"No. I don't."

"Why is it so expensive?" the woman asked.

"Well, what are you trying to make?" Bethany said.

"Pizza!"

"You know, you can use mozzarella cheese. It's not as expensive and tastes just as good on pizza," Bethany said.

"Can you show me where it is?"

"Sure."

She led the woman across the grocery store, and showed her where they kept the mozzarella. She explained the different kinds near it, and when she'd finished, the woman smiled at her.

"Thank you!"

She took the cheese and bounced happily away.

When Bethany told me this story, I couldn't help but shake my head. You could argue that it wasn't that big a deal, what she'd done. But it was. I'd spent most of my life working with special needs kids, and any time I heard grace filled encounters like that, I always felt a particular happiness. It wasn't surprising, though. She, too, had worked with special needs children, and that inherent kindness was part of her makeup. Probably the most important part.

Important

As much as we need our partners and spouses to be physically attractive (and smart), there's nothing quite like kindness. I hear horror stories all the time about men and women who act in a manner that is so unkind, its almost unfathomable. My friends tell me stories about horribly selfish individuals, of both sexes, and their frustrations with dating.

My advice? While you have to be attracted to someone (That HAS to happen. If you don't think your partner is attractive, your relationship will fail. Period.), stop looking for peripherals that don't matter. (money, family, etc....) What are they like? Are they kind, or do they have a capacity for cruelty?

I can tell you this much, if you end up with someone who isn't kind, you'll never have the life you hoped for. Cruelty and selfishness have a way of invading every little happiness. But kindness? Kindness works the other way. Kindness is the ointment that soothes all ills, and over time becomes the underlying song to every moment of joy you will ever experience.

I got lucky. I didn't deserve to meet someone like Bethany, let alone marry her. Every day we're together, I'm reminded of what it means to be with someone who consistently puts others above herself. And the simple truth is this: the only thing better than a Kind Life... is sharing it with someone who see things the same way.

-Steve