The other night I put my kids to bed an hour and a half before their regular bedtime so I could sit on the couch, eat Ben & Jerry’s and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie alone in silence.
I’m not sure what kind of message that is sending to my family, but I’m sure it’s not a good one.
I’ve got a pretty thick selfish streak. Part of me hopes you do, too, so I know I’m not the only one. The other part of me hopes it’s just me. I told you, I’m selfish.
At this point in my life, my selfishness manifests itself mainly in areas dealing with comfort and convenience. I don’t want to have to “suffer” through anything, and I don’t want to use my time doing something I’d rather not be doing.
For example, I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping because I don’t like to miss my full eight hours of sleep, and I don’t want to be bothered by crowds, bad parking and long check-out lines.
I would rather stay in the comfort of my own home and pay more when I venture out next Tuesday than to be inconvenienced so severely for a few really good deals.
Now that I think about it, though, staying home might not make me selfish. It might just make me smart.
Seriously though, when it comes to dealing with my husband and my children, I am pretty selfish. They all know, “It’s momma’s way or the highway.”
The funny thing is that they allow me to be this way. The kids are still young, so what I say goes – even when it doesn’t make much sense. And my husband, Saul, just wants to keep the peace, so he lets his wife pretend to be in charge.
But I know I’m wrong, and I’m working on it.
The war against selfishness starts with a little notebook next to the chair in my office. It’s a gratitude journal. I hope someday to have filled every line on every page with things I’m grateful for, but right now I’m only at No. 402, which means I still have three-fourths of the book to go.
Journaling my blessings is much harder than I had anticipated. Once I got past the house, family, health and car, it became incredibly difficult to put into words those things for which I am grateful.
Some of them are flippant, like No. 6: “Dogs that sleep with their feet straight up in the air.” I wrote that one down because it makes me laugh when I’m in my office so engrossed in what I’m typing and then glance over to see my two golden-doodles sleeping in some bizarre, totally uncomfortable position.
Some are more serious, like No. 193: “That there is more grace in you, God, than there is sin in me.”
And No. 196: “That someone I don’t even know would read my words and send money to help my neighbor in her time of need.”
When I look back at my journal, I realize that gratitude not only has the power to combat selfishness, it also unlocks the desire to be kind to others. I re-read what I’ve written, and I want to put others first because I realize how much I’ve been given. I am renewed from a place I can’t even identify.
I hope you have quiet moments today to really reflect on what you’re thankful for. You might even want to write them down so you can go back and remind yourself of those special gifts later, when life gets hard.
If you get through the entire day without having a single moment to yourself, feel free to send everyone to bed an hour and a half early. You won’t hear me calling you selfish.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.