I wake up with a different song in my head almost every morning. Sometimes I don’t mind. Sometimes it is horrible. The worst is when I get a small snippet of a song where I don’t know all the lyrics, so the same line plays over, and over, and over again on an endless loop.
At this point, I usually share it with my wife, because misery loves company. Before you judge me for being cruel, know that I take as much as I give, and she can be brutal with songs like “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay.”
Some call them “earworms,” fancy people call it “stuck song syndrome.” You all know what I’m talking about. Some songs are just “sticky,” and can last for days.
Over the past while, a couple of lines from a song have stuck in my head on different occasions. Nothing irritating – in fact, I really like the song – but on multiple days those lines were stuck on replay. I was forced to hear them countless times. Strangely, this song kept popping into my head over the course of months – not days or even hours.
Eventually, I looked up the song to see the lyrics in context and to try and figure out why they were so “sticky” to me. They are from an on obscure song, “Faster than Light,” by Neil Finn:
Here are the lines:
And praise will come to those whose kindness Leaves you without debt And bends the shape of things to come That haven't happened yet
I appreciated the ideas from the first time I heard them. After a zillion times, I decided maybe I should dig in and figure out what it means to me, and maybe discover why this particular verse stuck – or at least get something positive out of it. So, I spent some time pondering this past week, and made a few surprising and lovely discoveries.
First, about the lyrics: The idea of someone’s kindness leaving you without debt is a beautiful thought: Kindness for kindness’ sake – with no expectation of reward. Charity?
The idea that someone’s kindness can actual bend – or alter – the “shape of things to come” made me think about how our lives have a trajectory that can be altered, for good or ill. Recognizing that an act of kindness can change the future is a big idea.
As I thought about this stuff, it occurred to me that it was an opportunity. An opportunity to look back and try to see if someone else’s kindness has altered the course of my life, and, if so, try to define it.
It has been a very humbling exercise, and I highly recommend it.
Initially, I was at a loss, but as I dug a little deeper, instances of kindness came to mind that have impacted my life. Some a little bit, some drastically. I offer three examples:
When I was a college kid, I came home to work for a couple semesters before I could afford to head back to BYU. I needed to find a job, quickly, but was having no luck.
My brother-in-law, Mark, called me up one afternoon and told me about a job he interviewed for in advertising/marketing. He wasn’t interested in it, but thought about me (kindness) and thought that I might be interested, so he gave me a call (kindness.)
I was interested, and I took the job. I worked it on-and-off until I graduated and started working in my career track. Three years later, I decided to return to that line of work and start my own company. Thirty-plus years later, I am still at it, and it has provided me with a really nice life.
Mark probably hasn’t ever thought about it in a “big picture” sort of way, but his kindness did “bend the shape of things to come” for me, my wife and my family. (And he never asked for a finder’s fee.) I never really thought about it until this past week – until that relentless song drove me to it.
When I decided that I wanted to make the leave corporate America and start my own business, there was really only one question in my mind: Would Chrissie sign off? I prepared to get her blessing, and had determined that if her response showed any sign of doubt or fear, I wouldn’t go though with it.
Her response? “I trust you. If that is what you think you should do, I’ll support you.” Her kindness bent the shape of both our lives, and we are both grateful to where it has led us.
A friend asked me to come to his office and he extended an invitation. He told me that I had a skillset that could help a charity he was involved with. He asked if I might be interested in sharing my talents. It was a kind, flattering offer, which I immediately refused.
I came home and told Chrissie about it. She immediately recognized that I made a mistake, and gently suggested that I change my mind. I did.
Six weeks later I was in Africa, working with a wonderful organization in Mozambique. The next decade was a blur, spent deep in humanitarian work, developing programs, training personnel, giving lectures and promoting our work. It was a remarkable time in my life. Looking back at it with new context, I see how a simple kindness by a friend resulted in my life – and the lives of thousands – being bent in a better direction.
And there are so many other instances that I could cite. I never really spent the time digging in to see how other’s kindnesses have altered the course of my life, but it is real – and frequent.
It has been eye-, and heart-opening for me to dig though this, and I highly recommend the process. It uncovers gratitude that I didn’t even know I was lacking.
The next step is harder: Looking back and trying to see if I have ever been the one whose kindness altered the life of another. I imagine that I am oblivious to times that this side of the process has happened as much as I am cognizant of it.
“Sometimes the greatest love is not found in the dramatic scenes that poets and writers immortalize. Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.” (Elder Joseph B. Wirthin)
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth
My life has surely been altered by the kindness of others. Has my kindness ever altered a life? I hope so… If not, then I’m probably missing the whole point of this sticky song we call mortality.
When That Song Stuck in Your Head Becomes a Blessing: (Don’t play it in Church!)