“Let’s start 2014 with happiness. If you ‘like’ this, I’ll write something that I find beautiful about you!”
I saw a status message in this vein on a friend’s Facebook page. I clicked “like”–more to convey that I “liked” that she was doing such a nice thing, rather than “like” as in, “Send me a compliment ASAP.”
Perhaps fortunately, Facebook’s “likes” are not so nuanced. So I got a compliment from her. It made me feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciated. And so I decided, you know what? I’ll do this too.
I posted this as my status message. The “likes” started pouring in. And whether they “liked” it because of my intention or because they wanted to see what I’d say about them, I decided I was going to write something for each one of them.
I won’t lie–it was time-consuming. I wrote on my phone with one finger as I put my 14-month-old down for her nap. I wrote between dot painting projects with my 2-year-old. I wrote in the glider, the baby asleep on my lap. I wrote in the carpool pickup line (car in park, don’t worry).
I had thought this status message was just a nice way for people to get compliments about themselves…but in fact, it was so much more. As I wrote something for each person, I was forced to really take into account the role they have played in my life, and to think about what I appreciate about each one of them, but don’t usually say out loud.
I took time to think about each person, and how I met each of them, whether through school or the “old neighborhood” or JDate (!) or mutual friends–and what I found so compelling about each of them. I knew people liked compliments, but I hadn’t anticipated how this exercise would make ME feel: happy and grateful, and appreciative of my friends’ real beauty.
You can say, “Oh, sure, everyone knows that gratitude is healthy, yadda yadda yadda.” But the fact of the matter is, it’s really rare that we have both the opportunity and inclination to tell a friend what we admire about them… except for when we’re writing their eulogy. And the eulogy thing–well, it’s nice, but whether or not the main character hears it is up for debate.
I got to tell my friends how I feel about them, and in doing so, conveyed what I feel REAL beauty is. Real beauty, I explained to my friends, goes beyond praising them for their good looks–though many of my friends happen to be stunning. Real beauty is the soul of my virtual friend who reached out and virtually held my hand while my mom was going through surgery. Real beauty is how another friend shares his enthusiasm and passions by opening his heart and letting you in. Real beauty is the way another friend carries herself through life with self-confidence and affirms and mentors others. Real beauty is kindness, love, and grace. As it turns out, I rediscovered that all my friends are beautiful.
Just this morning, I got an email from a dear friend in Buenos Aires:
“I was really moved by what you wrote about me. I showed it to a bunch of people and have re-read it like 100 times. Thank you for those touching words. It moved me a lot… I think people rarely say *heart-felt* nice things about their friends, and I really appreciated that you did that! It reminds me of when I was growing up: for every single holiday, my mother would always say, ‘Never buy me a gift, instead, write something to me or make something for me.’ I think today, too often, we ‘buy’ gifts too much rather than say something from the heart. Plus it’s cheaper to say something than buy something!”
So what if we all decide to do this? I encourage you to go ahead–take to Facebook and Twitter and tell your friends what you find beautiful about them. Use the hashtag #WhatILikeAboutYou. Let’s start 2014 with an avalanche of kindness.