Thoughts on Kindness

tulips bien venue kindness

Some of my favorite YouTube videos to watch are reaction videos. Specifically, learning about what people think about Americans when they visit the United States for the first time. Overwhelming kindness is what many people experience.

As much as we complain about our country being divided and sometimes feeling that everything is awful, especially after watching the news, there is a lot of good. Video after video after video, I have seen that same reaction. How when people arrive here, Americans are smiling, chatting them up, giving compliments and actually kind of freaking people out. They usually think it’s fake at first, but then after awhile, they realize that it’s just part of American culture. And they like it.

Obviously, Americans aren’t always kind. And some people are so used to being treated badly, they cannot even fathom it. A recent Boston Globe Opinion piece called “The pharmacist and the amaryllis” shook me to the core.

A pharmacist had done a great job helping the writer cut through some red tape and got her insurance company to cover the needed medication. As a thank you, she bought an amaryllis plant to give the pharmacist. But the gift and thank you weren’t received as hoped. The pharmacist couldn’t comprehend the kindness and thought she was in trouble. Below is a portion from the piece.

“Though I was not there, I was the medication recipient and the patient in question. A few weeks later, recovered, I bought an amaryllis plant and brought it to the pharmacy drop-off window. When I asked for the pharmacist by name, the tech looked a little worried. The woman who emerged from the back looked even more worried.

I explained that she had helped to resolve a medical mess a month earlier, that it had required enormous effort, and that I wanted to give her the plant in appreciation. Immediately, her eyes grew a little glazed and fearful.

“I took care of that,” she said quickly. “It won’t happen again.”

“No,” I said, “I’m here to thank you.”

But she couldn’t absorb the thanks. As the public face of insurance noncoverage, delays for prescriptions that were never called in, long waiting lines, unreasonable copayments, and medication side effects that no one explains, she had been trained into a different expectation. It was clear that she was waiting for someone to yell at her.”

After reading this, I thought about the pharmacist. What her days must be like with such constant fear. I hope she can experience a steady stream of kindness. So she can recognize it, when she sees it.

Recently Watched: Paris Blues

Paris Blues

Some movies are such American classics, that we assume everyone has seen them. But that’s not always the case. Just this year was the first time that I saw The Sting, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. How could that be? I just never got around to it.

After seeing it, I know why it’s a classic. Wow! I loved it! I still haven’t seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — another Newman and Redford classic. That will be remedied soon!

But last night, I saw Paris Blues. It’s a lesser known film than the others and doesn’t include Robert Redford. But it has gigantic star power nonetheless. With Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Louis Armstrong and music by Duke Ellington, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this movie until recently.

Paris Blues is a romantic drama from 1961, in black and white, yet has a modern feel. With all the music, dancing and romance, it made me wonder why nobody has ever done a remake. I could definitely see it.

In the beginning, Paul Newman’s character is after Diahann Carroll’s character. However, the movie wasn’t that modern and took the more predictable route. After all, interracial marriage was still illegal in parts of the country. Loving v. Virginia wouldn’t be decided until six years later in 1967.

What adds another layer to Paris Blues are the real life romances happening with both couples. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were already married to each other. Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll were both married to other people, but having an affair. So this must have been an interesting movie set!

Paris looks very gritty in the film, possibly depicting how it looked before being fully rebuilt after the war. Yet the charm remained. The music is wonderful, but it’s still kind of a quiet slice of life film that feels like current independent cinema.

What also feels modern is the issue of race. Both couples are American. Carroll and Woodward’s characters are friends visiting Paris for a two week vacation. Newman and Poitier’s characters are expat jazz musicians. Carroll and Poitier’s characters talk about racism back home and how he doesn’t want to return to the degradation he has to suffer as a Black man. But she says that someone has to stay and fight. Unfortunately, in reality, the fight remains.

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Screenshot: IMDb

Baby Boxes Coming to America?

Recently, I was watching a reaction video where American parents react to a video about baby boxes received by all expecting parents in Scotland. The boxes are amazing!

They include clothing, toys, books, swaddles, thermometers, a mattress, sheets and much more. The box itself can even be used as a bed for the baby if needed.

The baby box idea first started in Finland. It’s shocking that governments in so many other countries support new parents in ways that don’t happen here. Much of it is because we don’t have guaranteed health care in the United States, but that’s another post. More support needs to be given to parents, especially with the increasing assault on reproductive rights in this country. Again, another post.

I was so intrigued by this idea of baby boxes, that I was curious if there might be something like that here. Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The Biden-Harris Administration realizes that families need more support and recognized that other countries have some good ideas on how to do that.

“Today, basic newborn supplies like diapers can cost an average of $1,000 a year for each diapered child in a home In addition, nearly 1 in 8 women – regardless of age, income, or race – will suffer from some form of postpartum anxiety or depression, a number that is on the rise for women in America. Further, mental health conditions now comprise 23% of pregnancy-related deaths – more than any other single category.

In an effort to alleviate some of these stressors on new families, governments in at least 91 other countries and municipalities offer new families a “Baby Box” upon the birth of a child. In addition to offering much-needed physical goods, these baby boxes are designed to offer critical postpartum care information and to promote increased interactions between parents and their healthcare providers.”

In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a pilot program in collaboration with Baby2Baby, a nonprofit organization. The program provides Newborn Supply Kits to new mothers.

“The Newborn Supply Kits consist of more than 20 items including diapers and wipes, clothing, hygiene items, blankets and thermometers for newborns, and postpartum pads, lotion, cold packs, breastfeeding supplies, and carriers for new moms. HHS and Baby2Baby will first distribute 3,000 of the Newborn Supply Kits across Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico – three states experiencing deep levels of family poverty – via hospitals and community-based partner organizations. Any mother giving birth during pilot implementation at one of the partner sites will be eligible to receive a kit.”

The intent is for the program to expand with a focus on addressing the maternal health crisis. “We need bold solutions that recognize and respond to the unacceptable disparities in maternal health outcomes in this country,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “Through this new funding, health centers will be able to tailor their response to the needs of their patients and communities and take action to save lives.”

As we move further into 2024, more information will be available about how the program is doing and plans for expansion. This kind of help for new families is long overdue and I’m looking forward to learning more about it!

American Tipping Culture

tipping culture

Some of the most interesting videos that I’ve seen on YouTube are the ones talking about American culture. The reactions from people who aren’t American, when they learn about our tipping culture in restaurants is quite interesting.

Often it’s hard to see what is American culture, until we step out of it through travel or have it reflected back to us by someone who is not part of the culture. Many cultural practices we don’t think of as such, because they are so obvious and mundane. Like American breakfast culture.

I never thought of it as a thing until someone mentioned to me that Americans are the only ones who have specific breakfast foods. People in other countries will often eat any type of food for breakfast. For instance, I would never think of eating soup for breakfast. Or a salad. Weekend brunch is a different thing, because anything goes there.

But on a random Wednesday morning, I wouldn’t be eating chicken and rice with vegetables. To me that is clearly lunch or dinner food. Breakfast is hot or cold cereal, fruit, coffee, toast, eggs, pancakes, etc. But now I see that’s American breakfast. The more I think about culture, it seems that it’s those things you do, clothes you wear, music you listen to, words you use, and foods you cook, just because. That unspoken “just because” is culture.

There are reasons for it, but it takes some historical and sociological digging to figure out how that custom or practice developed over time. Like how Italian American food was created and is something very different from Italian food in Italy.

There is a long history of how tipping culture developed in the United States, which I won’t go into. But tipping is a very American thing and people from other countries tend to be shocked by it. Most Americans do expect to tip at a restaurant. But more recently Americans are becoming shocked that tipping keeps expanding to include everything.

One thing that surprises me is the amounts that people think are okay for tipping. I was brought up to believe that 20% is the minimum tip at a restaurant. If it’s bad in some way, then it’s okay to give less. But if it’s very good, then give more. As much as you can.

When my father was in college, he worked as a waiter, I think at a place on Beacon Hill, to pay for his expenses and to help his family. So tipping was very important to him personally. From when I was a kid, when we went out to eat, he always made a point of thanking everyone who waited on us and giving the tip personally. Shook their hand, looked them in the eye. He never just left it on the table.

I always thought that most everyone believed the same things, until I started reading comments where people thought that a 15% tip was okay, good even. That was and is still so shocking to me!

It took me until recently to realize that my family had a particular tipping culture. When going out in a group, often we don’t know what other people leave for a tip. Even if we do, we tend to not know their personal experience growing up with tipping and I don’t think that most people talk about it. Or do they? What do you think?

The Golden Bachelor

The Golden Bachelor

Are you watching The Golden Bachelor? When I first heard about this new spin on the series, I was intrigued. I watched the first show and liked it, but wasn’t sure that I’d keep watching. By the second episode I was hooked.

I’ve watched these shows over the years a few times, but had not watched it in several years. I wondered how most people would receive the show. I think it’s done a great job at breaking some stereotypes about aging. The Bachelor, Gerry Turner, is very likeable and seems to be a  genuinely good guy. He’s fun, kind and quite easy on the eyes.

Overall, I’ve liked all the women on the show, except for one. Theresa Nist has caused unnecessary drama and I’m not happy at all that she is part of the final three. I like the other two, Leslie Fhima and Faith Martin, and at first I thought they were the same person. They look so much alike! Or is it that they have a similar vibe? I hope that he picks one of them!

Tonight is the Women Tell All, episode of The Golden Bachelor and I will definitely be watching!