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for 2012

photo credit Brook Andreoli

I spoke about this little tin heart in a keynote address earlier this year. It’s from the story of the tin soldier and how, at the end of everything, this was all that was left of him. The tin soldier story is one of those Job-like tales where everything keeps going wrong, over and over again, and you think, “Things can’t go on like this!” but then they do.

2011 was a very wonderful year in many ways and a year that in other ways marked the beginning of difficult things that will likely not end soon.

One curse and one gift from this year is that I feel like my little tin heart is on fire all of the time. I have become more observant of all the little cruelties people perpetuate upon each other, but I have also become deeply aware of all the kind things that people do for one another. Earlier this month, I went to the mall with my youngest boy. I dread going to the mall during Christmastime–I’m not a big shopper any time of the year, and it’s so busy during the holidays. But it had to be done. And I found myself on the verge of tears several times over the course of those few hours, as I watched several acts of kindness where the person performing the act had no idea they were being observed. I might not have had the time to see them, had I not been moving at a three-year-old’s pace with my little guy. His eyes were wide with wonder and delight at everything, and I was fragile, in a good way for once, a walking assemblage of pieces shattered and put together again, broken and humbled and then made whole again by good people doing good things.

I can’t watch when people are being mean to each other. I get no joy in reading snarky blogs or mean reviews or in writing them myself–I don’t do any of those things. I’m not talking about honest, thoughtful criticism or parody etc., just meanness. Don’t get me wrong: I love well-done satire, my sense of humor tends toward the sarcastic, sometimes I come across as distant or blunt because I’m thinking about other things, those that haunt my mind and heart. Sometimes I am just plain grumpy. I make many, MANY mistakes and it is the ongoing goal of my life to be more patient and kind, and one I will probably never fully achieve. But I have to keep trying.

I believed before this year, and even more firmly believe now, that all that matters is whether or not you loved and were loved. That little heart, to me, represents what is left when everything else about you has been taken or burned away.

My wish for my little family, and for all of you, is an increased measure of love and kindness in 2012.

+ comments (18)
  • Jewel Allen
    January 3, 2012

    What a beautiful message for the new year, Allie. Your kindness shines through not only in your posts, but also in your fiction. Thanks for your example. 🙂

  • Jewel Allen
    January 3, 2012

    I meant *Ally*


  • Aimee Brown
    January 3, 2012

    I agree. Life is hard enough, we don’t need to add insult and hurt to others. I really believe kindness can change the world. Thanks for the reminder this morning! Best to you, Ally.

  • Thank you for your inspiring message. I completely agree. It would be great if we could all be a little more kind and patient with one another. It’s my lifelong goal as well to be more patient especially as a mother of 3 young boys.

  • becca
    January 3, 2012

    You are good. Your heart is good. Thank you for reminding me again.

  • Sara B. Larson
    January 3, 2012

    You are such an amazing person Ally. What a beautiful post. <3 ya.

  • Bridget
    January 3, 2012

    I love this post – thank you! And I wish you all the best this year!

  • Bob Corry
    January 3, 2012

    Great message Ally. So many times your posts really make my day.

  • Jemi Fraser
    January 3, 2012

    Lovely! I agree – the negative people are exhausting and not worth our time. I love your wish and hope you find the same!

  • Emily
    January 3, 2012

    This is beautiful. I can’t agree with you more. How can people waste so much time putting out negative energy. I guess they’re not busy enough.

    I’m glad to see when people are kind. Just to be kind…no other motives.

    Thank you for this.

  • Ashley R.
    January 3, 2012

    I agree with all of you, but also think that if we are kind and helpful to others, they may change. No one is without hope. Happy New Year!!!!!!

  • Stephanie
    January 4, 2012

    I completely agree! A few years ago when I decided to try to love everyone and see the best in them it truly changed my life. Sounds corny. But it’s true.

  • a_hoffman79
    January 5, 2012

    What a beautiful and heartfelt post with which to begin the year.

    I will keep the following thought in mind as I begin this new year too: “I believed before this year, and even more firmly believe now, that all that matters is whether or not you loved and were loved. That little heart, to me, represents what is left when everything else about you has been taken or burned away.”

  • Bethany Hudson
    January 5, 2012

    I love this, Ally. Thank you! I have always had so much admiration that you have been able to put so much of your heart and beliefs and principles into your writing without making it contrived or preachy. You have a real gift, and a beautiful heart. God bless you in the New Year!

  • Jake
    January 6, 2012

    Great Post, Ally. (Is that comma supposed to go there? I have a love-hate relationship with punctuation, I love it when other people do it right because it makes things so easy to read, but it hates me because I always do it wrong.)

  • Ali
    January 8, 2012

    Beautiful words so well put. No matter what else we accomplish in life, it’s true that love matters most. Without it, nothing else seems to matter much.

  • Karen_St_Louis
    January 13, 2012

    I love “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” (I’m sure my kids wonder why I love reading them stories with sad endings! I also love” The Little Match Girl” and Oscar Wilde’s ” The Happy Prince.”)

    This post really resonated with me, especially since I’ve been trying hard to be less cranky and less critical of others over the past year. Also more patient and kind with my family. Like you said, it often seems like an impossible goal, but definitely one worth striving for.

    And my grandmother crocheted a picture that hung in my family’s living room when I was a kid. It said, “To love and be loved are the greatest joys on earth.” As an adult, I’m finally coming to realize how true that is.

  • Chrisy
    January 16, 2012

    I love these words. There’s a definite difference between thoughtful criticism and mean—almost power play-like critiques. I join you in your wish for 2012. Happy New Year.