We returned home last week after spending a couple of weeks in Ireland with family. I wrote this while there. I'm posting this so that in a year, when it comes up in my Facebook memories at a time when I've surely forgotten that I was going to try harder in this respect and lapsed back into being a crabass, I'll be reminded of how nice it was when everyone went out of their way to be kind and fun with us, when my kids were regarded as additions to the fun instead of annoyances to someone's environment, when everyone's positive attitude made our attitudes positive. For what it's worth.
I haven't encountered one crabby person, one person who is put out by our pathetic driving, bothered by our children, annoyed at our presence. Every idiotic question of ours has been answered sweetly, if with a laugh. When we went down a one-way street, no one honked or waved at us with a mad face: instead, a woman restauranteur came out of her restaurant, opened the gate leading to an alley next to her cafe, and motioned for us to turn into it (we still didn't know we were going the wrong way) - and she let us in her private parking area and told us to turn around because we were going the wrong way. Thank you, we said. No problem at all, she said. As if she hadn't a million other things to do before opening her restaurant.
There is another way to talk to each other. There is another way to be with each other. Unbothered, unannoyed, without an eye roll or a heavy breath, letting things roll, knowing that everyone's trying their best, with mostly good intentions at least a great majority of the time.
Even if we get talked about behind our backs, what does it matter then? They were kind to our faces and I'd take that over the reverse, if I had to choose. And who's to say they talked about us when we left? If they did, they laughed about us and they should have. I'd have laughed with them.
We are a nuisance in a land of people who are unbothered. If necessary for our safety, they gently correct us, but mostly they live, let live, and are funny in those processes.
We are chaos in a land that isn't fussy. And this is why everyone comes back here again and again - because it's certainly not for the weather (notice our wool sweaters for an Irish summer): we learn patience, we learn kindness, we learn to laugh first, to let things roll.
My children have noticed as well, as my eldest declared, "I haven't met one grump here yet. Are there crabby people here?" His favorite friend here was my 83-year-old uncle who made him tea, let the younger siblings fill his bird feeders, gave us his home to stay in - all of this when I can hardly answer my doorbell at home without some minor frustration when it rings. I mean, really.
My uncle made his home, with all of my children and my mom and my husband, all ready for us. No trouble at all, he said. It was trouble, but he does it. They do it. They go out of their way for kindnesses.
This is Ireland. You don't come for the weather. Or the food, really (except the seafood chowder. And the really good butter and cream and milk and I've gained some weight, but #worthit). It's the people here. They make you better before you leave.
People say kindness is free and it is, but that doesn't mean that it's easy, that it requires no effort. Breastfeeding is free, too, but it's no joke in the beginning - it takes effort to get it going. Same here, I think.
And so I hope we come home with this muscle memory of smiling first, of assuming the best and taking a kind approach first, of speaking to other people's children the way our children have been spoken to here.
This is why we should travel: to learn the best the world has to give. And then to bring it home with us and spread it around.