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Friday, October 17, 2014

When Small Acts of Kindness are HUGE

by Carol Fragale Brill
A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about my worry that chemo treatments and losing my hair might make me look sick or unable. I imagined people would gawk at my scarf-wrapped head—or worse, dart their eyes away from me, rendering me invisible. 
Like so often when I wring my hands and project about the future, those worries were a waste of energy and time—teaching me once again that worry is like making loan payments before you get the loan. 
Repeatedly, the small gestures of others have reminded me how the littlest ripple of kindness can grow into a wave. Like the first time I wrapped my head in a “dress-up” scarf and self-consciously ventured out to an upscale restaurant for dinner with Jim. The waiter gushed about how attractive he found “my very stylish scarf.” A seemingly little gesture—for me and my self-esteem, it was absolutely huge.
I can’t tell you how often strangers—mostly women but also a good number of men—go out of their way to make eye contact with me, hold my gaze, and smile in a way that telegraphs encouragement and support.
My favorite example of a stranger’s small act of kindness might be the woman who came up to me in the grocery store, gestured discreetly at my head-wrap and said, “I had that same hairstyle three years ago.” She winked and added, “Don’t worry, it really does grow back.” 
Even more encouraging than her headful of hair was her healthy appearance—living proof that you can kick cancer’s butt.
The concept of small acts of kindness might sound cliché. For me, these little ripples from strangers help normalize a time that often feels anything but normal. And, far from making me feel invisible, they validate my experience and boost my self-esteem.
So what small acts of kindness has someone showed to you? And, what can you do today to start a ripple that churns up a kindness wave?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Would You Cast Your Fate to a Coin Toss?

by Chris Brady

360 words  

Carol’ Brill's recent “Bald is Beautiful” post about losing her hair during cancer treatment is a pretty hard act to follow. My life is on cruise control compared to what she is going through right now. Her decision to quit hiding her baldness, to let people see the face of cancer, was a courageous step away from the safe and familiar.  

I thought about her choice as I listened to an audio book, Think like a Freak, by the Freakonomics collaborators Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. If you don’t know these authors, they are an economist and journalist who study human behavior and package their findings in amusing and easy to read books, blogs and podcasts. Their research frequently  overturns conventional wisdom and has practical applications in our lives.

The Freakonomics authors wanted to help people who were stuck in neutral to make some big life decisions. They asked them to accept the fate of a coin toss. More than 30,000 people participated in the toss and the follow up surveys.  

How did it turn out for people who accepted the coin toss result? 

Pretty good for the large majority. There are probably explanations for that outcome. After all, once we choose a path we do our best to make our choice a success. But sometimes just making the choice is the hardest part, isn't it?

I liked the idea of trying my big question on a coin flip. I asked if I should retire early. It's a difficult choice as I love what I do and appreciate the financial security I'm building. (Women in my family live a long time.) 

But I see how carefree and happy people off the work grid are too and I wonder what great experiences await me as I accept the golden handcuffs of employment.

So I flipped and I have my answer, which I am keeping to myself for a while as I process it.  I took the best two out of three options. I'm feeling good about it too.

What's your burning question?  Would you toss a coin to help you to decide?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bald IS Beautiful

by Carol Fragale Brill

Over the last couple of months, my family and friends have repeatedly reassured me that Bald is Beautiful. While I appreciate the sentiment, I didn't believe them and chalked it up to everyone just being supportive and kind.

And then I saw Joan Lunden's picture on the recent cover of People Magazine.

To say I am in awe and inspired that Joan Lunden bared her head on PEOPLE— a magazine read by an estimated 43 Million+ people and seen my who knows how many more— is a huge understatement.

Asked about her decision she said, "It was such a tough decision. . ."And it wasn’t the comfortable decision — knowing you were going to be seen by everyone in such a vulnerable way — but I know it was the right decision. I knew I could be a voice for a quarter of a million women . . . and I wanted to show that your health is more important than your hair. Your hair grows back after you stop chemo, and then you have your life."

I wonder if in weighing her uncomfortable decision she grappled with all the reasons not to do it—if like me, she came up with a long list of what-ifs and buts.

There’s a saying I learned from my Scottish friends, Bella and Julie that goes something like—if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. The first time I heard that saying, I had no idea what it meant. Now, I think it means we can— and often do— stockpile excuses not to do stuff—especially the hard stuff that forces us to face fears or risk being seen as vulnerable.

Before I actually lost my hair, I was sure I’d keep my head under wraps with everyone but Jim. I can count on one hand the family and friends who have glimpsed it. And, then, Joan Lunden showed the bravery and beauty to let People put her bald head on their cover. I had to ask myself, if she put it out there for the millions who read People, is it time to suck-up the fear and insecurity by doing my small part? 

Unsure and uncomfortable, I talked it over with Jim. He asked me why, after being so private up until now, I’d want to take the risk.

The best answer I have is that the sooner I accept that being bald is part of my life right now, the sooner I take away its power and move on.
So, it seems like the best way to honor Joan Lunden’s bravery, is to (gulp) find the guts to follow her lead and do the same thing here.