I Do: Channeling Kindness

June 02, 2022

Pledge to Take Action

Wedding photo of our Maya + Dave Smith.

“Wanna split a bubble water?”

My husband and I say many things to one another every day, the most reliable of them is this phrase. One of us says it to the other at the end of our night as we walk through our house and pick up toys strewn about, reunite shoes, and turn off lights in closets used for hide and seek. We open our berry flavored seltzers and sink into our couch to watch as many minutes of TV as we can stay awake for. This weekend, we celebrated eleven years of marriage and thousands of bubble waters were consumed.

I’m looking back on more than a decade of marriage at the same time that one of my colleagues (and friend!) is looking forward to the beginning of her marriage, in the final stages of wedding planning and the chaos that inevitably comes from merging two lives into one. I couldn’t think of a better present (though I’m sure she could) than to share some of my reflections and tips for a life shared through marriage ahead of her big day and more than anything, wish her well as she embarks on a lifetime of channeling kindness.

On our honeymoon, my husband and I got into a huge fight. I might have been the first person to cry angry tears in this lovebird destination, but there I was, crying. We argued over holidays and where we’d spend them, and I wanted to win this argument. I wanted to resort to my incisive, cutting words and say whatever I could to make him stop talking and make this fight end, with me victorious and us in New Jersey. Calmly, Dave explained to me that we were a team, and that if I caused him to “lose” then I would have lost too. I survived high school and much of my life so far with this firmly held belief in my mind and in my heart. I believed that the best things in life were finite, and that if Dave, or the girl sitting next to me in study hall, had any of them, then there would be less to go around for me. I was wrong then as I was wrong while I sat on this dock, arguing with my new husband. I didn’t need to take anything away from anyone else to have it for myself. In fact, if I managed to help make another person feel better, more supported, heard and valued, or anything else, then I was actually multiplying that value in my own life. Not only was there enough for each of us, we all got more if we viewed ourselves as a team.

Eleven years later after that first married argument, I find myself writing this note. Dave and I agreed we were too overwhelmed to think about presents and instead, we’d just get breakfast burritos and get on with our day. I wrote in my card to him that I was sad, just deeply sad. It’s a hard time to care for the world the way we do at Born This Way Foundation, the pain feels like a tidal wave coming at us on the shore, certain to knock us down no matter how firmly our feet are planted on the ground and no matter how ready we are for the wall of water to overtake us. Dave loves the West Wing and he recounts a story that Leo McGarry tells President Bartlett often. To paraphrase, it’s about a person in a ditch who is trying to get out. All sorts of folks walk by this person, refusing advice or help, but then a friend walks by and jumps in. The original ditch dweller is shocked, as he was just asking for help to get out of the ditch, but the friend decided that it was just better to not be alone as his friend faced the ditch. So, there they stood, together in the ditch, both in need of help but no longer alone.

The opportunity to share our lives with someone – a partner for life, a friend for an afternoon, or a smile with a stranger in passing – is a gift. In the good times, the hard times and the uncertain times, there are people near and far that love you, who are cheering you on and who would jump in that ditch or stand on that beach with you. Congratulations, to everyone deciding to stay and spend their life with someone – for a minute, for a season, or for a lifetime. Congratulations, especially to you.

Pledge to Take Action

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