An online dictionary defines hoity-toity as “haughty; snobbish”; with synonyms snobbish, haughty, distainful, conceited, proud, pretentious, arrogant, superior, above oneself, self-important.”
Hoity-toity? Me? Me, who has spent hundreds of hours shoveling manure out of cow stalls? Me, whose hourly wage is less than the plumber who unclogs my drain? Me who cannot seem to eat a meal without spilling on the front of my shirt? His label confused me. There are a lot of uncomplimentary adjectives that accurately describe me but hoity-toity was not one I thought applied.
Clearly Brother Day did not like me. Truth be told, I did not like him either. I thought he was a loud, obnoxious, self-righteous, old know-it-all.
As much as I did not like Brother Day, I liked even less the idea that he did not like me. Unacceptable. So I decided to change the situation. “You will like me, you old codger,” I vowed, “whether you want to or not.”
I decided to convert him with kindness. In much the same way as time and dripping water can wear a hole into even the hardest of rocks, I would patiently, persistently, consistently care. Powered by a determination to win him over, I launched my attack.
“Good morning Brother Day,” I greeted him at the beginning of our church service.
“Have a good afternoon Brother Day,” I said to him as we left the church building.
Sunday after Sunday, week after week, month after month, I made a point of smiling at and pleasantly addressing Brother Day. I looked for ways to and reasons to interact with him. I heard that his wife had loved flowers so I brought him a bouquet of daffodils. During a Sunday School lesson he mentioned a yards-long family pedigree chart he’d made so I asked to see it. Knowing the power of children to soften hearts, I took my little ones to visit him. While in his home I saw photos of his family and asked him to tell me about them.
Kindness. Caring. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Initially my greetings elicited grunts He really did not like me. Gradually I got smiles. Eventually I got hugs.
Hearts changed. His heart AND mine. I grew to love Brother Day. We all did. We came to appreciate his candid comments and his expansive intellect. We learned to love his gruff exterior and his marshmallow-soft, elephant-sized heart.
And he loved us. He told Lance what a wonderful wife he had and he told me what wonderful children we had. He especially loved Grace. “She is special,” he told us. “She is brilliant and has a powerful spirit.” [She was a preschooler at the time.]
Visits to Brother Day’s home became a regular Sunday ritual for us. Initiated by a desire to “convert” him, the motivation converted to a desire to spend time with him. We truly enjoyed hanging out with Brother Day.
As time progressed his health regressed. Brother Day was unable to attend church and then he was unable to leave the hospital bed that had been set up in his living room. We were unable to leave him alone; our visits continued. I have tender memories of sitting by the side of his bed, holding his gnarled hand, hearing his raspy voice share his still strong opinions. The drip, drip, drip of kindness had worn a hole in both our stubborn hearts and had somehow forged a stream between them. Caring connected us, deepened us, enriched us.
At Brother Day’s funeral, his family sought us out, specifically thanking us for being his friends.
I learned a lot from Brother Day. He was a spiritual and intellectual giant, as firm as the mountains around us. He was also susceptible to kindness. We all are. Kindness changes hearts. All hearts. It changes hearts on both sides; the hearts of those who get and those who give. His. Mine. Yours too, if you let it.
Since Brother Day’s passing I have applied The Brother Day Principle several times and it was worked every time. Every time. Not just old men…neighbors, bosses, young children, hard-to-love teens, hoity-toity women….all of us are susceptible. Proactive campaigns to be persistently, consistently kind produce positive results. Hearts change. All of them.