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Most good things my mamma taught me she did by leading by example. But there is one habit I picked up because of something she did that I vowed I would be the opposite of.

Often in my childhood we would come home from church or somesuch public gathering and Mom would say that someone had paid me the nicest compliment. Invariably, I’d ask who said what. And she’d never say. It drove me crazy. And it occurs to me now that I’m older and not quite so egocentric - probably, the person giving the compliment would have been likewise disappointed that it never reached my ears.

I have never figured out this quirk of hers. What could her motivation possibly have been? I do not know. But I have gone on to become a lavish complimenter. I hand them out like candy - or, I like to think, like apples and bananas and big bunches of dark green kale. They are good for what ails you.

And I’m non-discriminant about who I pay them to. Strangers and friends; babies on up to old folks; people who are behaving well and maybe even behaving badly - just so long as they have the prettiest top on. Never insincere though; always something that struck me legitimately in the heart or soul or maybe even the brain box.

This habit has gotten me in trouble from time to time. Once had a girl tell me she just didn’t like me for months because she assumed I was fake. How could someone be that nice? But I’m not nice. Not really. I just have a charitable eye is all. I’m more likely to see, on first glance, the thing that makes you pretty, that gives you character, than the thing that brings you down. It doesn’t mean that I don’t see the dark and squirrely bits too. I do. It’s just that, most of the time it doesn’t benefit anyone to have those bits reflected back to them. But I love to see the joy bloom on someone’s face when you reflect back to them their pretty bits. It’s just feels good to be seen that way and I like seeing people feel good.

Which is not to say that I won’t sit down with friends and family or, on occasion, one of those perfect strangers, and dive on into the dark and squirrely bits. Happy to. And generally I find that even those bits can become compliment worthy. Embracing all parts of us as worthy and good - or at least good for something - is sound. Being black and white with ourselves or the world is a bad idea. Compassion, sympathy and empathy thrive much better in the grey.

So today I say go forth and be unlike my mamma! (Shocking.) If you think a nice thought about anyone say it! Helping someone see their best self is a good way to spend a minute of your time.


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