I regret that I never got to meet Jim Baxley in person. However, I do know his two sons, JB and Bob. Both currently still live in Bristol. Both are friends of mine. And much like their father, both are kind people.
Jim was the editor of the Bristol Herald-Courier for many years. He wrote a weekly column, as I do now. Jim’s column was entitled “Consider This”. (One of Jim’s sons told me that his father wrote somewhere around 600 such weekly columns in the BHC over the years. Amazing.)
One of Jim’s favorite topics was kindness. He wrote about it often. He even proposed creating a national day for celebrating it.
I’m not sure anyone can write too often about kindness. And it appears to be difficult to give too much of it.
From my own teaching experience, both at the elementary school level and with adult inmates at the Bristol Jail, I never found a situation that could not be made at least a little better with some genuine kindness.
I will now offer some direct quotes from some of Jim’s columns, all regarding his proposed “National Day of Kindness”:
“We Americans have a day or a week or a month for just about everything.
“Mother’s Day; Father’s Day; Dairy Month; Dental Health Month; Be-Kind-To-Animals Week; Mother-In-Law Day; Hot Dog Month; Valentine’s Day; plus national, religious and historical holidays, along with countless other days of commemoration remembrance or whatever.
“You name it, we got it — almost. Unless I have missed it, we have not got a day for which we put special emphasis on being kind to one another. We ought to have one.
“Oh, I know we are supposed to be kind to each other all the time, but we’re not.
“We get out of sorts. We yell at people and dogs and cats. We rail against circumstances. We yap at our public officials. We heap abuse on our public servants — our school, teachers, our police, our firemen, our public works employees, the folks at the courthouse.
“We say hurtful things to those who are most important in our lives. Even if we don’t really mean what we say, the hurt remains. It may go away, but it takes a while.
“So I am declaring a National Day of Kindness.
“Everybody, of course, is invited to participate. Maybe our mayors will proclaim it for the Twin Cities. Maybe Congress will adopt one of those resolutions fixing the date. Maybe even the president will issue one of those proclamations extolling the virtues of kindness and calling on all Americans to give it a try.
“Even if none of that happens, though, we can mark the occasion by doing and saying kind things to those we know and even those we don’t know but just happen to run into sometime during the day: Store clerks, cashiers, cab drivers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, secretaries, co-workers, passerby (a smile and ‘hello’ works wonders), even newspaper editors. The list is endless, since it includes everybody.
“Other than speaking and smiling, you may ask, if you are not into everyday kindness, what else can we do?
“Well, anything that might make someone else feel better about themselves or life in general. But here are some specific f’rinstances:
“Send a card of some sort, preferably one you made yourself.
“Call someone on the phone ‘just because.’
“Tell your wife or your children or relatives, ‘Hey, you know I love you.’
“Tell a friend, ‘You’re good people. I like you.’
“Let that waiting driver pull into traffic from the parking lot or wherever.
“Drop a note to your favorite charity or public agency (police, firemen, etc.) that says, simply, ‘Thanks.’
“If you’ve had a ‘falling out’ with a relative or a close friend and you ‘haven’t spoken’ lately, speak. Let bygones be bygones. Make it a day of mutual amnesty.
“That’s not all, of course. Far from it. The surface is barely scratched. But you get the idea. Just be nice, be courteous, be civil, be thoughtful, be kind.”
Well, there you have them; kind words from a kind man. Again, I’m sorry I never personally got to meet Jim. But from reading his words, he sounds like my “kind” of guy. I hope he is yours, too, my friends.
Ben Talley is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, a former Virginia Teacher of the Year, and a McGlothlin Award Winner for Teaching Excellence