In the midst of the outcry over “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a very different parenting book has quietly climbed the charts. It’s not the top-10 bestseller that Amy Chua has authored. It’s filed under humor. But its rise has a lot to say about community and human kindness.
Meehan, who got her start with a pricelessly funny eBay posting that described grocery shopping with six children, recently hit hard times. As New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin told readers, Meehan’s husband left her, two of her children were hospitalized for depression, and – the final blow amidst crushing medical bills – her family just lost its health insurance. Meehan had written that she was taking time off from the blog to figure out how to pay for health insurance and survive.
But then, as Belkin explained to readers, Meehan’s site manager Meehan's site manager “hijacked" the blog, urging readers to give back to a writer who had provided them all such laughter and hope and courage. She suggested letters of encouragement, or prayers. She urged them to buy Meehan’s book and show publishers her fan base. (At one point when I looked over the weekend, Meehan ranked #3 in the parenting charts on Amazon, behind only two “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” books.) Or, the site manager suggested, readers could donate cash. By last night, that fund topped $13,500.
Even those thousands, I realize, aren’t a magic bullet when it comes to insuring a family of seven, or covering a hospital stay. But it’s sure a wonderful life raft to help Meehan get on her feet.
When Meehan wrote her thanks on the blog, she said that she would pay the kindness forward, and maybe it was already spreading ripples. Perhaps, she wrote, there were people reading her story who, even if “they weren’t moved to help me, a person they don’t know," might still be motivated to "make a difference somewhere for someone. Perhaps they went out and shoveled an elderly neighbor’s driveway, or brought a casserole to a member of their church who just had surgery, or called an old friend simply to tell them they’re thinking of them, or donated money to help with the flooding in Australia. It’s all good. And one act of kindness can spread so far.”
Kindness is a more ephemeral lesson than the piano or violin of Chua’s tiger-parenting. But Meehan’s “one act of kindness” epiphany is, I would bet, more valuable than anything else in either mom’s book.