One of my REU students made cookies and gave some to one of her research mentors. It is really nice to do something for someone because you enjoy doing it and because you want to make them smile, just for a moment.

There was a time when I made cookies; for Valentine’s Day, and other holidays. I’d put them in decorated bags, and I’d leave them for my faculty members and friends in graduate school. I loved doing it. The work itself gave me pleasure. The anticipation, because I wanted them to come in that morning and smile because someone was thinking of them. I wanted to give them that moment with a smile.

Like I smiled when one of my young friends left me some cookies this past Christmas.

There were tears in my eyes then too.

At some point I stopped making cookies. I remember the conversation. One of my faculty members told me that she knew why I needed to do that. Really? I’m not sure exactly what she said after that. It was just the smug certainty, not gratitude, but superiority, that me making her cookies represented weakness in me, not kindness toward her. That I needed to do this for her, for them, because I was … something less than the rest of them. Something she could, so easily, see through.

I was hurt. A whole lot angry. How dare anyone presume to think they know what is in my head? How dare anyone take my kindness and turn it into a weakness?

All I have to say to a world that might treat these young ladies that way is so rude that I don’t even want to type it here. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare ever take that precious kind spirit and try to hurt them with it.

Sometimes you have to stop making cookies for people who treat your kindness with contempt. That is right and sad.

The proper response is thank you. And, to these cookie-making friends, I want to say thank you. For the kindnesses toward me and toward others. For reminding me of who I used to be and allowing me to remember this for what it was, through older eyes.