International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD).  But don’t make the mistake of thinking this holiday is about men buying chocolates and flowers for their wives or girlfriends.  No, this holiday truly celebrates women – for who they are and what they’ve achieved.  And it is used to actively promote women’s rights and gender equality.  So even if this is the first time you’re hearing of this holiday – embrace it!  Think of a special woman in your life and celebrate her with kindness.

A History of Strength

According to this BBC article, the idea of IWD was presented at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen by women’s rights activist, Clara Zetkin in 1910.  After being wholeheartedly accepted by conference members, the first IWD was celebrated the following year in Austria, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland.

The United Nations has also historically been a firm proponent of IWD, celebrating it every year since 1975.  This year’s theme is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” with an event hosting impressive speakers, including Jane Goodall and the Secretary-General of the UN.

Celebrate Women with Kindness

I learned to appreciate IWD while living in Russia.  It is arguably one of the most important national holidays, second only to New Year’s Day.  It’s an official day off work and, literally, everyone celebrates it.  When we lived in Moscow, we would give cards, flowers, and small gifts to all the women in our lives: daughters, sisters, grandmothers, teachers, colleagues.  Honestly, it was a lot of work!  But I will admit, it felt wonderful to feel so special that day. 

Instead of buying something special for the women in your life, though, I propose an act of kindness.  Maybe you can go out of your way to pick up an extra chore or two to give that special someone a hand.  Or perhaps you can call your mom or sister and just say thanks for being an example for you to follow in your life.  The great thing about the gift of kindness (as I explain in this article) is that you’ll both reap the benefits.

A Special Woman in My Life

My mother-in-law, Tatiana, is a force of nature.  She is one of the strongest, most generous women I have ever met.  She is a loving mother, wife, grandmother, and friend, a tirelessly committed sibling to her sisters and their families, and still has time to be a dedicated physician and an astute business leader.  I have always greatly respected her ability to maneuver through life, re-creating herself to achieve success no matter what life throws at her.  Most of all, though, I am thankful she raised a son who respects, loves, and supports me and my daughter no matter what we choose to do.

One of my favorite photos – Tatiana, our first babysitter for our son.

Tatiana’s Kindness Story

I have an unbelievable story of kindness that exemplifies Tatiana’s character.  But first you need a little background information.  Tatiana has lived in the same apartment in Moscow for over 50 years.  The apartment buildings in Moscow are typically extremely large and have many separate entrances which section off the building into separate parts.  For instance, we lived in House 4, but entrance number 7 and apartment number 132.  In many entrances, there is a person who works there, stationed in a small room on the ground floor near the entrance door and elevator.  This “liftyorsha” helps visitors get where they need to go, accepts deliveries, etc…kind of like a doorman.  Their room is often quite small, the hours are long, and as you can imagine, the pay is often meager. 

The liftyorsha and her office in Tatiana’s building

Another important point to understand is that, in the Russian culture, any time you visit someone, they offer to feed you.  Of course, some people just offer tea and cookies, but my mother-in-law always, yes always, offers an entire meal.  It doesn’t matter if it is 11:00 at night, Tatiana will whip up a hot meal no matter who shows up at her door. 

When I lived in Moscow, I was terrible at this.  I remember the first time we had friends who unexpectedly popped in for a visit at our place.  At that point, we didn’t even have children – so we rarely cooked.  We served our guests a couple of hard-boiled eggs and some bananas.  That was another great thing about Russia – it didn’t even matter, especially in the late 90’s.  Our friends were simply grateful for our hospitality.

Tatiana’s Decades of Kindness

One evening many years ago, Tatiana noticed that the liftyorsha had no hot dinner.  For Tatiana, that was unacceptable.  She prepared a hot plate of food from her own kitchen and took it down.  Of course, the liftyorsha was extremely grateful.  So, Tatiana took her down a plate of food the next night too. 

Tatiana has provided a hot dinner to the liftyorsha every night for over 35 years. 

Can you imagine?  I had a hard time packing school lunches for my kids for a couple of years.  And what about when Tatiana travels?  She makes sure someone takes up the task.  No one goes without a hot dinner in her entrance.  Yes, Tatiana is a force of nature, and I am proud to celebrate her today.

A typical hot plate from Tatiana

How will you celebrate a special woman in your life today?

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