The thing about kindness....

It’s cool to be kind.  I see the posts on Facebook where someone has bought you a cup of coffee.  Fun!   But, why is this something we have to try so hard for lately?  Why are the schools rewarding our kids for kind acts?  Isn’t this how we should all behave?  YIKES.  This really scares me.  The truth is the kindness reward exists in your heart.  If you don’t feel it there it’s sort of an empty gesture, isn’t it?  I guess it’s better than nothing but I much rather the warm swell I get from knowing I made a difference to someone.  It may not happen daily and I may not know if I made a difference in someone’s life, but once in a while you find out and it can be pretty amazing and humbling. 

Marc and Kathleen were guests at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge.  It is cancer housing for people who have to travel a distance to receive treatments.  I met them at a group dinner and sat at their table.  Lovely couple.  Marc shared fun stories all the while keeping an eye on Kathleen as she ate.  She had a brain tumor that caused a stroke and the right side of her body was difficult to control.  Several times he guided her hand back as the food on her fork came dangerously close to my lap.  I assured them not to worry because I would just fling some right back at them as I casually picked up her napkin like it was the most normal thing in the world.  We laughed and continued on.  I visited them often after that.  I offered a quick hello in the common kitchen or a small compliment.  I told her once that I watched her walk across the room and she absolutely glided.  I knew it was hard for her.  We were all there for similar reasons so I understood.  I could have looked away from her struggle but I was comfortable enough in mine that I could share some of my light with her. 

A couple weeks later I was in the common kitchen at night when Marc walked in.  He saw me and lit up.  He had spent the whole weekend at Kathleen’s side in the hospital.  She wasn’t doing well.  I didn’t know what that meant and to this day I don’t know if she survived or not.  Marc shared with me that I made her feel so comfortable, that before she met me she was embarrassed to eat in the common kitchen.  She was self-conscious of her lack of control around all these strangers.  He shared that I made her feel comfortable and he was so grateful.  Never would I have realized the depth of this struggle for her, she seemed so strong, and never would I have known that I brought some peace and hopefully happiness in what may have been their last weeks together.  We talked for a while.  Marc was visibly upset.    As I stood there talking to him I just needed to hug him.  This man whose name I didn’t even know until tonight.  We hugged several times.  He needed it and I was thankful to be there to give it.    Truth is I enjoyed them and they made me feel more comfortable too.  I think that’s what we do.  Most of us want to help one another.  Everyone knows it’s a hard time and if there are little things we can do to make it less painful, so that’s what they do.  We don’t know what effect we have.  These were practically strangers.  My heart broke for him and I was so humbled by his gratefulness. 

*I don't want to imply that you should stop buying coffee.  I think it's a great reminder of kindness.  Just don't forget that smaller actions can have a huge impact as well.  :-)