It’s easy to forget in the every day bustle of our lives that the little things we do are often the ones that remain unforgettable.
Sometimes little acts of kindness can become giant deeds to the recipient and can make all the difference in the world. And we may not even have realized what we have done.
When I was eighteen, I decided I knew everything there was to know in the world and graduated from high school with a brick, not a chip, on my shoulder and a mental block the size of a cement block.
By the time of my graduation open house, I think my mother had actually stopped speaking to me. I had rented an apartment in Ann Arbor, thirty miles from my parents, and had gotten a job as a clerk typist for a large corporation. Now in my mother’s world a daughter didn’t do this kind of thing. I was supposed to live at home and work or go to college and receive my Mrs. Degree.
But I had no use for college or for anyone’s advice, and believe me, when I’d made up my mind on something, my family had learned in a mere eighteen years, to leave me alone.
Enter my high school government teacher, Howard Johnston. He was the only one who took a few moments to talk to me.
“You’re far too smart to not go to college,” he told me at my graduation open house. He pushed me into a chair in my parents’ living room and he sat on the ottoman at my feet. “You’ll not be happy as a clerk typist.”
Because he took those few moments with me, I began to reevaluate. I kept remembering his words. They weren’t a command or a question, but a statement. And because he had bothered with me at all, I began to open my mind to other possibilities. By the following January, I was enrolled in college and within four years, I was a teacher.
And my mother was speaking to me again.
When my mother contracted double pneumonia in 1998, I wasn’t sure when I should go back to Michigan from my home in Florida. She had a 50/50 chance for survival and my brothers and sister-in-laws didn’t know what to tell me.
One of my sister-in-laws went to the doctor and said, “Her daughter is in Florida. When do we tell her to come?”
He didn’t hesitate. “Now.”
I arrived within twenty-four hours with my mother still conscious. She nearly pulled the IV out of her arm reaching for me when I walked into her room. Within hours of my arrival, she slipped into a coma and died a day later. I made it just in time to say good-bye.
I never thanked that doctor for his act of kindness. He probably has no idea what it meant to me to arrive at my mother’s bedside while she still knew I was there.
I never thanked my government teacher either. And I don’t know how to reach him now.
Those acts of kindness need not be with someone we know. A simple smile, a grateful word, a slowing of our pace to let someone else go first in line at the grocery store. We probably do many of these things unconsciously. Today try to consciously help someone and see what happens. Remembering to give a word of gratitude helps continue the cycle of kindness.
With so many words of hate and disparagement floating around us these days as the political season heats up, let’s remember we have more in common as human beings than we have differences. Kindness and compassion help us live in a state of grace.
It’s better than aspirin as a pain reliever.