This past weekend I traveled to Michigan to celebrate my Aunt’s 80th birthday. All kinds of kindnesses wafted my way. Some, reminders from the past, some spontaneous, some planned.
My family began practicing Random Acts of Kindness way back when my kids were teens. Now they have teens. This year, I decided to make RAKs my focus. With a twist.
CoCo received a beautiful Act of Kindness this year. The train conductor on her short commute surprised her with a generous Christmas Gift. She smiled for weeks with wonderment and told everyone she knew about the conductor’s kindness. However, I initially responded with suspicion. After a bit of reflection, I remembered an observation I got from a friend.
You are a much better giver than a receiver. It takes some humbleness to receive without the intention of paying back.My dear friend, Nancy S (circa, 1980)
So with that in mind, I am devoting 2022 to recognizing kindness given. This week I became aware of three beautiful acts of kindness. Some unconsciously give, and some required deliberate action.
My oldest brother shared his recent experience traveling in Europe. Somehow he managed to keep in touch with a Neighborhood Friend, who moved away when he was about 11 years old. There’s enough age-space between me and my brother that I knew NF as a little boy. I have some babysitting memories of my own that I shared here.
Somehow NF found my brother to tell him he had saved a bunch of letters from long ago. Since NF was moving to Lisbon, would my brother like the letters? How kind to reach out that way!
One thing led to another, and the two old friends got together in Lisbon. NF shared something tender and important with my brother. Unknown to us, NF shared extensive bullying in school. His asthma left him weak and made him vulnerable. But, he told my brother, he never felt weak when he played with the family across the pasture.
None of us could remember thinking of NF as weak. What I do remember is that our family was large, with obvious variation in age and skill. When we played, we compensated for varying skill levels. Perhaps Mike’s big brother, who was in high school and was the one kid with a glove, batted left-handed and with only one hand. Perhaps a home run was hitting it as far as the pitcher for one of the Little Kids. We made up our own rules with the main rules: have fun and everyone gets to play. I suppose that’s why we never thought of NF as weak or inferior. We just thought of him as one of us.
My brother’s little story reminded me that we don’t need to be consciously kind to have an impact. Sometimes the biggest acts of kindness are remembering each other’s humanness.
A kindness returned
My Aunt Annie is 14 years younger than Mom. The age gap between her and me is less than that between me and my youngest sibling. Several years ago, Aunt Annie had a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. Although Mom took her in for a while, the physical strain became too much for her, and Aunt Annie moved to an assisted care home, where Mom visited her. As time went by, my oldest sister organized a calendar so we could each benefit from visiting Aunt Annie, taking her for lunch, and helping her with some of her tasks. Yes, this was a kindness to her, but it was also a kindness we received as well. We got a chance to relive her childhood memories of us; we got to appreciate her sense of humor; and we learned the importance of resilience.
This weekend, Aunt Annie gifted us with a thank-you party. Can you imagine? That’s what she wanted to do for her 80th birthday. What a beautiful kindness.
A Call of Kindness
I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but Miss P lost sight in one of her eyes last fall due to an infection. Recovery has been slow and only partial. This week a friend called to inquire about Miss P’s progress. I am touched by my friend’s kindness. It’s one thing to pay attention in the moment. It takes effort to follow up months later, and extra kindness to patiently listen to a worried grandma talk about someone you’ve never met. Miss P is probably facing a corneal transplant, but she won’t know for several more months.
The official Random Act of Kindness Day is February 17. But RAKing can go on all year long. Visit the Website here. “The work to create a kinder world never ends. There is no limit on the amount of goodness we can put into the world..”
Use the hashtags #MakeKindnessTheNorm #RAKday #RandomActsofKindnessDay. Most importantly, “In a world where you can be anything…Be kind.” (And be willing to receive the kindness offered.)
I’ll be watching through my rose-colored glasses for opportunities to give a RAK. And I’ll have my antennae up ready to recognize when I get a RAK or see one.