Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Acts Of Kindness Are Never Wrong

When my first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, I didn’t think I’d ever recover. Signs of trouble early on resulted in an ultrasound displaying a heartbeat. This only amplified my devastation when at three months, just as I thought I was heading into the clear, I lost the baby.

It was difficult to return to work as I was surrounded by women at different stages of pregnancy. A few days later I was coming back from my lunch break when I found a card on my desk. Tucked inside was a guardian angel pin and a note from a co-worker. Barbra and I were only casual acquaintances. She worked down the hall from me and when we crossed paths, we would chat. Unbeknownst to me she had suffered the same loss I was now experiencing and wanted to offer me some encouragement.  Enclosed in the card was a guardian angel pin. “Now your little angel can be with you always”, she had written. This gesture had been a turning point in my grief and I could begin looking at things in a different way. Yes, I had lost a child. But I had made an angel; an angel that would be with me always.

My first Christmas divorced I was having a hard time motivating myself to decorate. I was not in a festive mood and the thought of sharing my kids for the holidays saddened me. I just didn’t have the energy to make the fuss, yet I knew that I should with two young children. Then a good friend called out of the blue. Having been through a divorce herself, she guessed that I would be having a difficult time. She remembered feeling overwhelmed her first Christmas alone and wanted to make things as painless for me as possible. She said that she and her boyfriend would pick the kids and me up that Friday with their truck and head to the lot. All we had to do was choose a tree and they would bring it back to our house…simple and easy. Her thoughtfulness brought a great sense of relief for me and as I decorated that tree with my kids, I thought of how miraculous her timing had been and how grateful I was.

My father’s first significant indication of dementia came suddenly one January evening. He had been irritated, argued with my mother, and stormed out of the house in a rage. It was the middle of the night, he was 87 years old, and there was a foot of snow on the ground.  By the time my mother caught up to him, he was a good distance away and walking directly in traffic on one of the busiest streets near their house. Just as she approached, my mother noticed that a young couple had pulled over. They were out of their car, one on either side of him, walking down the center of the road with my dad keeping him safe. They stayed with him until help arrived and then quickly disappeared. We never did find out who they were, but those kind souls showed up exactly when my father needed them to.

A few years ago, a friend unexpectedly lost her son.  After the funeral, I was out walking around a plaza meandering mindlessly in and out of shops. In one store, I was drawn to a huge display of rocks. Each had an inspirational word carved in it. From the pile, I pulled a rock that had the word “Strength” etched across. I immediately thought of my friend and a little voice inside urged me to buy it for her. In the moment, I felt silly, though. She had just lost her son- and this was a rock. How dumb an idea. So, I left the store. But the feeling plagued me, so much so,that I returned shortly after and purchased the rock. I sent it off to her in a little package and the day it arrived I received a text. “How could you know?” she said. “How could you know that every day I wake up, look in the mirror and tell the woman in the reflection- YOU ARE STRONG?"

I think sometimes when we want to do something for someone, we second guess ourselves. We are afraid of how our actions, even if heartfelt, may be received. We wonder if our gesture comes at the wrong time or if it may bring more pain. But whenever I hesitate, I remind myself of the many occasions when I was the beneficiary of another’s kindness at exactly the right time.  Barbra didn’t know me that well, but her small gesture helped me look at loss in a different way and begin the steps to heal. It was an assumption on my friend’s part about how I may be feeling about the holidays. That assumption was correct and led to my spirits being lifted. The couple just driving down the street had no idea who my father was, or anything about him. They just knew that in that moment he was someone who needed help and they acted.

And I could have never known that a small token I thought may be irrelevant would mean so much to a friend who was struggling to stay tough in the face of grief.

Whenever we choose to act in kindness, it is never the wrong thing to do.

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