Small Kindness

Dear Friends,
I’m thinking about small acts of kindness this morning, in part because Fiona Robyn, over at Writing Our Way Home, is hosting a “blogsplash” tomorrow on the theme of Small Kindnesses. I’m doing mine a little early, so that you all can participate too!

The idea is that you write a brief reminiscence of a small kindness that has touched your life in some way. Then share it in whatever way you like: on your blog, if you have one, on Facebook, sending it as a letter or email, or reading it to a friend or to yourself.  We’d love it if you shared yours with us here in the comments section!

Here’s how Fiona describes it: “Your small kindness might be an extra-thoughtful Christmas present you’ve never  forgotten, or the unexpected thoughtfulness of a stranger, or a small gesture that rescued you from a dark place. It might have happened this week or twenty years ago. It might be a simple list of the small kindnesses you’ve received this week, or today. It might be a small kindness you’ve been inspired to perform. Follow your inspiration..”

Here’s the one that comes to mind for me today:
Some days don’t start out well. I get distracted by worries, which leads to a paralyzing indecision: I’ll start a task only to get anxious that I should be doing something else. This creates a cycle of anxiety that seems impossible to break.

On one day like this, in the early afternoon, I finally decided to go shopping at Trader Joe’s (which in my town is really not the best place to go when you’re feeling anxious!) I felt grumpy as I navigated through the crowded narrow aisles. I felt on the verge of tears as I tried to decide between 12 different kinds of chocolate. It took me a long time to choose a bouquet of rather bedraggled sunflowers, something I thought might cheer me up.

When I finally made it to the checkout stand, the cashier asked me, in her professional cheerful voice: “How’s your day going?” I decided to answer truthfully. Rather than just shooting back the automatic Fine, or not answering at all, I said “Not so good. I’m having a hard time today.” The checker was just about to ring up my sad little bouquet, but she stopped to have a real look at me. Then she said, “how about if I just give you these flowers today, no charge,” and placed them in my hands.

I thanked her and made it out to the parking lot before I started crying. I wouldn’t say they were tears of joy, or sadness, but more like tears of relief. To have been seen, really seen, in that one moment of vulnerability, was her true gift to me.

For a long time, I’ve kept this quote near my computer: “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And the Dalai Lama has said: “My religion is kindness.” It can be easy to forget to be kind, especially to ourselves. Another great reminder is this song by Copper Wimmin, called “Kinder.” Take their words as a soundtrack to this season.

With love,
P.S.: For those of you in the Seattle area, Holly and I will be at Elliot Bay Books on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2:00 p.m.. Come say hello!

6 thoughts on “Small Kindness

  1. Brenda,
    Your story is a lovely reminder that when we speak from the heart, sometimes we are truly seen. Not always, but it’s worth the risk, isn’t it? You always made me feel “seen” as I, too, have spinning my wheels days. Thanks for the Copper Wimmin song as well.

  2. “Hurry up.” “Get a move on.” “What’s the hold up?” “Any day, now.”
    As I was growing up, my family teased and criticized me for being too slow. Whenever my brother had dishwashing duty, he grabbed my dinner plate before I was finished eating. At Christmas, we opened gifts one person/one gift at a time. I meticulously unwrapped mine so the paper wouldn’t tear, feeling the heat of my siblings fidgeting to get to their turn. Even as an adult I’m still on my salad when everyone else at the table has moved on to dessert. I’m still holding down dog, when the rest of the yoga class has flattened into plank. Always the last person out of the house, the last one through the door.
    In my fifties, attending a silent retreat, I was wandering the grounds when the bell sounded to signal the start of our after-lunch sit. The teacher was a few yards away, looking in my direction. I became nervous. I picked up my pace. “No hurry,” he said. “I’ll wait for you.”
    The words carried so much force, they stopped me. My throat constricted with the urge to cry, but I couldn’t even breathe. I didn’t believe him. He stood there, feet planted, smiling at me. He tapped the bell once more. “I’ll wait for you.” We both stood still until that singing bowl’s last echo faded.

  3. Brenda,

    Thank you so much for this blog entry on your kindness. It’s a gentle reminder in that we all need to stop and truly listen to how others are doing. For me, I think that’s one of my reasons why 90% of the time I answer honestly when someone asks me: “How are you doing?” even if they aren’t genuinely interested in my well-being. Still, the customary “fine” kind of grates on my ears, and it’s refreshing to truly see the vulnerability in others as well as our own when we answer truthfully.

    Thank you, and may you have many more sunflowers in your life.