This is a guest post from my own Little Mama. You can read her other guest posts HERE.
I’ve been thinking recently about the loveliness of unexpected kindness. When someone does something so sweet, so unexpected, so deliciously surprising—for you—isn’t it just the best?
I’m the sort of person who likes to feel she doesn’t need any help; I tend to try to solve problems on my own. If there’s any giving to be done, I like to be the giver, not the givee. What I’ve discovered, though, down through the years, is that that is a bit selfish, paradoxical as it seems. I’ve realized that very few people enjoy just taking, taking, taking, without having a chance to do some giving back.
I think about when my father died. It was my first real experience in losing someone close to me. I had certainly sent flowers and notes to other people when a loved one of theirs had died, but I’d never been on the receiving end. I remember walking quietly around the room at the funeral home, before my dad’s visitation started. I stopped at each vase of flowers and read the note on each one telling who they were from. I remember feeling so cared about, so supported as I read the names of friends who had bothered to send flowers for a man they hadn’t known. They did it for my family and me, and it touched me. Unexpected kindness.
I think about my first trip to Paris. I had been in love with the French language since I first started studying it in seventh grade. I went on to major in it in college and then teach it, but I never had a chance to go to France. Finally, in my fifties, my husband had to go to Paris on business, and I was to go along.(!) By this time, I was not teaching as much French as English, and I really didn’t know if I could consider myself fluent anymore. I started brushing up to prepare myself. Paris was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be and more; I felt I was in a dream much of the time. When we arrived from London at the train station in Paris, we took a taxi to our hotel. I took a deep breath and started to talk to our driver. When he dropped us off at the hotel, he was ready to pull away, but he got out of the taxi and called to me, “Madame—you speak French very well!” It was something he didn’t have to do (aren’t all Frenchmen supposed to be rude to Americans?), but it gave me the confidence to talk the ear off anyone who would let me for the rest of our trip. Merci beaucoup, monsieur.
My career has been tutoring students in their homes for the last 35 years. I had a student some years ago from a Mexican family in which the parents didn’t speak much English. They always tried to convey their gratitude for my work with their daughter, however. The dad went to work very early each day, to bake bread in a bakery. I remember I had finished working with her; she had returned to school full time. I ran into the high school one day to pick up work for another student. The security guard told me that a parent had left something for me in the office. As I approached the door, I started detecting the most wonderful, mouth-watering scent; was someone baking? The office ladies couldn’t wait to hand me a huge shopping bag full of freshly-baked breads and rolls that this sweet little dad had just dropped off. It was so unexpected and so kind; I had a lump in my throat as I shared these treats with my buddies who worked at the school. That student’s family didn’t have much, but I would guess it gave that dad a lot of pleasure to be able to thank me that way.
We moved from one Chicago suburb to another when our kids were grown and out of the house. I remember not really expecting to make new friends there at that stage in life. I told myself I’d just continue to see the ones I’d moved away from. We hadn’t been in our new house long when the doorbell rang and a woman about my age introduced herself as a neighbor and welcomed us to the neighborhood. She was VERY southern, funny, smart, and she remains one of my closest friends almost twenty years later. What a lovely unexpected kindness she showed me that day.
Each time something like this happens, it reinforces one idea to me. It makes me more determined not to let a chance slip by, to show someone else a kindness. Sometimes I think we have an idea to do something for someone, but then we talk ourselves out of it. What if that person thinks I’m weird or that I’m overstepping my bounds or some such thing. It’s safer just not to do it. My experience tells me—do it. Chances are almost one hundred percent that that person will be pleasantly surprised, maybe even touched to the core. So I send the note or the flowers; I tell somebody what a good job he’s doing, even if I think he knows it. Anybody would like to hear that said. I greet a new neighbor, because she may be feeling that no one’s going to care that she just moved in. I know how it feels to be on both ends of the situation.
All of these times pale in comparison, though, to something that you, the readers of my Katy’s blog, did for me. About a year and a half ago, I was mired in a terribly frustrating extended-family situation. I was at low ebb one day, and I called Katy to talk about it. We hung up; I went to see my afternoon students, and when I finally got back home and checked email, Katy had written—Mom, you’re going to want to look at my blog. As I started reading it, she had simply told you all that I was having a very hard time—no details. To my astonishment, there were over 700 comments from all over the world, telling me of your support and that I could do what I had to do. There were Bible verses and quotations and “You got this.” Tears were sliding down my face as I read the totally unexpected words of kindness from women who had never laid eyes on me. But because you love my Katy, you spread that love to me. I got up from the computer a different person from when I had sat down.
So I say– never stop; never hesitate to do that kind of thing for someone else. It makes all the difference in this world where kindness sometimes seems to be in very short supply. And thank you, from the bottom of this little mama’s heart. I will never ever forget what you did.
You can see that Facebook post she refers to here. Thank you, dear readers, for your unexpected kindness. Let’s keep spreading it around.
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