(23) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Kindness

Morning light shines through a morning glory leaf

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Sometimes someone says something really small, and it just fits right into this empty place in your heart. ~From the television show “My So-Called Life”

As long-time readers of my blog know, I am immensely proud of my children and their accomplishments and have bragged shamelessly on them from time to time.  But there’s something else about them that I’m far prouder of, because I believe that there is no attribute more important.

And that attribute is kindness. I am so proud that they are kind.  I am thankful that they are tender-hearted.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Instead of expounding on kindness, I think I’d rather tell you about one of the earliest acts I can remember of kindness shown to me.  I was only about six at the time, but I’ll never forget it. It seems such a small thing, but its effect on me at that time was profound. And then, I’d love it if you’d comment about an act of kindness YOU remember, something that perhaps “fit right into this empty place in your heart.”

When I was six, one of our distant relatives who was a piano teacher offered to give my brother and me piano lessons in exchange for him mowing her yard.  I believe that she was a good person at heart, but she was rather short-tempered.  I think perhaps she wasn’t meant to teach children.  When I didn’t practice enough and made mistakes, she would begin a tirade that started with yelling and ended with her grabbing her cat, dropping him on the keyboard (whereupon he’d do a dissonant dance across the keys then leap with a yowl out of the room).  She’d then yell, “That cat can play better than you!”

I’d usually hold in my tears until I could escape into the yard as I waited for Mama to pick me up.  One day, after the teacher had a particularly awful outburst, I ran into the yard as usual.  It was pouring rain, but I stood out there anyway, sobbing in the cold rain and shivering as it soaked my hair and clothes.

Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder and heard the snap of an umbrella being opened.  I looked up to see Bascombe, my teacher’s husband, who was as gentle as she was caustic.  He never said much, but always seemed such a kind presence.  And now he was standing beside me, still saying nothing, but holding the umbrella over me to keep me dry.  There he stood for a very long time, getting more and more soaked himself, but quietly making sure a little girl was sheltered as she cried her heart out in the rain. He never said a word.  He didn’t have to.

What small acts of kindness have you always remembered?

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo Buscaglia

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8 Responses to “(23) Thirty Days of Grateful Praise: Kindness”

  1. betsyfromtennessee Says:

    What a neat story, Beth… KINDNESS is truly so very very important. I hope that I worked hard to teach my sons that trait. It’s just so important. I have spent my life trying to be kind and compassionate… Hope I have made some difference in some lives…

    Hugs,
    Betsy

  2. CountryDew Says:

    What a beatiful story, Beth.

    And then I had to beat my brains to find a story of my own. And failed. Which made me think – certainly people were kind to me when I was younger. But I do not remember a single kindness. I suppose that is a failing on the part of my brain, which seems to recall only much harshness and brutality from my youth.

    But here is the story that came to mind, anyway.

    When I was in the fourth grade, I had a teacher who hugged her students. But I did not hug. I would, however, go stand by her desk until she acknowledged me. Finally, one day, she leaned over and put an arm around me, and I accepted the hug. Gratefully, if I remember.

    Which would be a good story except that not long after there was a PTA meeting, and Teacher told my mother that I didn’t get enough attention and that since it took her 1/2 year to gain my trust there must be terrible issues in my life. And my mother punished me for letting my teacher hug me.

    It seems to me most any kindness in my life always led to an unfortunate result. So I do not spend much time looking for such things. Perhaps that is why I don’t remember.

    I do, however, try to be a kind person myself. It is too hard not to be kind.

    I hope you have a great day.

    PS – I love to hug today. So there is a happy ending to the story.

  3. Chris Says:

    I was a very troubled and rebellious teenager. My parents and I could barely speak to each other there were so many disagreements. There was a woman in our neighborhood who was about halfway in age between my parents and myself. She was an unfailingly kind person. She was friends with my mother and friends with me. She managed to support and encourage me without speaking ill of my parents. She was the first adult who truly listened to me. I think now that I must have been very tiresome to her but she never rushed me or interrupted me.

  4. Sharon Says:

    Beth, what a good lesson for me this morning as my “problem” is that I can think of so many, which one do I tell you?? A great reminder to stop and give thanks for how truly blessed I am and a gentle prod to never take that for granted.

    My example has to be the kindness and unconditional love of my in-laws. I married their ONLY child 35 years ago and from the moment he took me into their home for the first time, there has never been one moment of anything other than love. If you didn’t know which was the “blood” child, you’d never be able to figure it out as their love for me has always been equal. And the feeling is mutual!

    P.S. Could you extend this and make it 365 Days of Praise???? I don’t want it to be over.

  5. Plowing Through Life (Martha) Says:

    Oh my goodness, Beth, your story sent shivers up and down my spine. I think every hair on my body stood on end :) That was truly an act of kindess in the gentlest way. There really was no need for words.

    There are quite a few moments like these in my life, but there is one that truly stands out. Five years ago, my father passed away 6 days before my birthday after a battle with cancer, so when my birthday rolled around, I did not care to celebrate; I was much too grief-stricken. My daughter did care about my birthday, but she also understood my grief. So she decided to do something special for me. She put together an album with an assortment of photos of my father interacting with people he loved. And she added quotations on each page. It was beautiful.

    When I opened up her gift, I took one look at the first page, and was so overwhelmed at her thoughtfulness and kindness that I dropped the photo album on the table in front of me and ran into another room to calm myself (I was crying so hard). It took awhile before I could return to where my husband and kids were waiting for me, concerned, to be able to look through the whole album. It is one of the most wonderful, kindest things my daughter has ever done for me. She was only 15 at the time, which made it that much more special.

    So there I go, bragging about one of my kids, too :)

  6. Jes Says:

    Speaking of kindness, thank you for the kind words–life can be so overwhelming sometimes, can’t it? I really appreciate your comments!!

  7. Benjamin Says:

    The very first kindness I remember is you rocking me after that awful day at my preschool where I had been beaten witless and so stiff I could not unfold myself to get out of the van.

    Outside of the family–I do remember a substitute bus driver in fourth or fifth grade not giving me any exasperated or angry behavior despite my directing her to the other side of the county from our home–she took me to the bus depot, where I could call you (I forget how they found the number–maybe I told them Daddy worked at the home repair place).

    Then I remember in fifth grade, after leaning back and toppling over my desk-chair in history class, being near the verge of tears. I remember a fellow named Alex asking me if I was okay, despite the general vibe of embarrassed silence and quiet sniggers.

  8. Wendy Says:

    What a wonderful story, and and what an impact an act of kindness can make. . . remembered always. So glad to find your blog. . . even if it makes me homesick :-)
    Wendy in NH

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