Yesterday I went to the local pool for a swim and there was a misunderstanding about the time. The new attendant didn't want to let me in, although I was well within the time limit for the midday swim. I was just standing there confused, when another attendant whom I knew from before, but that I had always found a bit gruff and dismissive, recognized me and leapt to my rescue.
He took over to let me in. Still confused, and a bit surprised, I went in to have my swim. On my way out, the gruff attendant beamed happily at me when I thanked him. Who knew? Such a minor incident becomes a vehicle for unexpected kindness and opens the floodgates of gratitude and changed perceptions.
I was staring idly out of the window this morning, thinking about how I hadn't done anything kind yet today. Just then, I saw my elderly neighbor shoveling the end of her driveway where the snowplow had left some hardened snow. So I got dressed and went out to help her, and she was glad of the company and told me about her grandson and his new job. It was lovely out in the fresh air and the sunshine talking and shoveling.
I received a quilt in the mail today from an local organization that makes homemade quilts for people living with cancer. Someone requested it on my behalf, because I would never have thought to ask for myself. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful it is, and how touched and grateful I am for this act of unconditional kindness and generosity.
It inspires me, and I hope it will inspire you too.
The individual makers stay anonymous, and ask for nothing back. You can, if you wish, thank the charity on its web site, and donate. Their quilts are just beautiful, and light, and come with their own carrying case.
I have received many kindnesses in the course of my illness, but this one really stands out for me, because it is so unconditional, and symbolizes warmth and comfort in such a concrete way.
Years ago, I was flying home from a business trip in Edmonton. I was seated beside a 7-year old child who was traveling alone between his divorced parents. I spent the entire trip entertaining him - but he was a sweet boy and it worked out nicely for both of us. But it wasn't an act of deliberate kindness on my part - I like kids and I like engaging them. Maybe the kindness was his, engaging with a strange lady on the plane even though he was bored and a bit scared.
I do 'metta', or loving kindness at the grocery store. When I stand at the checkout line I direct a silent prayer to the people around me - may you be happy, may you be well, may you be safe. It directs my restless energy to a patient, loving place, and makes grocery shopping a pleasure.
I run a support group for women who have the same illness as I do. It is very hard to know how to help sometimes. I check my intentions constantly to make sure I am coming from a place of compassion. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Normally I hate going to hospitals even for a blood test or x-ray until it struck me this morning as I was driving by our local one, that it is a wonderful place to practice compassion and kindness. Even holding the door for someone, or smiling or waiting patiently is an act of kindness or compassion. I'll keep that in mind the next time I have to go there.