Kindness: Thursday’s Children

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Someone once asked me what I hoped for my children; what parental dreams and aspirations I had for them? Did I want them to be clever, funny, sporty or creative? They’re great kids, and as any parent will tell you I want the best for them – that they realise all of their God-given gifts and find genuine happiness. But if I’m honest, I hope I’m raising these children to be kind, because sometimes an act of kindness can make an enormous difference to someone who is struggling.

I know, I’ve had a difficult week and I’ve been the recipient of many small, but hugely significant kindnesses. From the ((twitter hugs)) from my Wednesday WIPpeteers, who missed me this week when I did not have an ounce of anything left to post on Wednesday. And ReGi who tweeted an old link, so I could still be part of the group! Although I’ve never met any of you, I feel part of a writing community that’s more than a date in the diary. Thank you. You totally rock.

So this week I am inspired by acts of kindness!

One of the most moving moments in my life occurred when I was at University and our youth group volunteered at the city mission. We’d gone down to prepare and cook lunch for local homeless people, and when we were done we were asked to go out and eat in the main hall.

I ended up sitting with an old Maori gentleman, who looked very much like an old uncle of mine. After exchanging hellos I was horrified to find I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. Everything that came to mind seemed trite or irrelevant. Last week’s rugby scores don’t mean much to someone who doesn’t have a television. So we ate in silence and smiled and nodded at each other, and I felt like the most useless person in the world.

When this gentleman got up to leave, he stopped and squeezed the top of my arm gently. In a very soft voice, not much more than a whisper, he said, “Thank you for eating with me.” I can still see his face all those years later, his eyes glistened with tears and his smile was heartbreaking. All of 18 years old, I bolted out to the kitchen and bawled.

Sitting with him had cost me nothing, but it certainly seemed to mean something to him. Wordsworth’s Simon Lee, has always seemed to sum up that experience for me: (If you’re not familiar with the poem, the narrator chops a few logs for an old man. What is no effort for the narrator has a huge impact on the man). The final line is:

The gratitude of man hath often left me mourning.

That’s exactly how I felt.

Because sometimes it is the smallest things that make a difference. A smile from a stranger. A kind word. Or waiting patiently while the stressed out shop assistant deals with a funky computer.

In life I try to look for opportunities to be kind, because I remember the time when my child screamed for an hour on the plane (despite my best efforts to calm him) and my husband got stuck in traffic and didn’t meet us at the airport. Just as I was about to dissolve in tears a woman stopped to tell me that she’d been through it herself and that I was doing a great job.

Or the time when we were backpacking students and my husband’s final pay didn’t go through on time, so we found ourselves in a foreign country with no cash and no idea what to do. A stranger in Carlisle told us she trusted us to send the money for our accommodation when it came through (we were anticipating sleeping at the train station). The money turned up the next day and we were able to pay her before we left. Her kindness had a huge impact on me.

I try to keep this in mind when I’m writing. A well timed act of kindness can change a story, add hope and lightness and can powerfully impact both a character and the reader. In my current WIP, an act of kindness is a game changer, ultimately saving lives and eventually a kingdom.

On a final note, I am encouraged to keep writing even when real life has so many balls up in the air I’m only aware of what they are when they come crashing down on my head.

My friend and writing buddy called me up and said ‘write something – even if it is only a paragraph. You need to do something for you.’ I laughed. Out loud. Every time I’d been near a pad or paper this week it had been to write a list. (There have been a lot of lists). But she wouldn’t let me laugh it off and her words stayed with me.

So when I ended up with an hour to kill (waiting for a child to finish an activity) I pulled out a notebook and wrote a short story entitled, The Moon is Made of Glass. There was no planning, only words and a story which didn’t involve any sort of kindness at all. But it was good for me. Because I remembered that something in me needs to write. To that friend, you know who you are – thank you. Your few words did me a great kindness.

I hope you have all been the beneficiaries of loving-kindness this week. Please feel free to share you own experiences in life and in writing in the comments. Many thanks to Kristina Perez and Rhiann Wynn-Nolet for hosting this blog hop (and for being so patient when I’m consistently turning up for Thursday’s Children on Friday).

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26 thoughts on “Kindness: Thursday’s Children

  1. No need to thank me, Kristina and I know it’s hard for lots of people to post on any one particular day so that’s why the Linky is open from Wed-early Saturday. I know what you mean about someone’s gratitude for the smallest gesture of kindness making you suddenly aware of the scope of unkindness in the world and really how very much more you could do personally. I think I’m a fairly kind person but I’m horribly impatient which sometimes gets in the way…

  2. Hey, it’s still Thursday here! I loved your post and hope that, in addition to the “small” acts of kindness you’ve experienced lately, you’ll be met with a whole dumping of encouragement, energy, and joy. Sounds like ou might need it, and I know you deserve it! Count met in as one of your virtual huggers as well as one of your virtual fans. Maybe you’ll post the story you wrote…

    1. Thanks – ReGi said I was on Alaska time! I appreciate your encouragement. I’ve also really enjoyed reading snatches of The Beloved Daughter when I’ve been able to this week. It’s a beautiful and very uplifting story!

  3. (MORE HUGS!!!)

    You are amazing, and I’m sorry you’ve had a bad week. It is nice to belong to a community… I think one of the greatest blessings of the internet is that we can connect with people we’d never meet otherwise, and sometimes the connection and kindness are stronger than what we find in our home towns.

    Thank you for sharing your story about the old man. I can imagine how awkward that must have felt for you, and his reaction made me tear up. You just never know what effect your actions will have on people.

    1. Thanks! And back to you Kate!

      I agree about these internet connections – I certainly value them too.

      I don’t what it was about that old man. I’ve often thought about him over the years. The pastor told me, many of the older people who came through were too proud to take government benefits (including housing). It made me sad, but made me really think about how I judged people at face value.

  4. Your story about sharing lunch with that gentleman is absolutely beautiful and almost made me tear up. You saw in him a glimpse of humanity and all that it means, that’s why he’s stayed with you all these years.

  5. Virtual hugs from me too, Raewyn. That’s a beautiful story about the old man and it really does make you realise that’s it’s the simplest of things that can mean so much. Kindness is underrated and can often make the difference between having a good or bad day. Little things like someone saying thank you when you hold the door open for them or a driver being kind enough to stop and let you out at a busy junction.

    I hope your week gets easier. x

    1. Thanks Kate! I often wonder what happened to that man. I asked about him at the time, and the staff said he was one of an older generation who preferred to live on the streets than accept hand outs from the government. He really helped me to look at people beyond the first impression. And to realise when you can’t do much, there is power in the smallest kindness.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing that Raewyn. I think you’re right about kindness. It’s so important. Years ago my mum said to me that when I met someone special who I really wanted to be with, it was very important that they were kind. I’ve been married to my husband for over ten years now and he’s one of the kindest people you could meet. As are his family which is a bonus.:)

    1. Your Mum sounds like a wise woman. My husband is a bit lovely too. We’ve been responsible for looking after his Mum with alzhiemers (she is in high-dependancy care – but we’re the only family in the country to visit and liaise with the medical team). To see him with her in such a difficult situation – not to mention the other folk we encounter there regularly – makes me glad I’m married to such a kind man too.

  7. Thanks so much for joining us again this week! I’m sorry you’ve had a rough time of it lately. I loved your post. Today someone who works in the office building across from my apartment gave me the biggest smile––I’d been feeling a bit low and it totally made my day. Sometimes a smile from a stranger is all it takes 😉

  8. Beautiful reminder of what is most important in life–to reach out, to really see those around us, and to honor those connections by sharing the love inside us.

  9. Your story of the old gentleman is very moving. It’s heart-wrenching to know there are people so lonely they just want someone to sit with them for a while, even if there’s nothing to say. I’m so glad you wrote this post because I’ve experienced unexpected kindness many times, but I’ve never thought to put it in one of my stories as a catalyst.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post ReGi. When I met that man I was quite young and I really had no idea of the harsh realities of life. I’d like to say I learned that lesson all at once, but certainly over the years I’ve become much more aware of how isolated people can be – and how even a smile and a kind word can help.

    1. Thanks. I was sharing it with the friend yesterday and we laughed because the most polished thing about the story is the title. Although it’s a little rough *coughs* actually it has a gem of a new WIP that I might explore to have a break from Kings.

  10. Kindness is an awesome quality, and so often lost in our attempt to fill our main characters with flaws. I have one character who, although flawed, is also driven to be kind to others, especially those who’re different. I found her character to be very endearing!

    Thanks for sharing this.

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