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).