To counteract disturbing and depressing news that produces angst in my psyche, I look for heartwarming stories of kindnesses often found in media. I am constantly amazed at the lengths people go to to help others, but I am also touched by the stories of smalls acts of tenderness and giving.
About a month ago, I asked Facebook friends and family the following question: “What little acts of kindness have come your way that picked you up, warmed your heart, or made you smile?”
I really enjoyed reading the dozen-plus responses over the next few days and decided it is fitting during this month of valentines to summarize some observations that help our hearts.
Big or little, kind experiences are memorable. My cousin Julie and an old friend Liz will never forget the Christmas generosity of neighbors during dark days when their husbands left them and their children. Kristine is still grateful for dear friends who cleaned her house and left dinner on the table while she was busy taking care of funeral arrangements for her mother. Friends Christine, Debbie, and Kathy remember strangers in check-out lanes who paid for their purchases that ranged from a soda to a bouquet of flowers to 30 boxes of crayons for the teacher’s classroom!
Good turns perpetuate more good turns. Many who responded to my question passed along the kindnesses because of what they had experienced. Liz, who received “12 days of Christmas” from neighbors, said, “My girls and I ‘paid it forward’ and we did the same for one friend or neighbor every Christmas for about 10 years.” Jan’s extended family honored her mother-in-law, who was respected as an wonderful example of giving, by performing 92 acts of kindness in her memory. They set up a private Facebook page to list the wide and varied experiences of giving, and they drew much joy from performing the good deeds and from reading about them.
Families are hotbeds of giving and receiving. Not really a shocking revelation, but it was fun to read about husbands who hold hands, open doors, and shower their wives with kisses and hugs. My cousins Bonnie and Linda appreciate their spouses who bring tea or coffee to them while they wake up. Linda’s hubby then reads scriptures and inspirational writings plus more – “Big hugs and praise God every morning”, she writes. My sister Connie remembers when she was “a cranky needy teenager [and] our dear Mom [sewed] new clothes for her. She held down a full time job so the only time to sew was after work late into the night.” Tiffany’s mantra of “doing a good deed daily” passes down to her family where dinner conversation centers around “what did you do for someone else today?” Tara wrote of a sweet little girl, about 6 or 7, who not only provided directions out of the complicated ropes course at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, she escorted Tara and her children out of there! She commented, “Such a polite and considerate thing for such a young person. I was really touched.” Her parents had taught her well.
Even when people are “assigned” to give, recipients are still appreciative. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women participate in visiting teaching where two “sisters” are expected to visit other sisters in the congregation once a month. Dee wrote of visiting teachers who bring “needed messages from Heavenly Father and that leaves [her] better than they found [her]!” And Karen remembers a visiting teacher who made her a birthday cake and another who listened to what she really needed when recovering from a stroke: “a Bear Creek soup and a loaf of French bread so [she] could still be independent but … choose to use it when [she] wanted.”
It is not hard to extend kindnesses. Several respondents to my Facebook query shared their gratitude for the simplest expressions of thoughtfulness. My sister-in-law Debi loves spontaneous hugs; neighbor Mike appreciates smiles; and Lindsey is grateful for people’s patience, compliments, and thank yous. Although another neighbor Scott did not comment upon my post, he wrote that he was touched when old friends “liked” his Facebook posts and shared kind comments and reflections about what he wrote. While FB is often derided for being the opposite of Scott’s observation, it can be a source of connectedness with people we love and admire whose posts make us smile.
Acts of kindness bring joy to the giver. During a Sunday discussion at church, the sweet teacher spoke briefly about some struggles she contends with. Her counselor suggested a line of defense is to move the focus from one’s own problems to providing some service to others who need help. I know several friends who have adopted the same philosophy to battle depression and other debilitating issues. While it doesn’t “cure” the problems, it helps keep them in check and brings a measure of happiness into their lives.
So, during this Valentine month, I look to this cute advent calendar my granddaughter made to remind me that the world is not lost as long as there are so many people involved in the avocation of giving to others. (If you want to read all the replies in detail, click HERE to be uplifted.)