When kindness goes viral...
You hear the term, " random acts of kindness" and how powerful they can be. But I don't think they are random. I think they are measured and intentional. They are the universe's way of reminding us that we too can choose to be different.
If I ask you to remember a time when someone's kindness changed the course of your day, I bet you could tell me some stories. I am amazed how we can remember so vividly a person's choice to be kind to us when the day felt otherwise. I am amazed at how in one fell swoop, that person's kindness can restore my faith in humanity.
I have so many memories of strangers' kindness but will share one that still stands out as a crisp reminder of faith in the human spirit when I feel like my hope is waning. It was several years ago and my husband and I were in Cincinnatti with my middle son who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. There was no local program at our Children's Hospital to help treat him so for a few years we were left with the arduous task of traveling to Ohio every six months for care. (Now, we have a program and do not have to add on travel to already grueling days in the hospital so that is for sure one of my present day gratefuls!) We would try to get flights that left us with the least nights spent in the city to minimize costs of travel. So on this particular day, we were leaving the hospital after nine emotional hours and after particularly hard to swallow news. We were in a rush to catch a shuttle to the airport so there was no time to fully integrate the events of the day into our psyches. So much had happened and so fast. We rushed from our last appointment of the day to the shuttle waiting outside and the three of us loaded our things and ourselves in.
As we sat there, a heavy silence filled the car. I don't think my husband or I could even say a word to each other the whole way. The day had felt like a shock to our systems. I just remember tears flowing endlessly down my face and there was no way to stop them. I remember having some embarrassment over such an outward display of emotion in this public venue with a stranger as this was early on in our grief and I had not gotten used to the weight of this new life we led with our son. (Now I am used to tears coming in all places with anyone!) On top of the tears, I heard my inner voice full of anger. "Why did we have to go through this?" Rage filled my body, anger and sadness intermingled in such a cacophony that it hurt down to my bones.
We reached the airport and I took a deep, long breath, knowing now we must now muster some adrenaline and try to rush to our flight for the long trip home. The driver got our bags out of the back and as my husband turned to him to give him a tip, he said something that I will never forget. "No, sir, I never take tips for trips from the Children's Hospital. You have had to endure enough already." And with a caring smile, he drove off.
In that instant, something amazing happened. No, all my pain was not erased. All my rage was not soothed. But all of a sudden, I felt not alone. I felt like his act of kindness was what I needed to remember that we are all connected. We are not just isolated islands of grief somehow suffering from what may feel like an unfair and cruel life. We are humans having an experience together and in that experience, we can find a way to connect and tend to each other.
You see, I don't think his act was random. I think it was intentional. It was a decision on his part to say that he was going to act out of the ordinary. He was going to let us know that others can care for us even if they don't know why we are crying all the way to the airport. And even as importantly, with that one generous act of kindness, he softened my resentment at the world, my sense that I was being treated unfairly. And I remember walking into that airport, actually finding the energy to smile a bit at others and definitely kinder than I would have been. That's how it is infectious, this thing called kindness. If we receive it, we feel like giving it to others.
We know not what others are carrying with them every day, what pain they are holding on to. Not everyone is outwardly crying or displaying their emotion. But we can ask ourselves to be as kind as we can be in the moment and maybe that seemingly small act can change their day, creating a ripple effect that spreads the kindness further. That is energy medicine, one kind driver in Cincinnatti allowing a distraught mother to be kinder to strangers upon her arrival to Seattle.
I thought of that driver so often after that day. We even tried to get a thank you letter to him. It wasn't the few dollars he gave up that made him special. It was his intention to make our day a little easier. I will be forever grateful for him. Not just for how he changed that day. But for how I remember him on other days.
When we offer or receive an intentional act of kindness, we can remember to have gratitude.
Gratitude for the ways, large and small, we are all connected in the tapestry of life.
One person's kindness brings out the kindness that always lives, even if at times hidden in the recesses, in our own hearts. And for just a moment, a critical moment, we connect and soften together. That's where the infection starts, the good kind of viral. It spreads in the best way.
Our hearts risk hardening in times of suffering. We can be angry, fearful and sad. All we want to do is shut down. Feeling anything frankly hurts too much. But if we can open to another, if we can perform one intentional act of kindness, maybe, just maybe, we can allow that hardening to soften.
I am so grateful for intentional acts of kindness.
They are the building blocks of healing.
They are Soul Medicine.