Today, I was reading about a small act of kindness. It was a reinforcement of the fact that it is not always the magnanimous acts that mean the most. It could be the simplest thing that really has an impact. And this article also got me wondering (again) where do we “get” our kindness?
Michael J. Fox, an actor who has been suffering from Parkinson’s for years, shared this story that took place during a live television interview.
“The thing…that stands out in my mind was something Katie did later in the interview, as the drugs kicked in and the tremors segued into the jerkiness of dyskinesias. Somewhere in the contortions of making a point, my left arm detached the microphone clip from my jacket lapel. With no fuss and hardly a break in conversation or eye contact, she calmly leaned over and refastened it. Neither of us commented on it, but it was such an empathetic gesture, so far from anything patronizing or pitying, a simple kindness that allowed me the dignity to carry on making a point more important than the superficiality of my physical circumstance…”
Now, I don’t know if Katie was just born kind. Or if she learned it from someone. But her simple kindness mattered.
Plenty of studies have been done and I am still not sure if there is a clear-cut answer. I have seen many young children act naturally kind to each other. But have also experienced the opposite. Is it their environment? Nature vs. nurture thingy?
I mostly believe that if we witness and experience kindness then we are more apt to absorb the practice. Maybe drawing out our natural, possibly reticent kindness?
Is there anyone out there that cannot instantly recall a kindness bestowed upon them? Or witnessed an act? No matter how small. Years later we will remember it. Because it mattered.
When I was a little kid we were leaving Dr. Fishbein’s office on the East Side of Providence after a dental visit. It was a frigid, snowy and dark New England afternoon. My mom loaded us kids into the back seat and put the car in drive. But then a few minutes later she suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. There was an elderly woman slowly making her way in the stormy afternoon. And my mother asked the woman if she could give her a ride.
That was more than forty years ago and I am pretty sure my mother does not remember. And the woman would be long dead. But I remember. I think I was also impacted because the woman was a total stranger and not someone we knew.
As an adult, I have a hard time passing by someone walking without asking if they need a ride. Usually folks I know. But there’s been a stranger or two.
When I lived in Texas I would see my parish priest taking his daily constitutional as I drove through town. I couldn’t help but stop and ask if I could give him a lift. But he never wanted a ride. I am sure he just wanted to take his walk undisturbed by the likes of me. So, I only did it on a couple of occasions and vowed not to ask again unless I saw him lying in a prostrate position on the roadway.
So, did I learn from Eileen?
I’d like to think we are all born wanting to help others. But if not, then our job is to learn from others. And then teach others what we know. By practicing acts of kindness. Starting with the small ones. It matters and it’s simple.