Acts of Kindness

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.

 

 

Down Under Dalliance

Just back from a quick trip to Perth, Australia. Was Spring break here in Malaysia and it seemed like a great opportunity to finally see the land of far, far away. Never thought I would see the place so I am thrilled and grateful that I had the chance.

Great country. Rugged and wild. Lot of land. Not a ton of folk. Clean. Welcoming weather. Friendly. Good eating.

Took a lot of photos. Sharing the ones that made me laugh, smile or take pause.

Each country is like a snowflake. Unique. In its beauty and its eccentricities.

Hope you enjoy.

First thing I saw in airport bathroom.

First thing I saw in airport bathroom.

Knew I wasn't in Malaysia (or anywhere else) when I spied these vending machine goodies.

Knew I was no longer in Malaysia when I spied these vending machine offerings.

Another vending machine choice.

Another vending machine choice.

Could you put me through to the passive department?

Could you please put me through to the passive department?

Art by Jerome.

Art by Jerome.

Smiled at this sign while washing my hands in restaurant bathroom.

Smiled at this sign while washing my hands in restaurant bathroom.

No place for me to park since I am always on the verge.

No place for me to park since I am always on the verge.

Ummmm, bubbles?

Ummmm, bubbles?

Just so there are no misunderstandings. Good to have things spelled out.

Just so there are no misunderstandings. Good to have things spelled out.

Just because I am a fan of the 80s.

Just because I am a fan of the 80s.

Mandjoogoordap Drive. I could hardly take it all in visually. Never mind pronounce it on the fly.

Mandjoogoordap Drive. I could hardly take it all in visually. Never mind pronounce it on the fly.

Sushi restaurant. Just fill it up to the line. Takes the guess work out of the equation.

Sushi restaurant. Just fill it up to the line. Takes any guess-work out of the equation.

A blackboard from Jack and the Beanstalk?

A blackboard from Jack and the Beanstalk?

As the kids say, "Haterz gonna hate."

As the kids say, “Haterz gonna hate.”

I am sharing some of my recent photos. Mostly taken in and around Kuala Lumpur. Some of these made me think. Some made me curious. Some made me laugh out loud. I do have a tendency to find humor in the oddest things. And I suppose some folks wouldn’t always find my humor all that funny.

Just for the record. It might seem like I am poking fun at my host country with these pictures. I probably am. But totally without malice. And with a ton of affection. I would do the exact same in my own country. I am fully aware that Malaysia is not an “English as a first language” country so there will be translation and spelling errors.  It will still catch my eye and it will still amuse me.

We’ve been in the news lately. Been a rotten month for Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. Horrible unhealthy haze. Water rationing due to unusual drought. Death of six young concert goers due to drug overdoses. And the terribly mysterious and sad disappearance of an airplane filled with passengers. And all the other day-to-day things that befall humans.

We could use a smile or a laugh right about now. If just to forget the heavy stuff for a minute.

See below for my latest round of shots. What on earth did I do before I had this phone and its handy camera? Oh, that’s right. I never, ever, ever took a single photograph.

Hope you enjoy. And I hope you “get” me.

Well, I guess I'll take that one.

Well, I guess I’ll take that one.

There is the witching hour. And the happy hour. I forgot about the business hour.

There is the witching hour. And the happy hour. I forgot about the business hour.

Nothing minor about that.

Nothing minor about that.

 Waiting rooms are known for old issues of magazines. See date on this baby. It's totally okay if it's a gossipy People magazine. But Smartinvestor???

Waiting rooms are notorious for old issues of magazines. See date on this baby. It’s totally okay if it’s a gossipy People magazine. But Smartinvestor???

Take off your darn wedding ring!

Take off your darn wedding ring!

Don't need to understand the language on this one.

Don’t need to understand the language on this one.

You wouldn't be able to find this in the Northeast are of the U.S.A. But spotted it in a local grocery store. Catering to the Southerners.

You might not be able to find this in the Northeast region of the U.S.A. But spotted it here.

Wow. I had no idea!

Wow. I had no idea!

Her name is Nancy. Her new nickname is Danony.

Her name is Nancy. Her new nickname is Danony.

Take off my dirty shoes? In a public bathroom? I think not.

Take off my dirty shoes? In a public bathroom? I think not.

Still don't know what this is.

Still don’t know what this is.

S

Asia. Land of replica.

Asia. Land of replica.

Hope the herbs are for moms after they've given birth and not herbs made of afterbirth. I have heard of such things.

Hope the herbs are for moms after they’ve given birth and not herbs made of afterbirth. I have heard of such things.

Some things are just not allowed.

Some things are just not allowed.

Of course, the phrase, "That's might white of you" popped into my head.

Of course, the phrase, “That’s mighty white of you” popped into my head.

So much wrong with this I don't know where to start.

So much wrong with this I don’t know where to begin. Can’t remember where this was taken. 

Sorr I couldn resis. Spellin is my thin.

Sorr I couldn resis. Spellin is my thin.

Wonder what type of club this could be?

Wonder what type of club this could be?

Green tea KitKat.

Green tea KitKat.

Small World

Last night, some neighbors and I were discussing the world. About how big it is. And being a continent or day away from family.

It’s true.

But I got to thinking a bit more about the topic this morning. And I’m totally doing an about-face. After discovering a shared connection among some friends.

The world is small. Very small. It may be vast but it is a very small world.

One past example. Some months ago I was visiting with a neighbor (here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) on my front patio. She would soon be moving back to the States. Houston was home although I don’t think her family was originally from Texas. I had mentioned the name of the town where I had lived for twelve years. Usually I just say “Dallas” because everyone gets that. But for some reason on that day I mentioned the actual town in Dallas County.

The neighbor says, “My sister lives there.”

Well, you know me. Of course, I asked more questions!!! What’s her name? Does she have children?

She told me the last name. And it sounded familiar. I asked if her niece ever played soccer. She said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Sounded like maybe she was more into the arts. But the first name was nagging at me. It wasn’t very common.

That evening I checked Annie’s first year soccer team photo. When she was four years old. I sent a copy of it to my neighbor asking “Is your niece in this photo?”

She immediately responded,” Oh my goodness! YES! That’s her.”

So weird, right?

Annie and her niece played on the same soccer team. More than ten years ago. And just maybe this neighbor and I crossed paths in that suburb.

Here’s my very recent example of the small world thingy.

This morning I hop on Facebook to read who is doing their usual kvetching and whining.

On my main page (Facebook is always wanting me to update my personal information) it says, “Mary, where did you go to school?” And it shows schools that groups of my friends have attended.

Appeared that three of my friends attended St. Agnes Academy in Houston, Texas. Two were no surprise to me. I knew they were in high school together and that they both ended up moving north to the Dallas County suburb where we happily resided.

But the third one is a woman who I met through mutual friends here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She used to live here but now lives in Dubai. A friend had shared this woman’s blog with me. And also shared my blog with this woman. So we were introduced on-line. I finally met her when she visited before the holidays. And we are back and forth on-line about various things.

Today, Facebook tells me that she went to school with two of my friends. A woman who was in my monthly book club and also a woman who was my dear neighbor. 

Isn’t that the craziest thing? Me from Rhode Island. Moved to Texas. Make friends with a couple of Houstonians living in North Texas. I move to California after twelve years. Then few years later move to Malaysia. Get introduced to a Texan that used to live in Malaysia and now Dubai. Who loves Rhode Island. Her daughters attended/attend college there. She even spent Xmas in Rhode Island while I was sweating in Asia!

And I find out that the three of them were in high school together more than thirty years ago.

Ummm, can we all repeat after me? Small world. One big circle.

Isn’t it just fabulous????

The Challenge

Last night Annie asked me if I wanted to do the “Yoko Ono Challenge.”

Letting my Kindle slip down onto my lap and my eyes peering out over my specs, I replied, “What? You want me to break up a band?”

She looked at me quizzically because she really didn’t know what I was talking about and why would she? I’m nearly fifty years old and she is only fifteen.

This is the challenge. I hadn’t ever heard of it.

‘Try to say nothing negative about anybody for three days, for forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.”

Immediately, I felt badly about my snarky, band wrecker remark. Seriously, I don’t know Yoko. She might have been influential but John Lennon had his own mind. As we all do and should. 

I’m up for the challenge. I know it won’t be easy but I am going to try. Whether in traffic or attending a PTA meeting. Walking the dog in the neighborhood or with a group of friends. With my family or strangers.

I will be mindful.

And, Yoko? I’m really sorry. I was only trying to be funny.

Timing

Yesterday morning a neighbor flagged me down as I was driving. She wanted to talk to me. I pulled over to the side of the road.

She wanted to thank me. And tell me how much she appreciated me reaching out to her in the past. She said that my kindness came to her on occasions when she really and truly needed it. She had been wanting to tell me for a long time.

Timing is a funny thing.

The reason I write this is because I wasn’t feeling that great when I was driving past her. There is a lot going on here.

My mother-in-law who has been living with us for a year and a half is moving back to her war-torn country. I have been struggling with that. I understand that she wants to return home. Who wouldn’t? I am happy that she will be able to return to what is familiar to her. And I will find a new/old normal here. But I just wish that she was heading back into a stable environment.

My older daughter is traveling to do her senior thesis in an equally unstable environment.

Husband leaving for a business trip. Not unusual. Just that everyone will be scattered around the globe at the same time.

Oh, yeah, and I am the mother of a teenager. 

So, this is life. This is the week. All of which I can and will deal with as best I can. While none offering an incredible sense of lightness. At the moment.

But I was also carrying something yesterday morning I don’t usually have and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Anger. And not a misdirected anger. Doesn’t matter why or who. Just that the level of its intensity is unfamiliar to me. Of course, I have experienced small bouts of it in the past. I am, after all, like everyone else. A mere mortal. See above. I am married and a mother. I’m not talking about that.

Anyway, as I listened to this woman I felt a bit of lightness. Because for a few minutes I wasn’t thinking about myself. We all have our troubles.

And she talked about my timing. I didn’t know when I was reaching out to her that it was on days that she needed it the most.

I said maybe there was just something else (other worldly) at work here.

But what she doesn’t know is that her timing was also good for me. She didn’t know how I was feeling at that moment.

Her presence on the curb reminded me that we sometimes put things out there and it comes back somehow. When we least expect it. We don’t put positive, good things out there for the selfish boomerang effect but because it is right thing to do.

But it does ripple.

And sometimes those ripples hit you on a day when you need it most.

Timing is a funny thing.

Uncommon Thought

I remember when Rory was applying to colleges and writing the essays that had to shriek, “Pick me! Pick me! I am soooo unique! You want me!” Because that is what they are expected to do. Spend all their time trying to be unique as possible. And put it in writing. Come university application time.

NYU, a wonderful, happening school with a cool vibe in the middle of New York City, asked her to write about a famous New Yorker.

Well, that required a bit of thought. She asked her cousins in New York for some feedback on interesting characters. She also asked me.

And really, who comes to mind when we are asked a question like this? The usual writers? Glitterati? Intelligentsia? Artists? Politicians? Gangsters? Oops, I already said that when I mentioned politicians.

Anyway, in the end, she chose her own New Yorker.

Stuart Little. The tiny mouse from E.B. White’s beloved story.

I loved it. She ended the essay by stating that it just really doesn’t matter how little you might be. You can still do great things.  Or something to that effect.

True that.

But I found that the underlying message in this exercise was the importance of thinking outside the box. Don’t grab onto the first idea. Or other people’s ideas. The common thought. Allow for some different and creative thinking.

Because you might do great things.  You really could change the world. No matter how little you might be.

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