Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 5, 2011 ~ Day 86
Kindness, Given and Received

You never know when or where an act of kindness is going to strike. Like lightning, kindness can arrive without warning and illuminate your day before you ever hear or feel its force.

Today happened to be a bit bleak and rainy, and as my daughter and I returned home from taking the older boys to their respective schools I realized that the neighborhood recycling truck had come and gone, leaving our neighbor's blue recycling bin fallen in its wake.

I shared a while ago in this blog that this particular neighbor, a very elderly man across the street, lives alone and has great difficulty walking. The poor guy is terribly hunched over and frail, keeping mainly to himself. In the three weeks that we've lived here I have noticed a number of kind folks dropping by to give him a hand with his groceries, driving him home from the bus stop, and helping him up his driveway.

When I saw the fallen bin on the ground I remembered the words of the friendly jogger from down the street who said she often tried to help him out, bringing in his garbage cans and giving him rides when she could. She had asked if we would keep our eye out for him.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to help out, so leaving my daughter safely buckled into her car seat (with the door open so she could see me and I could see her) I walked across the street and quickly pulled his recycling bin all the way up the hill to his kitchen door.

I suppose I should have stopped to knock on his front door to ask if that would be all right, but the jogger had told me in explicit terms that he was a curmudgeonly man who wasn't particularly friendly but that she really felt for him and tried to help out where she could. With all of this in mind, I decided that I would just go ahead and help him... and if he didn't want me to do so, he could always just open the door and say, "No thanks." It really wasn't a big deal, just pulling up a bin in the rain.

At mid-day we left to pick up my younger son from preschool and when we returned home I brought his now-emptied black garbage can up the driveway to rest next to the recycling can. "Mission accomplished," I thought, and it felt good to know that he wouldn't have to struggle in the rain with trash bins that are (sadly, in his bent-over state) nearly as tall as he is.

Tonight when my husband arrived home from work, he spied our little old neighbor across the street and waved. The man hobbled out and apparently asked him, "Did you bring in my bins for me today?" and my husband replied that while he had not, I might have done so. "Thank you so much," the man apparently replied to my husband in a thick British accent. "I have terrible arthritis. It is really awful. I cannot bend to get to those bins. Thank you."

I am so happy that my very small gesture could make him so happy. I can't wait to help out again next week. I'm going to look out for other ways that I can be of assistance too.

Later in the day, kindness was returned to me when a lovely woman from our neighborhood contacted me via email in response to an advertisement I had placed on Craigslist (Thanks M and J for the great idea!!!) for anyone who wanted to pick up free cardboard moving boxes from our home. We have been very anxious to be free of the cardboard mountain in our side yard, and were so delighted that our boxes could be passed on to help yet another family move. I actually cannot believe how many people responded to our ad... in 24 hours we probably had 10 or 12 different interested parties.

In any event, the woman (who I'll call Tamlyn*) offered to come by this afternoon with her two small children to pick up our boxes and I excitedly accepted, eager to part with them before the next rainstorm. She arrived like a breath of fresh air, right when my sons had just begun to bicker over a toy, knocking on the door and singing out ~ in a lilting Southern accent ~ "Hello! We're here!"

I walked out of my son's bedroom (where I'd been busily sorting Legos into small, bigger and biggest) and toward the front door, coming face to face with a clean cut, sweet looking blonde woman in a red jacket and khaki pants, who looked like she could have been a model for the REI or LL Bean catalogue. She had a warm and effusive personality and greeted me like we were old friends.

"Thanks for these boxes," she said, "We're glad to take them off your hands."

"We're glad to give them to you!"

"Where did you all move here from?"

"______________, just near downtown. Where are you moving to?"

"We're moving back to Tennessee. We just bought a wonderful home there for a quarter of the money you would spend to buy a falling down house here by the beach. We would have liked to have bought a house here, but it wasn't in our price range."

"I totally understand,"
I laughed, "It isn't in ours either! We're renting here, but glad to be here."

"You will love this neighborhood,"
she smiled. "We came out here for six months originally and it turned into three years. This is a wonderful place for families."

"Thanks, we feel so glad to be here."

After a few more pleasantries exchanged she loaded up her car with boxes and my sons tiptoed out to peek at her sons (ages 2 and 4) who were waiting in their carseats... one of them fast asleep.

"Can you believe it?" she grimaced, "He fell asleep in the TWO minutes it took me to drive to your house."

"Oh, that's the worst,"
I agreed, "and now he'll think he's had a long nap in the car, so bedtime tonight is going to be harder."

"Well, thanks again," she said. "I hope you don't think I'm being presumptious, since we just met, but do you have a local church that you worship at?"

"Why yes, we do!" I exclaimed. "We are Unitarian Universalists. Our home church is _______________."

"That's great. I was asking because our church hosts a Moms group every other Friday and I think you might enjoy it. It's a Presbyterian church but the Moms group is multi-denominational and some of the women that come don't even have a faith, or this is the closest to faith they ever get. Mainly it is about mothers coming together to support each other and spend time with other mothers. There is childcare provided for your children while you are there."

"That sounds really nice."

"Well if you are at all interested, I will send you the information,"
she beamed.

"Sure, why not? I'd be glad to get the information." "Great, well it was nice to meet you all!"

She drove away with her sons and I herded mine back into the house, smiling and reflecting on the irony that one of my first friends in the new neighborhood was actually about to move away.

Amazingly, when I checked my email about thirty minutes later she had already written me a lovely note with the information for the Moms group and an invitation to meet up with her beforehand so she could personally introduce me to the other mothers. "This group has been my greatest source of support since we moved here," she wrote, "And it is through the group that I have made my closest friends. We would be very happy to have you attend."

I responded that yes, I would plan to attend with my daughter. I am typically shy about getting involved in faith groups, especially those that are not part of our own spiritual practice... but somehow the timing of this one just felt right. I am really looking forward to meeting other mothers in my area!

I also went out on a limb and asked Tamlyn if she could recommend any local pediatricians or babysitters since we are so far away now (geographically) from the ones we know and trust. Within minutes, she had responded again with the names and telephone numbers of her pediatrician and THREE babysitters! Wow.

"I am so happy to help," she wrote, "as I know that in five weeks time I will be on the receiving end of this exact kind of assistance back in Tennessee. Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to make your transition here easier."

What a gem! What a kind woman. So there you have it... from Craigslist of all places... extreme kindness unexpectedly received!

My sense of the deeper message here is that genuine kindness is real ~ it is possible ~ and like a flash of brilliance against the darkened sky, it can happen in an instant lighting up the world around us. Perhaps kindness is its own force of nature, leaving good will and positive energy in its wake.

I feel really blessed that I could both give and receive unexpected acts of kindness on a perfectly average (dreary yet lovely) day like today.

*Name of the party in question changed to protect their privacy.

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