By Annaben Kazemi
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ~ John Bunyan, 17th century author of The Pilgrim’s Progress
Kindness comes often when we least expect it. When I think about the kind things people have done for me throughout my life, I am amazed by their generosity and compassion. One instance in particular comes to mind: Years ago, when my daughter was just beginning IVIG treatments at an infusion clinic, our family was thrown into chaos. We had just relocated to a new town and had no family living near us. We felt isolated with a chronically ill child whose invisible disease was hard to explain. I was gone from home for a whole day at a time while we went to the clinic, and the aftermath was hard to catch up on. In those early days, it felt like our lives centered around the infusion cycle.
My older daughter had just joined the Girl Scouts. After she missed a meeting because I was at the clinic, her troop found out about our intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) cycles and formed a list of the nights we’d be gone. They then brought dinner to my family every three weeks for an entire year. The dinners were great, but the families that came over left a much bigger impression. They welcomed us into their hearts and hometown. They helped with homework, carpools and set up play dates. They included us in their lives even though they did not have a child who was ill.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~Mother Teresa
Small kindnesses can have a lasting impact, too. Sometimes it’s just a smile or a small gesture like holding the door for someone else or a gentle word. These little kindnesses can make all the difference in the world. Recently, I was preoccupied walking out of a crowded coffee shop. My daughter’s illness was weighing heavily on my mind. I stumbled and spilled coffee everywhere. Annoyed customers tried to pat their coffee splatters with paper napkins. As the barista whipped over with a mop, I looked back at the long line my, and my eyes welled up involuntarily. And, then a kind voice said: “Here, take my latté. Ya know the first the two trips are on me, but when you get to the third, you hafta pay!” I looked up at twinkling eyes and felt humbled by this stranger’s kindness.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” ~Princess Diana
As I walked into the clinic with my latté, I passed a mom in the lab waiting room struggling with her three young kids. I could see her reaching an exasperation point, so I looked her in the eyes and smiled. Her smile back was one of relief; I was not criticizing her or annoyed with her children. Rather, my smile showed empathy without having to say anything. When we are each fighting a hard battle, especially one fraught with the complications of a chronic illness, kindness goes a long way.
When has someone shown you kindness? What can you do to show kindness to others? How can you pay it forward?