What are some kindnesses that have been done for you? Have you ever listed them?
I did that once, years ago, on a late night flight from my home in California, to my hometown in South Carolina. It was the week before Christmas.
My sister had called that morning to tell me our mother’s battle with lung cancer was nearing the end and if I wanted to say goodbye, I needed to get there fast. She ended the call with, “Love you, Sissy. Hurry.’’
So I made calls to cancel work and commitments. Packed a bag. Told my husband and kids I’d try to be back for Christmas. Hugged them hard and hurried to catch the last flight out.
After takeoff, lights were dimmed and people started snoring. I felt empty and alone.
What do you do when you get lonely and there’s no one to hold you? How do you fill an empty heart with gratitude?
As a child, when I felt lost and alone, I learned that it helped somehow to count my blessings.
So on the plane that night, I took a notebook out of my purse and started listing all the kindnesses, large and small, that I’d been given in my lifetime.
Five hours later, when we landed, I closed the notebook, put it back in my purse and rushed to the hospital to say goodbye to my mother.
I wish I’d kept that notebook. I have no idea what became of it. But I can tell you this: Listing all those kindnesses helped me that night and in the days ahead to do the things I needed to do and be the daughter I wanted to be.
Kindness is great medicine. It heals and empowers and fills an empty heart. It’s a gift, once and for always. Even if you lose the notebook you listed it in.
Five hours is a long time to list blessings, especially on paper. Usually, I do it in my head for a few minutes, taken as needed, like aspirin for a headache.
Sometimes, I don’t even need to try to remember them. They just come to me, like angels, out of nowhere.
Last night, for example. It was a cold and stormy evening, rain pouring, wind howling. My toes felt like ice sickles. So I wrapped my feet in a heating pad, got in bed and snuggled down.
As my feet began to thaw, I suddenly recalled being 7 years old in Mrs. Harrison’s second grade class. That morning, I’d worn my new shoes to school — beaded leather moccasins my dad bought for $2 at a gift shop in Cherokee, N.C.
I loved those moccasins. Especially the beads. I couldn’t stop looking at them. But when I stepped off the bus, I sank ankle-deep into a puddle and sloshed all the way into class.
Mrs. Harrison saw my tracks, but didn’t embarrass me about it. While my classmates hung coats and sharpened pencils, she whispered in my ear, “Give me those shoes and warm your feet on the floor.”
The school had radiant heat in the flooring and soon my bare feet were toasty. Mrs. Harrison dabbed the moccasins with a rag and set them on the floor to dry. At noon, when we lined up to go lunch, she handed them back to me dry as a bone.
“Thank you, ma’am,” I said, “sorry to trouble you.”
She laughed, patting my head.
“No trouble!” she said. “We all hit a puddle now and then!”
That was it. We never spoke of it again. It was just one of the many kindnesses she poured out on me and my classmates and countless other lucky children over the years. I don’t know if she remembered it. But I do.
It warmed my feet for a few blessed hours. But it’s warmed my heart for a lifetime.
What’s on your kindness list? Someday, maybe, I’ll rewrite my list starting with the Biblical admonition: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
Acts of kindness aren’t always big things. Often, they are small and seemingly insignificant, like plastic beads on a pair of two dollar moccasins.
But they become beautiful beyond all singing of it if they are remembered with gratitude and passed along with grace from one needy soul to another.
Contact freelance columnist Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or email@example.com.