It was the usual day.
Get up early, study the markets, check on the cattle, fix fence, make a sandwich, and then go out and do it all again. Going to town or taking time to do things in the home were privileges, stretched out on the horizon and always seemingly days or months away.
Late in the afternoon, I opened the door and after shaking off the dust of the corral, I walked to the kitchen only to find the counter covered in fresh baking. Someone had been by and delivered a random act of kindness.
I think about all those times when the weight of the tasks were so great that my feet where heavy and my mind overtaxed with the ‘must do’ — and how my spirit was lifted by someone uninvited and even unknown.
It was the man who carried me a half-mile down the road because I can’t breathe and the snow was too deep for the car; the stack of wood left by the door; the soup in the fridge; the books for reading; the gifts sent; and the little drawings randomly given by children. These are the gifts of life.
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When I was in Doha, Qatar, I fell ill and, unknown to me, was passed out for nearly 20 hours. The small team of nine others I was travelling with (from four other nations) took turns sleeping on the floor by my bed while the others found a doctor; booked and paid for a plane ticket home; and prepared my bags. This took away from their experience in the Middle East but they did not waver, so strong was their kindness.
The connection on that flight was in Frankfurt. After an eight-hour wait, I was told the plane was overbooked and I was to be delayed another 24 hours. I was not alone — there were guests who had been waiting for two days. But I was ill, really ill, and although Air Canada could not have cared less, someone else did. A total stranger took my hand, marched up to the agent, and gave me her seat.
I was speechless — and filled with immense gratitude. Her act was not just one of selflessness but one that was critical, for when I arrived home I spent the next three months on IV and was in and out of hospital.
Even then there were miracles.
During one particularly uncomfortable hospital procedure, I received a book from a girl who heard I was struggling. A little book of inspiration that I still refer to today. There was the crystal bear that exemplifies strength given out or caring; a litany of phone calls from those known and those unknown to me; stacks of food and baking that have been given and made by loving hands; pictures and cards; fixed tires, sewers, and fences; and the ever-present gifts of time from family who ‘has your back.’
Upon reflection of the multitude of acts of kindness that I have experienced, I ask myself: What does kindness mean?
Technically, it reflects friendliness, generosity, consideration, and care. But certainly it is deeper than being friendly and caring, and must, I believe, include a deep sense of compassion — that expansion of warmth, love, tenderness, and tolerance. The inviting of one into our personal space, even if briefly, in a way that enhances their lives.
It starts at home with respect and doing the little things for each other. It may be the husband who grabs the vacuum after a long day working. Or a teenager who says, ‘I’ll do that for you Mom.’ The neighbours who bring in your whole herd of cattle and fix the fence while you have been away. Or the ladies who pick up your children on the way to skating.
In the workplace and on the farm, it means keeping out of the gossip pool and standing tall for the excellence of each other. A new kind of flexibility that allows for folks to feel important and worthwhile and give to their full potential. Kindness is tolerance or seeing life from another perspective so we can play a part in making someone else’s world better. Never a chore — it is something within us that can also be nurtured and grow into a way of life.
Before a very dear friend of mine passed away, he prepared his last message to be conveyed at his funeral. And that message was to go out and practise one act of kindness.
He knew that kindness fills the human spirit and that one act would multiply forward. Kindness with its multitude of faces and definitions liberates us and gives purpose to our lives. It’s not a Christmas thing, or an event. It is a way of living.
I invite you to do just that — go out and engage in one act of kindness. And I thank you for your readership and wish for you a journey of joy and every possible blessing.