I wrote back asking if he would be agreeable to letting the cats stay in my apartment during his absence. My reasoning was twofold: 1) The girls would get much more attention and near-constant companionship from more than one person, and 2) I wouldn’t have to climb two flights of stairs twice a day to care for them.
His reply was unexpected. He agreed to my request and wrote that he was overwhelmed by my offer. He wasn’t used to such kindness. This was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him.
WHAT? My halfway self-serving request was the best anyone had ever done for this guy? I couldn’t believe it. What’s wrong with our species?
Yeah, I know the guy is blind, but why are so many people afraid to engage with someone who is a little different?
“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”
I was angry and sad at the same time. I started thinking about all the ways I’ve been shown kindness in the last few years:
- the friend who cooked homemade dinners for my husband and I when I was recovering from surgery
- the lawyers who defended me and helped me through the legal system even though they were representing the other party
- the boss who sat in court with me just for moral support
- the friends and family members who called and left messages for me at a time when I didn’t have the reserve to talk to anyone
- the friend who helped man the garage sale of most of my possessions, providing both nutritional and emotional sustenance
- the work colleagues who planned and carried out a most memorable and touching wedding for me
I could go on.
I’m grateful to all these people and more. They balanced out the behavior of a number of slimy, greedy, flagitious lowlifes and kept my spirits up during some very trying times. I can’t imagine the outcome had I not received such kindness. I can’t imagine how my neighbor has persevered.
Well, I guess I can, for judging from his notes to me, it’s his two cats who provide him care and community and purpose in Life. They’re everything to him. They’ve become his world.
Still, it takes so little to be kind to others—holding a door open, carrying a grocery bag, sometimes just saying Hello or listening. We don’t have to get involved in a person’s life or problems in order to be kind; we don’t have to become responsible for them or engage with them for the long term. There’s hardly any downside to it, really. It’s just a moment in a lifetime of moments. But to the person we’re being kind to, it could be so much more.
Push a little kindness into the Universe today, won’t you?
[Art by Harry Whittier.]