My Blog List

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kindness

I've been thinking about kindness a lot since reading John Gray's thoughts about it on Sunday. One thing in particular that he said has stuck with me: "Kindness often never solves anything. But it softens the misery."

While thinking about the subject of kindness and looking for opportunities to be kind to others, I opened Facebook the other night and saw my chance. A woman I went to high school with was posting an update about her son who's in the hospital. She was one of my best friends during our teenage years, but then we drifted apart after graduation and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Her life has been terribly sad. She had three children, two of which were boys born with a genetic disease that is fatal (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duchenne_muscular_dystrophy). Her older son passed away a few years ago. The younger is deteriorating rapidly and will almost certainly not live much longer. He's currently in the hospital with pneumonia and has been put on a ventilator. I cannot even imagine the pain and sorrow this woman has had to endure in her life, losing one child and the prospect of losing another looming. Her husband was injured in the Middle East (he was in the army) and can't work, and of course with two terminally ill kids she's never been able to have a job, either. I know they receive government aid and benefits, but it's obvious that they're quite poor despite that.

Here's where a pet peeve of mine comes in, and I hope I don't offend anyone. There was a giant chorus of  "I'll pray for you!" "You're in our prayers!" "Prayers going up!!" etc etc on her Facebook page when she posted the update on her son's condition. I hate that. Because to my ears, what that really sounds like is "we can't be bothered to actually do something to help you so we'll just say we're praying and then we don't have to feel guilty about not getting off our asses and taking some responsibility to help". Now, I realize some people truly believe that their prayers are helpful or else that's the automatic response they've been raised to give when someone is in trouble. When Gregg was fighting cancer I always thanked people for their prayers, but I can tell you from first hand experience that a prayer doesn't do shit to help when you're scared, or hurting, or in trouble. The people who stand out in my memory are the ones who stopped by, called, dropped off food, offered to run errands, or came over to simply sit and watch TV with Gregg while he was undergoing chemotherapy and had a lot of long, lonely hours at home to fill when I was at work. The people who actually DID something.

So back to this woman, I sent her a private message on Facebook and asked her what I could do for her. I learned that the family doesn't own a car and what she really needed was a ride home for her and her daughter. The hospital where her son is currently in ICU is right down the road from my house, but the family lives an hour away. She and her husband have been depending on rides from family and friends to take turns staying at the hospital.  She asked if I'd be willing to drive her and her daughter home to shower and get some rest, and bring her husband back with me and drop him off at the hospital on my way home. So that's what I did. I also brought some graphic novels for the sick boy (his mom had told me he likes them) and a bunch of free ARC (advance reader copy ) teen books for her daughter. Hours spent at the hospital are long hours and I hope the girl enjoys the books. The sick boy won't be able to read his until later--for now while he's on a ventilator they're keeping him sedated.

So that's how I spent my afternoon today. Did I particularly want to do it? To be honest, no. I'm no saint, and this woman and I aren't going to be rekindling the friendship we had in high school. Saying we're very different people now would be a huge understatement. And did the rides I gave them make a big difference in their lives? Again, no. It was just a single day that was a tiny bit easier for them in the midst of many, many hard days. But I do hope that for a little while their misery was softened because someone cared a little bit.

19 comments:

  1. Kudos to you and your kind heart.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So agree with your comments today.
    I will help if I can but when people say they will pray for me, what I really need was everyday help when my Daughter died, house burned down in a wildfire or when Son had heart surgery.
    If I am near I will help but I am so far away from everyone in the desert of Arizona.
    I am happy you stepped in and helped for a day. Like you I know from experience, it helps more than anyone knows.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, I didn't know you have had so many hard times in your life to contend with. You must be one strong woman! xx

      Delete
  3. I agree with you 100% about the praying lark, it's not only a cop-out but also attempts to make people seem worthy and pious. A load of bunkum.

    I feel so sorry for people whose lives are totally consumed by illness in the family, and having two sons with incurable diseases must be the worst of all. I have a friend who was in a car with her husband when they turned a corner (at night) and crashed into the back of an unlit broken-down tractor. The woman is now permanently in a wheelchair, and the husband walked off taking all the insurance payments with him. One feels totally useless in cases like these, but praying still does no good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How terrible of the husband. People can be real shits, can't they? :(

      Delete
  4. While I guess there are people who truly believe their prayers are as helpful as any physical deed, you are probably right in thinking that for a lot of them, it's the easiest way out.

    When my husband died so very suddenly 6 years ago, I did not need anyone to give me food or run errands for me - most of that stuff has to done by the widow anyway, what with signatures and so on. But I was glad for anyone who simply behaved NORMALLY around me, not feeling as if they'd have to tread on eggshells around me. And I was glad for each and every email, letter and phonecall I received. There were no "right" or "wrong" words - people don't need to worry so much about what to say or write in such a situation. What matters is that they do get in touch, even months afterwards, and honestly talk to you.

    I've written about small acts of kindness a few times on my blog, maybe you are interested in those posts: here and here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean about people acting normally around you after a tragedy. I think sometimes people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing at a time like that that often they don't say anything at all. Which is a shame.

      Delete
  5. That was an enormous kindness. I agree with you about the prayer thing. It is the absolute least someone can do, but it makes them feel so virtuous. Although I am not religious I have to imagine that if there is a God, that Diety would want us to be doing good works - which includes actively helping others. Thanks for writing about this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jennifer can you set up on this https://www.gofundme.com
    for your friend ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great idea. I'll look into it. Thank you!

      Delete
  7. Well done Jennifer. You are so right. It's deeds that matter, not words. As for prayers - who the hell are those people praying to? Their prayers are like ashes going up a chimney.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Ashes going up the chimney"....well said!

      Delete
  8. You are a good person Jennifer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Yael but I hope I didn't sound like I was fishing for compliments. I can be as selfish as the next person, but I do try to be a decent human being.

      Delete
  9. As I sat here at my computer a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I saw smoke coming from a couple of miles up the road. It was a few days before I discovered I'd been watching a friend's house burn halfway to the ground. My family kept Christmas very simple and we gave our cash to our friends instead of blowing it on each other this year. It just felt like the right thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so wonderful!! That's the kind of story I like to hear. The money meant far more to your friends than trinkets would have to you. Way to go!

      Delete
  10. Those people who are kind are usually the ones who the least is known about. My P is like that, his light is under a bushel and he is the kindest person ever. In bereavement especially it is good to talk to the bereaved, and to write if you are far away, or telephone, and still to smile as well, as in all the things your commenter Librarian says.

    ReplyDelete