Tag Archives: random acts of kindness

The ripples of your actions.

As I wrote last week, I’ve been sick. Though better, this junk has lingered longer than I’ve had patience for, but as I also noted, I view this as an opportunity to practice patience with myself and the world around me. However, I won’t deny that I’ve whined here and there, and even on this blog. In the last few weeks, there have been times I’ve felt lousy–really lousy–but truthfully, it’s just a cold and it will “run its course.” I take my Sudafed and find relief until that magical day I awaken virus-free.

But, for some, the cold doesn’t go away. It progresses into something bigger like pneumonia, because maybe, underneath the cold, there is something bigger.

About this time 3 years ago, (or was it 4 now?), I received a call from a friend as she was leaving the doctor’s office with her teenage son, D. I could hear the slight tremble in her voice as she spoke. D had been sick with a “bug” he hadn’t been able to shake for almost 2 months. They had worked all the homeopathic treatments she knew of (and trust me, she knows them all!) and for a while, he would bounce back, but never completely. And though she and her family have insurance, she never took the kids to the doctor; up until that point, she had really had no need.

After a routine exam, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray and CT scan to be done immediately; the doctor had already called the radiology department at the hospital to let them know she was on the way. Alarms went off, but the voice of reason remained loud as she left the office and called me. She knows my medical history and wanted someone who could help her navigate the doctor’s terminology, the tests, and the antiseptic halls of a hospital, but above all, to simply hold her hand as they took her son in for the x-ray. I dropped everything and met her in the radiology department 20 minutes later.

That was the beginning of the journey I took with her, D, and the rest of the family. That afternoon, she received the call with the unthinkable diagnosis; her son had lymphoma. I know she wanted to run, to hide, to keep her son away from the doctors and their needles and tests and medicines that poison. I understood, and I also understood D’s prognosis if she/they did that. I knew I was placed in their lives to help them walk this part of their journey. I was in the room as D underwent his CT scans and could joke about the utter coolness of the stickers on “his CT machine” that were never on mine. I sat with D and my friend as the oncologist explained the diagnosis, the process and the post-surgical treatments. To diffuse tension, I teased as he settled into his private “spa retreat” room at Children’s Hospital, with its X-Box, movie library, and pool table one floor down (I was lucky, I told him, if I was given an extra Jell-O during my hospital stays.) I reassured her as we left him at the hospital that day, unexpectedly, so they could do a lymph node biopsy the next morning. And, on the day of D’s “big” surgery, I came alongside a family in fear and disbelief, walking the halls, asking for warm blankets as D waited in pre-op, and offering words of encouragement.

Though follow-ups are still required, this story ends well. In two months, D will graduate high school and set his sites on the future. I can’t count the number of times my girlfriend and her husband have thanked my for being there with them during that time. I know there is no other place I was supposed to be, nor would have wanted to be.

Last month, I revisited D’s journey in my mind. I had offered what I could to help a family facing an unthinkable diagnosis. Then, I thought about another little fighter, Natalie, only 2, who I came to “know” through a friend. I have followed her story of diagnosis, surgery, treatments, and recent follow-up scans through the CaringBridge blog beautifully written by her mother. Though I don’t personally know Natalie, I offered what I could, my prayers.  On this date last month, I added my voice to a group of bloggers who posted about Donna, a spitfire little girl who liked to dance and read and eat popscicles. (Donna’s mom, Mary Tyler Mom, shares her very personal story here and the origins of Donna’s Good Things.) I wrote and I donated for Donna’s memory and for children everywhere with pediatric cancer. I offered what I could for the little ones that can’t speak up for themselves.

In the last few days, as I’ve bemoaned the dregs of this cold bug, I’ve had my attention brought once again to the children whose colds won’t disappear because something more sinister lies beneath. On the 24th of this month, three of the bloggers who introduced me to Donna last month will stand together in solidarity with children fighting cancer to help raise awareness as well as money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They will give their time, their money, their hair (yes, ALL of it–zip, zap, nada left), and above all, copious amounts of compassion for those with the smallest voices at the Donna’s Good Things at Candlelite Chicago Event. The Blissfully Bald team was formed by Chris (of the blog …from the Bungalow) and his wife, Karin (of the blog Pinwheels and Poppies.) They didn’t know Donna or Mary Tyler Mom, but Karin was moved to action when she read her story. (You can read about their journey to form the Blissfully Bald team here.)  The newest member of the Blissfully Bald team is young adult author, blogger, lawyer, and giant heart, Deborah Bryan, who once swore to never wear her hair shorter than chin length. Deb lost her mother to cancer. She knows well of the hope cancer steals. Her son will stay home with his daddy as she boards a plane to join ranks with Chris and Karin on Saturday, the 24 in Chicago. All three members of the Blissfully Bald team have been unassuming in their campaign to help; there have been humble requests for support (of all kinds, not just financial) made through their blogs and Facebook pages, with only slight mention of their involvement; the focus has remained on the kids.

Last month, when I wrote about Donna, I asked my readers to donate their money or their time or to simply say a  prayer to help those whose energies are best spent slaying the dragon. Yesterday, I wrote about the lesson my mother taught me about speaking up for those that can’t speak for themselves; she lived that example as she helped strangers in her neighborhood and children halfway around the world. And in the last week, I have watched the swell of activity as three amazing bloggers live that lesson out loud, with humble voices. In doing so, they have inspired me and others to do the same. Acts of kindness (regardless of size) beget kindness, and we can all make a difference in this world if we help those in need with what we have to offer, be it time, money, or prayers. Just give where you feel called to give. The ripples of your actions will travel farther than you can imagine.

(And though the team has officially met their goal, it never hurts to be an overachiever, especially when raising funds to fight a demon. Donations can be made here: Blissfully Bald – A St. Baldrick’s Team.)

Thank you for reading.

Banana slug lessons (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

This is not "the" banana slug mentioned below. Image courtesy of Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Banana_slug_at_UCSC.jpg

In response to a “lessons” post last month on Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog, I wrote about the wisdom I learned on a field trip:

I was in fourth grade, on a field trip in the mountains with our class. My mom was one of the parent chaperones. I didn’t want her there–only the “dorks” had their parents there. It was an embarrassing day made worse when the “popular boy” intentionally stepped on a banana slug in front of my mom. She had a strict “no kill unless you are going to eat it” policy in life. (Whenever possible (which was most of the time), she trapped the mice/bugs/snakes/etc. in the house and released them in the field out back.) I was standing next to my mom when the conversation went down…

Mom: Why did you just do that?

Boy: I don’t know.

Mom: You don’t know, but you did it anyway? Would you like me to come into your home and squash you?

Boy: No, I suppose not.

Mom: I didn’t think so. That was senseless and unkind. We are in their home and the creatures that live here have every right to be left alone to live as they choose, don’t you think? Since they can’t speak for themselves, I’m doing it for them. I assume I won’t see anything like that again today.

Boy: (eyes downward cast, but mocking me, I was certain!) Yes, mam.

I never heard a peep from the other kids about it, but I felt humiliated by my mom’s scolding of this boy–the boy who I dreamed about. My future as Mrs. Popular was lost, but the lesson I learned that day wasn’t: Speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves.

(Anyone who would squash a bug just for fun probably wasn’t who I wanted to spend my life with anyways.)

via Thanks For Reaming Me Out: A #LessonLearned by Ermine Cunningham « Lessons From Teachers and Twits.

I’ve written often about the lessons I’ve learned from my mom, but it wasn’t until I read this guest post on Renée’s blog that I thought about the day I learned, really learned, to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves. I was grateful for the chance to revisit this memory, not just for the trip down memory lane, but for the “gut check” it offered.

Though not perfect (because no one is), my mom was an amazingly compassionate soul and particularly protective of the weak. She was a stay-at-home mom with a kitchen window that provided her the perfect vantage point to see almost all the way down the block. If there was “bullying” or unkindness of any kind going on, she knew about it and she stepped in, whether or not her kid was the perpetrator. And, the part about rescuing and releasing critters above–gospel truth. Over the years, I watched her quietly and humbly give of herself and her money, and all the while teach by example.

I’d like to hope I’ve done the same with my kids, and I’m well aware I have kids that were blessed with huge hearts that have nothing to do with me or my teaching. I think about my older daughter, C, who, at the age of 4, would immediately stop her play and greet any child that entered the McDonald’s play area to invite them to join her “so they didn’t feel left out.” Or the time when A, at the ripe age of 10, stood up alone to a table full of kids who had been teasing another group of kids in front of her. I think of the courage it took to offer those gestures, to the be the hand that reached out to help someone else and I fill with pride for my girls and am humbled by their examples of compassion.

Since the day I wrote my comment on Renée’s blog, I’ve been searching the corners of my soul, asking, “Am I helping those that have no voice when presented with the opportunity? Am I continuing to teach by example? Or, do I stand silent, grateful it’s not my problem?” I’ve noticed more often the acts of others, of my children and husband as they help those in need. I’ve pondered the actions I’ve taken to help others and wondered if there was more I could/should do. I reminded myself to always be on the look out to “practice random acts of kindness.”

My mother taught me compassion with her words and her example (with the help of a banana slug.) She was ever grateful for the life she had, and she inspired me to be a better person. I have been blessed often and inspired by the generosity and  kindness of family, friends, and strangers who have helped me up more than once with an outstretched hand. I’ve been inspired by my children who have stood in defense of the bullied and the lonely. I’ve been motivated to do more by the writers I have come to know through this blog. And, I’ve been blessed by the opportunities I’ve had to help others. It feels good to help, to speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves, to be the light in someone’s darkness. Acts of compassion truly offer their own rewards.

There are many opportunities to help those that are in need and either can’t or won’t speak up for themselves. One need only look at the headline news to read the stories of child mercenaries in Uganda or of the unemployed in our own backyards. Perhaps, there is a friend who needs groceries but can’t get out to the store, or a stranger whose path you cross on social media in need of encouragement and hope, or an in-law you lovingly welcome into your home, in spite of “the history”. Reaching out, speaking up, offering hope, are all ways we can be the voice for another in need.

Tomorrow, I will share the story of 3 fellow bloggers and their selfless gift to those with the smallest voices. In light of so much negativity on the news, it is good to be reminded of the goodness of others. I hope you’ll read.

Until then, what or who has inspired you to be a better person?