Writer’s Note: Over the course of five days, I had three experiences that changed my thinking about kindness toward others. Taken separately, each of these experiences would not have had such an impact, but in combination they made me start thinking seriously about gratitude.
Acts of kindness happen every day. Those acts happen because caring people seek to help others. There’s a lesson for all of us in their stories . . . GP
A Mirror and a Telescope
Why is it that Murphy’s Law always seems to apply in our lives? (Murphy’s Law: a “saying” that means that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong — and usually at the most inconvenient time.) Certainly I have had my share of Murphy’s Law experiences. Bet you have, too.
Country Life Adventures
That Saturday began like so many others — plans to work outdoors. We gathered our materials (rakes, brooms, potting soil, time-release plant food, bedding plants, bulbs, etc.) and began gardening. Around noon we received a text from our lake neighbors that our water well had been cut off because it had been compromised.
The adage “It takes a village” applies to our neighborhood at Lake Bartholomew. As soon as it was obvious that the well was in trouble, several neighbors (who thankfully have a working knowledge of wells, piping, etc.) started working to locate the problem and resolve it.
Late afternoon another text informed us that the main well line had been pierced, though exactly how no one knew. Because there were some fiber-optic lines being laid nearby, the guess was that a workman had accidentally broken through the piping. Whatever the cause, there was no doubt. The line couldn’t be repaired until the next day — a Sunday, remember? Murphy’s Law.
No water — thankfully a rare experience. It made me think about how fortunate we are to have reliable water that we take for granted. Jim and I took our showers in town, and then went to the lake that evening as planned. Having had our showers was a good move, but there were more challenges to come — challenges like flushing the commode! Armed with a heavy water jug, we discretely addressed this dilemma. That evening and again the next morning, we brushed our teeth using a cup of bottled water and washed our faces with the same. Our lake place — named by us 11 years ago “Idiot’s Delight” for reasons that should be obvious — was suddenly somewhat primitive, more like a “camp” than ever.
As we were leaving for church Sunday morning, we saw several neighbors hovering over the broken pipe. They told Jim that they had convinced someone to open a store early that morning so that they could get the necessary materials to make the repair. All was done, and we flushed out our waterline. When we returned from church, we had the miracle of running water again! We were very grateful!
A Luncheon Talk
Several days later, a club I belong to hosted a ladies luncheon. Because of a variety of challenges in recent days (think “water well”), I was especially glad to have this event to attend.
Shortly after I arrived, a young woman I hadn’t seen in years greeted me. Susan Crowe Clark’s parents, Max and Evelyn Crowe, were my neighbors at one time. Susan’s mom, Evelyn, was a very special friend to me when my daughter was a newborn.
I knew that Susan was working at the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home (LBCH — where the luncheon was held), but I didn’t know exactly what she did there. She explained that she is the director of Homeplace, an LBCH program for homeless women with children. With a twinkle in her eye that I remembered being the same as the one in her mother’s eye years ago, she said that I would learn specifics during her talk at lunch.
During the half hour that Susan spoke to our group, my thinking about the homeless shifted from the stereotypical image of the drunk sleeping it off at the foot of Endom bridge to something much closer to home. I admit it. I have always thought of the homeless population in only the most general (and not often the most charitable) terms. Susan changed all of that.
There are basically two causes of homelessness, Susan explained. One is generational poverty — families that have never known anything other than grinding poverty and who are therefore completely unaware of how to break that cycle. The other is situational poverty — people who find themselves homeless because of a change in situation: divorce, death of a spouse, loss of a job, or spousal abuse, for example. These people go from being self-sustaining to finding themselves literally homeless.
In both cases, Susan said, the result is the same — good people who need a “bridge” to get them back to living their lives as productive citizens. Susan helped us to understand the “invisible” homeless in our community who are everywhere and who we see every single day of our lives. Students (high school and college), servers at local restaurants, UPS drivers, pharmacy workers, retail clerks — there are countless homeless folk among us. Susan challenged us to begin “seeing” them.
A Casual Conversation
Later as I was thinking about Susan’s talk, I overheard a conversation among several ladies nearby. One of them is a hairdresser who is, as she describes herself, one of the “last who still roll hair”.
Point of information here to those of you not old enough to understand rolling hair. When I was a teenager, “rolling hair” was an evolving activity. To get that perfect curl, we rolled our hair on metal cylinders covered in bristles that hurt like the dickens under pressure. Even so, we slept in them! Later pink sponge rollers offered a more comfortable alternative, but the “curls” were often flat on one side. When “big hair” became the rage, some women rolled their hair on empty frozen juice cans. Curiously, there are no photos available . . .
But I digress. My friend is something of an anachronism with today’s preference for blow-outs and haircuts that air dry perfectly. She still rolls hair the old-fashioned way, the way that her clients depend on her for.
As I listened, I realized that my friend was doing more than just rolling hair. She began talking lovingly about a special group of clients who come to her to have their hair done. Several have dementia, and my friend has made it her mission to see that their weekly trip to get their hair done is a joyful experience — a familiar highlight during an otherwise often confusing week. The most amazing thing about her is that she does this from her heart. She doesn’t even realize how thoughtful and special she is — she just does it because it is the right thing to do.
Through the years my friend has noticed the songs that each lady loves, and so she now sings those along with them when they are there. She also learned their favorite flowers and planted them at her shop. When each is blooming, she points them out to the lady that each was planted for. One customer has a military background, so my friend put a small American flag sticker on the shop door for her. When she arrives, she salutes the flag smartly.
As I listened, I marveled at my friend’s unique way of helping those who can no longer fully help themselves. She has been rolling one lady’s hair for 46 years. That lady no longer knows exactly who my friend is, but she knows exactly where the shop is and looks forward every week to her time there. My friend’s husband has gently suggested that she might want to think about retirement, but she is adamant that she can’t —where would her ladies go?
A water well accident, a luncheon talk, and an overheard conversation — these three seemingly unrelated experiences had, in fact, a common theme. Taken together, they illustrated the role that the kindness of others plays in our daily life. As British author Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
To those neighbors who solved the well problem and got our water flowing again, thank you. To Susan, those who work with the homeless with her, and those who employ the homeless — thank you. And to my friend, who has created an oasis for ladies who need such a place of comfort and safety the most, thank you.
Last week, each of you handed me a mirror and a telescope — one to “see” myself and one to “see” others — that will help me find opportunities to show kindness to others in the future.