I have to begin by saying that goodness, like love, kindness and happiness, is very much a living thing requiring compassion, nurturing and care. I realize we are human, and by nature we’re flawed, destined to screw things up from time to time, but generally if we keep our eye on the right path, a pattern can be defined within our lives. We can feel the consistent flow of goodness, kindness compassion and love flowing back our direction. In other words, love cultivates love, kindness cultivates kindness, and goodness cultivates goodness—At least in about 99% of all situations, according to my estimation.
The remaining 1% still gets to me, though. I get this heavy feeling in my stomach. I lose sleep. I feel sick, tired and anxious, forever wishing to make those feelings go away.
I know I am a fortunate soul. Once, not long after my son was born, and his older sister was 4, I found an envelope on the check-out counter by the phone at work. Inside was a note telling me to make sure my little ones had a nice Christmas. There was also $300. I was given this gift at a time when I desperately needed it. I bought the biggest box of disposable diapers I could find, some pretty ponies with hair brushes for their manes for my girl, laundry soap, dish soap, and baby rattles for the little guy. I had to collect these items on several outings, since I didn’t have a car.
I can speculate as to where the money came from, but not confirm, and I’m okay with that for a couple of reasons: The first being that the money was intended to be given anonymously by the person who saw my needs and stepped up to the plate to help me fill them. The other reason has to do with the giver’s desire for anonymity. I had to respect that, but not without making a promise to myself to always be aware, and do for other however and wherever I might do some good.
I’m not going into any of the ways I’ve carried this experience with me from years ago to this present day. My efforts would lose value for me if I did. But, I will share one tidbit about my littlest guy, born in 2003:
He never experienced anything directly related to the event known as 9-11. But Gil believes in our troops and first responders along with their varying roles. Knowing him the way a mama does, he connected to the feelings of loss and camaraderie as “brothers and sisters”. Long story short, when the 9-11 tenth anniversary rolled around, Gil elicited my help to bake a variety of cookies that were delivered to our local police station. I don’t think my little boy noticed, but he made the officer cry through his act of kindness. Photos of the pair were taken, and photos were shared with the officer of the Lego-brick twin towers Gil made. Later, we saw the officer again at a large memorial service held. My son stood proud, singing patriotic songs and waving an American flag.
Through my son’s unprovoked good deeds, he made some good friends. A lady at the mayor’s office told me later that this officer was boasting about what Gil had done, and added that it’s because of kids like him that he does the job he does. Of course I’m proud of him, too, but I’m more touched by the chain-reaction response that took place. (I like to imagine it still traveling.)
I could write on and on and on about how the roads we each travel become more beautiful as a direct result of nurturing goodness and kindness, but that haunting 1% demands attention, too, not that it takes way perfect beauty by any means.—It sure does make for a challenge, though.
I heard a story once about a persecuted religious group. I may not get it right, word for word, but the message is accurate:
A man lived an upstanding life with his wife, daughter and 3 sons. One day the family was ambushed, and horrible things were done to the women before they were killed. The home was set on fire. Father and sons were taken alive, tied to the horses of their captors. At one point, the father pulled an apple from a tree, ate a few bites, then handed it off to the man who burned their home.
“It’s a long trip,” he said, “Are you hungry?”
The man’s sons were livid. “How could you do that to these heartless people?” one whispered to his father.
“I’m still a good man,” he replied.
Later on, while father and sons were held in a camp with other prisoners, this man and his sons found themselves being treated better by the enemy-leader than their counterparts. “See,” the persecuted man told his sons, “even the worst of all people are born with hearts. It’s our duty to try and touch it.”
—–End of Story
It’s easy to do good things for good people, but it is exponentially more difficult to be kind in cases where a person, (me), knows that the kindness will not be recognized, or reciprocated—where there is no kindness to be passed on, or notably returned, or not even returned at all.
But I’m still a good woman. I know this. So, I must continue working hard to accept and reach out to those challenging individuals. I know I’ll fail sometimes, but I won’t fail all the time. And though I’m still far from it, I’m working towards a 99% success rate, in which case, I will accept the other 1% gladly.