Unexpected Kindnesses Are Long Remembered

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My daughter was twenty-one and living away from home for the first time, in an apartment she shared with another young woman. I stopped by for a visit and found her in a foul mood. When she snapped at me, I quietly left. I drove straight to a floral shop, then returned to her apartment and presented her with a rose and a note that said that, no matter what she said or did, I could always see the beauty and purity of her soul shining through. In an instant, her bad mood vanished as if it had never been and she was her normal kind, wonderful self again. We had a good talk and a good hug. And the rest of her day was better than it would have been.

Many years before that exchange with my daughter, I was battling a co-worker over her smoking habit. As hard as it is to imagine now, smoking used to be allowed in the workplace and Kathy’s desk was close to mine.  It was a battle I couldn’t win; she wasn’t about to quit smoking and I wasn’t about to quit my job. One day I went to a flower shop and had a rose delivered to her at work. If I recall, I wrote on the card something to the effect that what I was objecting to was her smoking, not her as a person, and that I hoped we could get along better. She was absolutely floored, and our relationship was instantaneously transformed.

Choosing kindness is always an option. Especially when you are treated unkindly or when people are expecting you to be upset. Not only will your unexpected kindness be deeply appreciated, the remembrance of it will likely occupy a special place in their heart, a place they can return to for comfort and peace—and for sharing that peace with others when the opportunity arises.

Choosing kindness is both selfless and selfish.Years ago, even though I already immensely cherished my daughter, I consciously worked to heighten my appreciation of her even more. I didn’t want to waste one moment of my life not feeling anything but love for her because I knew that years later, I would look back with great regret if I had wasted any opportunities to express my love. Ultra-appreciating Erin has since become deeply ingrained in me and, even though she is now thirty years old and married, I light up like the sun every time I hear her voice or see her.

The days are too short even for love; how can there be enough time for quarreling?
Margaret Scott Gatty

When I think of unexpected kindnesses, my mind flashes back to my teenage years. One Sunday, my parents, sister and I drove 35 miles from St. Cloud, Minnesota, to Little Falls to visit Ellen, an elderly family friend who was the sister of Mrs. Sparrow, the wonderful woman who operated my Dad’s college boarding house. We were late, and worried that she would be upset with us. When we arrived, however, we were greeted with a kindly smile as bright and as warm as the sun. She brushed off our apologies, and said that the important thing was that we were safe and sound and that we had a wonderful afternoon that was just waiting for us to enjoy together.

Kindness and synchronicity walk hand in hand. Case in point: Unaware of the subject of today’s blog post, twenty-three-year-old Jackie Rose Helpern of New York City e-mailed the following paragraph to me this morning:

I wanted to be a nicer person so I stopped being angry with anyone who was late to meet me. I realized that when someone was late to dinner or whatever, my being mad at them only wasted more of our already shortened time. Being greeted with a smile has happily surprised many latecomers as they were expecting me to be upset. I started smiling four years ago and haven’t stopped since.

Wise words. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks, Jackie Rose.

The world needs all of our power and love and energy, and each of us has something to give. The trick is to find it and use it, to find it and give it away, so there will always be more. We can be lights for each other, and through each other’s illumination we will see the way. Each of us is a seed, a silent promise, and it is always spring.
Merle Shain

Click here to view all my posts on the transcendent power of kindness.


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8 Responses to “Unexpected Kindnesses Are Long Remembered”

  1. Jackie Rose Says:

    Great post!

    We all seem so used to being met with resistance or greeted with an attitude, that we expect people to be mean to us. In that way, when someone does something as small as holding the elevator for us, it makes our day! At least it makes my day, so I try and return the favor by making someone else’s day. Not being mad at someone when I am expected to be makes me feel powerful, and making someone feel better, instead of worse, is one of the most uplifting feelings in the world.

    Thanks for the quote,

    Jackie Rose

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I suspect that your story and your comment will inspire others to try a little kindness themselves. Way to go, Jackie Rose!

  3. jopet Says:

    You just made my day Jackie…and Phil thanks for this inspiring post. it gave me a beautiful start and something to reflect on today as i begin to go to work and face the challenge of serving with more love and kindness to people i will meet.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That’s what I like to hear, Jopet! May your day be filled with wonder and joy!

  5. Jackie Rose Says:


    On the even of this great holiday, I am so thankful for one act of unexpected kindness done for me. Recently the health clinic I volunteered at in Indonesia decided to have a fund raising day so they could afford a much needed ambulance. As of now, laboring mothers and car-crash victims are usually brought to the clinic on the back of a bike.

    On the day of the fundraiser I asked friends to donate $1, $5, or whatever they wished to support the clinic. I thought I could count on my friends to donate, as I never turn down their requests for support. In the past year I’ve very happily donated over $800 to friends running races for different organizations, neighbors who asked me to donate to foundations researching ailments they suffer from, etc.

    At the end of the day though, not one person donated. I felt hurt and a bit confused, so I posted the following message on twitter and facebook, “I donate almost every time a friend asks me to. Yet when I ask for donations, I get nothing. Not even $1.” Seeing this message on twitter, a random person I had never talked to donated $10 and wrote to me, “I just donated, so know you have a friend out there who cares.”

    This good fellow’s unexpected act of kindness has revitalized my spirits and reminded me of the importance and power of being compassionate at all times, and to everyone. Also, he gave me something to be especially grateful for this Thanksgiving!

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks for the story, Jackie Rose. If I were you, I would have expected reciprocity as well. I’m glad someone stepped up and made your day! Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Jackie Rose Says:

    Dear Phil,

    For the past month I’ve been trying something new. When someone asks me for directions, I do my best to show them where to go instead of just telling them. And if they’re up for it, or whatever they are looking for is hard to find, I take them there even if it means I have to go out of my way or might be late to wherever I was originally headed.

    It’s been so much fun! People usually expect me to give them a string of turn-left-then-right, and are really thankful when I take a few minutes to make sure they find what they are looking for. One woman hugged me after I took her to the store she was looking for, another offered to buy me a coffee when I got her to Starbucks, and many have stopped to say thank you so much, have a great day, etc. It’s so nice to see the look on people’s faces when I do something kind that they weren’t expecting.

    The Dalai Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.” I’m glad to be able to live by that a little more each day!

    Jackie Rose

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That’s awesome, Jackie Rose! on a smaller scale, I really appreciate it when a clerk in a store walks me to the right aisle instead of just pointing the way. You’ve taken that to the next level and I can certainly appreciate how people would react to that. Bravo!

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