on kindness

kindnessI love it when synchrony happens, I generally take that as some kind of ‘sign’ to pay attention. Sure the world is full of chaos but I believe there is an order to the chaos. The force behind the order I’m less certain of (religious folks can assume it’s God and that’s fine but for me… I’ll just accept there is a pattern).

I’ve spent the last several days ferrying between home and the hospital visiting my father (the patient) and being there for my mother. Perhaps later I’ll go into why, but for now just know he is on the mend (thank you for your well wishes). My mother and I sat in dad’s room in the ICU and discussed the kindness of the staff, especially his nurses. Two of his nurses were active duty Air Force officers who were on a fellowship doing trauma training at this hospital, another had just come back from several years in the Peace Corps. We marveled at the character of these people, what was it about them, their psyche, that made them actively seek out helping others?

There is a certain feeling of satisfaction when you’ve helped or been kind to someone. I can recall a very specific kind of pride when after showing an older woman a very basic courtesy (holding the door for her) and she grasped my shoulder and thanked me with tears in her eyes for my kindness saying it was “the nicest thing that had happened to her today” because her day had sucked so badly that my courtesy was the high point in her day? It was a pride not just for myself but a pride in the fact that my parents (and grandparents) set good examples and raised me well.  I’m not sure there’s a word for that kind of “happy to be doing the right thing” emotion, but if there is I’m sure the Germans have it, they have a word for everything.

The synchrony came via the radio this morning during my 1.5 hour trek to the hospital.  An interview with Matthieu Rickard on the Diane Rehm Show .  The subject was his new book about altruism is the key to solving our modern problems, from global warming to poverty etc.  It seemed to make complete sense to me, when did we as a species decide to STOP cooperating with each other in ways that benefited all of humanity and decided to follow a more selfish path? It certainly gave me food for thought.

I am by no means any kind of model of altruism. I’m selfish and self absorbed and frequently find myself complaining about my first world problems. I recently complained to my husband about feeling guilty for how wasteful my Keurig was but then feeling guilty too about considering getting rid of the new Keurig to then purchase a new drip coffee maker to *cough* reduce waste. Seriously.   But I take solace in the fact that I can identify that I have been fortunate in so many ways that I’m essentially offered a choice. To be a self absorbed ass, or to acknowledge and try to perpetuate kindness (and altruism).

If this interests you and you’ve not seen it.  Check out Matthiew Ricard’s Ted Talk!

8 thoughts on “on kindness

  1. I wish for your dad’s full recovery! I completely understand and appreciate your characterization of the nurses who help your dad, as well as the feeling you get when you do something nice for others and see others doing nice things too. Great post!

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  2. oh yes indeed…very thoughtful post and here’s to a future with more altruistic behaviour and compassion. Thanks for sharing the TED talk. Beautiful words and vision.

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  3. “When did we as a species decide to stop cooperating with each other”? I’d say when money came into the equation. Money makes the world go round and money is the route to all evil, two opposing sayings that say it all I think.

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    • It’s funny because as children we are by nature collaborative and helpful, we seem to grow up changed. Here’s to hoping we can get our species back on track.

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