So I wasn’t sure what day to celebrate today, as it’s also Indian Pudding day, but if you’ve ever seen what Indian pudding looks like, you’ll know why we’re celebrating World Kindness Day instead. Kindness Day was born when a collection of humanitarian groups came together on November 13, 1997 and made a “Declaration of Kindness”.
Today is apparently all about doing something nice for someone, at some point during the day. Simple gestures, also called random acts of kindness, are highly encouraged. Why would something so seemingly simple like kindness require a dedicated day to focus on it? Because let’s face it, kindness is harder than it looks.
Though I consider myself a kind person, it got me thinking about acts of kindness. This isn’t something you can just sit and think about, it’s something that involves another living thing. I began to worry because nothing was springing to mind as an example of my kind acts, like helping someone plant flowers (I hate doing that), or helping someone move (that’s why they have moving companies), or helping someone paint their house (they’re called painters, I’ll get your their number).
When someone is sick or in the hospital, I hate going because I hate hospitals and the whole situation just feels awkward. I’m horrible with knowing what to do or say and have no idea what kind act I should be doing. I just want to leave. But then I remembered one trip to the hospital I did take before my grandmother passed away.
My grandmother was always a strong woman with an amazing sense of humor. When I arrived at the hospital and saw her, I was shocked to see a frail old woman in her late 90’s who seemed so scared. I panicked wondering what the “kind” people would do and say in this situation. I should have brought flowers, or a card, or some lovely baked good or something. But I had nothing.
Then I realized, that being kind isn’t done by following a list of social rules to be mimicked. And it’s not about doing something that would make me feel good. The whole point was this other person, and making them feel like the world wasn’t different somehow, even though they’re now in a hospital bed. So I walked over to my grandmother and said, “What the hell are they doing to you? You look like crap!”
The scared expression left her face, turning to surprise, and then she managed a laugh. “I know! It’s like they’re trying to kill me or something!” she said, to which we both laughed. I sat down next to her bed and grabbed her hand. “Do you want me to kick their ass? Because I will?” I wouldn’t. And she knew it. I wasn’t one of her ass-kicking kin, but she smiled at the gesture and patted my hand.
“No,” she said. “I want you to sing something for me. You always had such a lovely voice.” Then it was my turn to be surprised. I hadn’t really known that was something she admired about me. By that point, my sister had entered the room and sat down in the chair in the corner, creating an audience of two. I didn’t know what to say, much less what to sing. I was the idiot who came without flowers.
“What do you want to hear?” I asked, to which she replied, “Just something pretty.” And so I sang the first thing that came to mind, “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, because I’d used it for an audition piece recently. It’s supposed to be a romantic song, which would seem inappropriate, but since it was written in the 1950’s, it worked out just fine.
I kept singing songs and holding her hand, as I watched the blood come back into her cheeks and a smile appear. Then I sang some more as she laid back down on her pillow, and slowly drifted off to sleep. I hadn’t even noticed the tear that was rolling down my cheek, but I wasn’t sad. I had managed to do the right thing, just by doing what someone really needed, and she was happy again.
My grandmother would stick around for a few more years after that, before finally passing just shy of her 100th birthday. I figured I’d doodlewash the flowers I forgot to bring that day, even though they were never really required. Sometimes kindness is just showing up, being ridiculously you, and the holding the hand of someone you love.