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The Kindness of Strangers

I refuse to live my life believing that the capacity for cruelty exceeds the kindness of the human heart.

 

Maria Popova

 

 

When we really see each other, we want to help each other.

 

Amanda Palmer

 

You know that moment when you receive kindness from a stranger & are, for an instant, touched and in some way transformed.

 

As long as you live, you never forget them. Extraordinary kindness makes a lasting impression.

 

Like our neighbor across the hall, Rick Dalla Palu—a firefighter—who became a surrogate uncle to five little rug rats (me & my siblings) after moving into a tiny apartment following our parents’ divorce. A shelter during a storm.

 

To this day, forty years later, we still smile whenever we reminisce about this young, swashbuckling guy who let us stop by anytime just to hang out (& jump on his couch).

 

 

The right kindness at the right time.

 

 

Or the young hospital chaplain, Michael Guthrie, whose kindly eyes twinkled as he led me back to the holy ground of a waiting room where he refused to leave my side until I found out that my husband had pulled through a heart attack.

 

 

The right kindness at the right time.

 

 

Or the postal worker, Ron Malunat, who comforted me with gravitas & a whole lotta heart.

 

Shortly after moving to Denver, where I knew nary a soul, my beloved grandfather died.

 

Although my Pop-pop was typically a private man, I’d recently spent a year interviewing him about the personal details of his life while writing his biography Lifelong Looper: A Story of a Caddie Legend.

 

During that rare season of intimacy, he asked me to send, upon his death, a token of his decades-long affection to one of his favorite players: a simple golf ball bearing his signature.

 

The day after saying goodbye & sending Pop off to heaven—to honor love more than loss & complete the task that weighed heavily on me—I dried my tear-stained cheeks & prepared myself to meet the world again.

 

Yoga pants & a dirty ponytail were the best I could offer as I walked the few blocks to the post office, raw emotion presumably in check.

 

That is, until the postman asked me if I wanted to insure the package. Pondering how to insure something that was worth a dollar, yet priceless, triggered a crashing flood of nostalgia. (You probably see where this is going.)

 

Right in the middle of the bustling city post office, I burst into tears.

 

Now I’m not talking stifled, runaway tears. I’m talking the big-tear cry that you can’t possibly muffle by holding your breath, even though you try, because it’s so deep. In fact, the harder I tried to quell it the worse it got.

 

That’s when the seasoned city postal worker took my hand in his. I looked up into his eyes & thought this man is kind.

 

Which made me cry even harder.

 

A champion of the art of nonverbal power, he required no explanation.

 

He wasn’t concerned by the long line of postal patrons with over-clenched shoulders waiting behind me.

 

He didn’t suggest I dry my tears because they made him feel uncomfortable.

 

He just held my hand until I could regain my composure & breathe on my own again.

 Ron Malunat- US Postal Worker | Kindness Champ

 

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

 

Willy Wonka

 

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Real kindness is a healing balm.

 

 

 

Life’s challenges can (my addition) "...leave you both tougher and more tender. You get to decide, however, whether your toughness will look like unreachable bitterness or unstoppable resilience; your tenderness the raw vulnerability of a never-healing wound, or a kindness so deep it heals every wound it touches."

 

Martha Beck

 

 

 

What if it truly doesn’t matter what we do but how we do whatever we do?

 

Kindness costs us relatively little yet pays big dividends. For both the giver (every time we perform a selfless act, our brain releases serotonin, a hormone that lifts our spirits) & the receiver.

 

There may be a whole lotta things we can’t do. Like, say, bring peace to the Middle East or fix the health care system.

 

But we can be kind.

 

If the biggest thing we do in life is to bring the right kindness at the right time, we have changed the world for the better.

 

 

There are no great deeds; there are just small deeds done with great love.

 

Mother Teresa

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