I just got back from a 3-week trip up the eastern seaboard and into Quebec. It was a wonderful time and we saw so much it would take much more than a blog post to go through it all. But I’ll share one experience here.
As we made our way back home from Canada, we stayed in Madawaska, Maine with some friends who have a cabin there. As we toured the town and its surroundings, they shared many details about the area, including the geography, topography, and personal history.
Paul and Bonnie live about 50 yards off the shore of Madawaska Lake. We stayed at their home three days and three nights and got to meet and enjoy their friends. One evening, their some of their long-time friends and extended family sat around the campfire with us, sharing stories and generally enjoying each others’ company. They were so friendly I felt like we’d known each other a long time.
The second night we were there, John brought me forget-me-nots from their garden for no particular reason. I’d only met him 24 hours prior, but he wanted to give me something. I have no idea why, but it was a nice gesture. I pressed them in a journal and will have them for years to come.
It didn’t cost John a penny, and it didn’t take any time, but his gift of those flowers is something special. A small act of kindness, for no reason, that I’ll remember for a long time.
This coming Sunday is Fathers’ Day, and is a time to focus on, honor, and thank our dads for what they mean to us. My dad lives about 6 miles away and I’m privileged to see him each week for dinner.
When he gets home from work, he greets my mom, our dog, and me with a hug and a kiss and asks about our respective days. He listens, then shares how his went, often including the Bible study he’s attended that morning.
I appreciate that he shares things with me. I know not everyone is that fortunate. At the end of the evening, after we’ve had dinner and have played a game or two, Dad walks me out to my car to say good-bye. Even if it’s not dark, he still escorts me out, helps me into my car, and tells me to drive home safely. He does it because he cares.
There are times when Dad does “behind the scenes” work, particularly when it comes to planning a trip. For example, he, my mom, and I are going up the eastern seaboard to several places including Washington D.C. New York City, Pennsylvania, Maine, Niagara Falls, and Quebec. Dad’s good at planning ahead, so he’s already made a lot of the reservations as to where we’ll stay along the way. He’s good at being in charge of things and taking care of details, and it’s nice to depend on him for that. I’m looking forward to the trip.
What does Fathers’ Day mean to you? What memories or traditions do you have for Fathers’ Day?
Yesterday was Mothers’ Day, which I always enjoy. Every year it gives me a special reason to let my mom know how much she means to me. We’ve always been close and even to this day I consider her to be one of my most trustworthy friends.
I can share anything with her, knowing she truly cares and will listen and encourage me when I need it most. So today, Mom, I thank you publicly for your love and continuous support in everything.
I think most of us have someone (whether it’s our mom or someone else) we appreciate who’s been there for us in good and bad times. How do you show them how much they mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s keep the conversation going.
By Ellen Andersen
Today’s post features a friend of mine, Sharon O’Neal, whom I’ve known for years.
She and I are both involved in Stephen Ministry at our church, where we reach out to help and encourage others who are hurting. We’ve been recipients of others’ kindness as well. Here’s a story Sharon recently related to me.
Sharon: I was laid low with the flu and wasn’t able to get up to prepare breakfast for my husband. He told me not to worry he could get his own breakfast. I figured it would probably just be a bowl of dry cereal since he wasn’t very adept at finding his way around the kitchen. But a short time later, he appeared in the bedroom caring a tray with a bowl of hot oatmeal on it for me.
Ellen: Sounds very sweet.
Sharon: I was surprised to see what he had gone and done and so pleased at his efforts, until I began to eat the cereal.
Sharon: Yes, well, he had put chocolate chips in the bottom of the bowl which is how he liked his hot cereal. I, on the other hand, can’t tolerate chocolate first thing in the morning. But the smile on his face and the expression of his love meant a whole lot.
Ellen: I’m sure it did. Little things can make a big difference, especially when we’re not feeling well.
Have you had an experience like Sharon’s, where someone went out of their way to do something kind and unexpected? Share it here.
Several of my neighbors and I had planned to go out for lunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but I needed to take care of my dog first. I saw Mary Carol headed toward her car and I asked if she was joining us. She said yes and offered me a ride. I agreed, but said I had to take Petey out first. I walked him down the street and onto the island.
Something must have caught Petey’s attention, because he suddenly jumped off the island, taking me by surprise. Because I had his leash in one hand, I couldn’t break my fall. I hit the pavement, face first. Blood streamed from my nose, forehead, and upper lip. I cried out but no one heard me. Meanwhile, I was holding onto Petey to keep him from running into the street. I struggled to get up, then gingerly made my way back to the house, holding Petey’s leash in one hand while I used the other to try to minimize the blood flowing down my face. I stopped near Mary Carol’s house where she sat in her car. She gasped, then helped me walk home, clean up, and get some pain medicine. She called my mom when I agreed that I needed to see the doctor.
Mom drove me to the urgent care and my next door neighbor, Mark, who’s an x-ray tech there, checked me in. As he was finishing up my paperwork, Mark called the nurse and told her not to take their next patient back yet. He took me to a private room, away from everyone else.
He came back twice, asking if I needed anything and suggested I try a retractable leash for Petey. A little later, he came to tell me he was headed home.
Mary Carol didn’t have to take me home and help me. Mom didn’t have to interrupt her day and take me to the urgent care. And Mark certainly didn’t have to go out of his way at work to put me in a room where I could wait by myself. But they did. It made an upsetting and scary situation a little less so. Sometimes the little things mean a lot. They did to me that day.
By Ellen Andersen
It’s been cold here in South Carolina and has been snowing off and on for the past couple weeks. Down here in the South, that’s not something we’re used to. I’m from Southern California and it’s rare there too, so I hunker down even when there’s only a few inches on the ground.
It had been a couple days since the snowfall, but freezing temperatures at night made the roads ice over anyway so I decided to go to a later church service that morning. At 11:15, I headed out to my car but couldn’t open the door. It was still frozen out so the door was stuck. I tried three times with no luck. Fortunately, my neighbor, Mark, came outside at that point and said, “How are you doin’ this morning?”
I gave him a half-smile and said, “Ok (not really I thought) but I can’t get this door open.” (and I don’t think I’m gonna get to church)
He came over, pulled up on the handle, and gave it a little muscle. “Here. Took a little bit to make it come open.” I thanked him and he wished me a good day.
What was no big deal to him meant a lot to me. I couldn’t have done it without him. It let me get to church so I could connect with the Lord and other people there too.
What do you find makes a difference to you, even though someone else may not realize it?
By Ellen Andersen
I’d been in the hospital for 4-5 weeks, after having had surgery. I couldn’t do anything for myself and had to have somebody at my bedside 24/7 due to the severity of my pain. I needed more attention than the staff could provide with everyone else’s needs there. So Mom and Dad came in shifts. After a time, my extended family realized they needed to help my folks, so Aunt Mina came out from California for a few weeks to give them some relief.
She sat at my side, talking when I needed conversation and just providing her presence when I needed to rest. She, Mom, and Dad worked with the doctors and therapists to help me learn to move my arms, hands, fingers legs and feet again, helping me perform the exercises they assigned.
Aunt Mina recognized our emotional needs as well. When a friend brought her grandchildren and they came in with homemade cards where they’d traced their hands and feet for me to make me smile. It sparked Aunt Mina’s creativity.
A week or so later I got an envelope in the mail. It was from my cousin Gwen, but it wasn’t a letter or card. Instead it had two hands and two feet cut out with the words “feet to stand on. Hands to support you. Love, Cousin Gwen”
Two days later, I got another letter—from friends Bill and Merle Jeanne.
Like the one from Gwen, it had cut-outs of their hands and feet. It was accompanied by Scripture to encourage me in my recovery.
Pretty soon, I was getting lots of letters like this. One was a yellow 12” ruler with the words “Uncle Jim’s Foot” down the center. Another was a paper with tire tracks labeled Uncle Mike’s feet. He’s a truck driver.
“What is this?” I asked my mom.
“I don’t know, but you sure are getting a lot of them.”
“Really? You don’t know?”
“No, I don’t” she answered.
Several months later, after I got home, we learned that Aunt Mina had looked through Mom’s e-mail address book on the sly and had sent out an e-mail to several of their friends suggesting they all trace their hands and/or feet and send it to me at the hospital to make my folks and me smile and laugh. It worked.
Twelve years later I still have those cards to remind me how much people cared and reached out to me when I most needed it. It was a small act of kindness that I still treasure over a decade later. You never know how much you may impact someone in what you do or say.
I’m excited to introduce a new contributor to my blog, my friend, Ellen Andersen.
Hi, Ellen! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ellen: Thanks Jennifer. I live in Mauldin, South Carolina with a little guy Petey, whose nick-name is “Little One” since he’s a basset.
We met him in another post. He’s a cute little guy. Read about Petey here. How did you become interested in being a writer?
Ellen: I’ve always liked to read and write. When I was in 4th grade I wanted to be a writer, but changed my mind many times like people usually do. Now I’m back to it a bit. Writing can also be therapeutic sometimes.
It’s very therapeutic to me. 🙂 Can you tell us three unique things about yourself that we may not know?
Ellen: Three things that people may not know. Let’s see. I’m originally from California and moved to South Carolina in 2002, where people are particularly friendly and life is less rushed. I really enjoy baking. I’ve travelled overseas many times and took the Eurail with a college friend back in the summer of 1992. We traveled through five different countries and enjoyed it all.
Thanks for sharing, Ellen! We look forward to reading your posts this year on acts of kindness.
Look for Ellen’s first post on January 11th. 🙂