When I was little, my mum used to give away boxes of biscuits and chocolates that we had been given for Christmas to people that were less fortunate than us. I never understood why, they were gifts for us.
I understand now.
I understand now how important it is to be kind. To give even the smallest of gifts to people. We didn’t need more biscuits, more chocolates… we had all we needed, in fact probably more than we needed. But those people had nothing, or at least very little. The giving of sweet treats wasn’t even about the physical act of giving, it was my mum’s way of saying ‘you are worthy of kindness’, the chocolates and biscuits were just the tip of the iceberg compared to what my parents did for some of those people…
A little bit of background may be good here… when I was growing up, we lived in quite a rough neighbourhood. My parents were (and still are) part of a local church and for a long time, we lived within the church building. It wasn’t your typical ‘church’ – people came to worship, of course, but it was also a community centre with groups and meeting rooms. A lot happened in that building, from a playgroup to an over 60’s keep fit class – and everything in between.
But, back to kindness. My parents helped a lot of people but the one that will always stand out was Bill. Bill was an alcoholic from Scotland, out of the Navy and onto some pretty rough streets in my hometown. He’d turn up, a night here and a night there and my mum would bathe him and dress him in some of my dad’s clothes. She’d give him a hot meal and a bed for the night and then he would be off again, to return a week, a month later…
One night, my mum gave him an ultimatum. My brother and I had grown to know Bill and we knew that he would never do us harm – but nevertheless, we were still two pretty young kids and it was at the time my dad was going away for a week here or there on volunteer work. She told him he could stay and get help, or he had to go.
We had a few happy years with Bill. He slept in a room in the church for a little while and would spend most of his days in our flat within the building. My parents fed him, they got him a new wardrobe, got him signed up for the benefits he was entitled to and in the end found him a bedsit where he would sit at the bay window and watch the birds. We visited him still a few days a week, my dad took him to do his shopping and my mum washed his clothes and had him back to the flat for lunch or dinner or just some company… He became another grandpa.
When he died, we felt as if we had lost a family member. An hour before he passed he asked my dad if I could come to him in the hospice which I did and I laid next to him as he stroked my hair and slipped away.
We loved him. What my parents did could be looked at as kindness, but if you said that to them, they would just say they were doing the only thing they knew. It wasn’t out of some religious zeal, they aren’t like that at all, if was just an outstretched hand, a voice in the darkness saying ’It’s ok, we’ve got you’
And I have grown up not knowing any different. The need to provide for others, to give others what they need can be overwhelming at times. It doesn’t even need to be a physical thing (although present buying is one of my favourite things), it can be just listening to someone, hearing them without judging them, letting them know ’It’s ok, I’ve got you… ‘
Because isn’t that what we all need? To know that even in the darkest times, even when we feel like there is no hope, no possible way out or like the sun will never shine again… don’t we just need no-strings-attached, good, honest kindness?
I think we all do.
Written by Naomi – meditativeowl.wordpress.com