Her Tears Brought Out the Kindness of a Stranger

Better Because of the Kindness of a Stranger! AND … we ALL have the opportunity and capacity to bring such bright points of light to the dark parts of people’s journeys! May this poignant reflection remind us of our collective and universal potential … ❤

Kindness Blog

‘heartlines’ wrote:

“I was sitting in the airport by myself crying.. embarrassing in public, but I just couldn’t stop.

A man gave me this. He didn’t say anything, just slid it in front of me when he walked up to his terminal.”

kindness of a stranger

“He’ll never know how much it means to me to know a stranger cares.”

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Better Because … YOU fill(ed) my Heart!

Valentines Day - February 2015

St Valentine’s Day – February 2015

I will be tucking this away into my Sunshine File (for someday when I need an emotional pick-me-up) … but before I do that, I need to say a few words to my co-workers and colleagues. As I shared in a previous reflection, this year at our office, we were invited to resurrect the old elementary school ritual of offering little Valentines Day cards to our co-workers and colleagues. There was no pressure to participate … and whether you joined in or not … this tribute is dedicated to each and every one of the employees in our office.

You know who you are … but for those who don’t, I work in a multidisciplinary office where there are counsellors, youth/parenting coaches, several public health nurses, a physiotherapist, some speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, a public health inspector, a number of practicum students, some outreach workers for populations who are considered within the human services arena to be ‘at promise’ (i.e. at higher risk), an outreach worker for senior citizens and the marvelous administration team that holds us all together.

So, harkening back to grade school, we were provided stickers, papers, markers, colors, envelopes and a vast assortment of little cards with popular children’s characters/themes on them. We got to decorate a big red envelope that would be stapled to the bulletin board in the coffee room … altruistically intended for us to give and receive a little love from each other.

I’m guessing it’s been about 45+ years since I’ve done that … and despite the benevolent intentions that I know inspired it, I had some mixed emotions about doing it again. You see, I remain haunted by some misty, melancholic memories of those hand-made holders that we annually crafted for public display in my early school years.  By February 14th, some of them were stuffed to over-flowing and mounted on the wall, in stark and sobering comparison, beside the ones that stayed uncomfortably empty. My heart painfully ached for the kids who never seemed to get much visible validation from their peers honoring/valuing their presence in our class.

And, I also remember my own anxious trepidation … my fret-filled fears that my friends would get way more cards than I did (of course we counted them!) … OR … that I wouldn’t get a card from someone I really hoped to get one from … OR … that I wouldn’t get an equal and/or reciprocal nod from someone I might not have known very well but for whom I had vulnerably risked expressing some affection or admiration.

I cannot even begin to express how anxiety provoking it was for me in those tender, formative years. Putting your heart out into the world … or into someone’s envelope … is such daring, risky business.  It leaves one ripe for all kinds of rejection (real or imagined).  It felt like every single card represented tangible proof and/or unarguable evidence of your personal worth or miserable lack of it.  For the all too sensitive me, it was like purposely inviting all the worries and insecurities that were persistently perched like perilous piranhas in my subconscious mind to promptly pounce up and devour my unguarded heart.

Anyway … although all THAT old stuff blind-sided me for a brief moment when I got the email invitation to participate, I decided not to let those recalcitrant rumblings dissuade me.  The whole experience turned out to be nothing short of stellar … in the shining star sense of the word!  It was heart-warming and wonderful for me.  It was somewhat sublime to marinade in the energy of appreciation as I reflected upon the things I admired, valued and wished for my coworkers. I noticed there were NO empty envelopes and no one was comparing or counting the number of cards.  From what I could see, only the sheer sweetness of the sentimental exchange was stirring in our souls. And it was entirely enchanting to see peoples hearts swell with eager anticipation as they tucked their envelopes under their arms and/or to notice their eyes well up a wee bit and/or the corners of their mouth turn upward when they peeked at a card or two.  And so, for the staff who opted to participate, I want to THANK YOU for pacifying the pesky piranhas this year and filling my envelope with warm reassurance that my presence in our office space is appreciated in some meaningful ways.

But, even more than that, I realized in doing this that I owed my heartfelt gratitude to ALL of my amazing colleagues and incredible co-workers.  I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for filling my heart … on a regular basis.  Whether we are children or adult professionals, we all have a deep need to feel safe, respected and significant to others.  It is pure pleasure to bask in the energy of expressed affection and appreciation that permeates our office day in and day out. It just never gets old. And I want to use this space to publicly applaud ALL of you … for the energy you bring to our office space.

The blessings and gifts of your collective presence are not lost on me.  Not everyone gets to say that about their workplace. Not everyone feels safe and supported where they work. Not everyone is met with grins and cheery “hellos”  when they cross paths with a colleague in the hallway. Not everyone gets to laugh over lunch with others … sometimes about the most outrageous things!  Not everyone gets to have juicy conversations about topics that really make you think … or really make you squirm (nurses can talk casually about ALL kinds of unspeakable things – even while you are eating)!  🙂

And, not everyone gets to start each work day off on the right foot by sharing coffee and conversation with folks that so generously radiate the light and love that is inherent in all of us.  Not everyone gets the chance to embrace the blessings of belonging to a group of people who exude kindness, compassion, and empathy. Not everyone is welcomed into the heart spaces of their colleagues.  Not everyone gets tenderly cradled by their coworkers when times are tough and it feels hard to find a smile.  Not everyone gets to claim such precious moments in their workplace.

But … I do.  And I haven’t always, so I don’t take it for granted.  Not for one little minute.  All it takes is one ‘bad apple’ (for lack of a better metaphor) to alter the atmosphere in the work space.  And so, I cherish the warm, caring and supportive energy that greets me every morning as I turn my key into the door. I treasure the moments of shared humanity and humble presence that are downright palpable within this remarkable group of people.

I am so much better because I get to ‘work’ in your company. You invite me to be the best I can be … with each and every smile, with each and every conversation and with each and every interaction. I am grateful for each and every one of you.  I truly am.

So thank you again to all of you … for all the ways you fill my heart. My work world is so much better because of you.  Yes it is … and …  I just thought you should know.

With a full heart, Karen

P.S. For those who might be wondering, my Sunshine File has morphed into a whole drawer in my file cabinet where I store meaningful mementos, greeting cards, letters, quotes, inspirational verses, pictures, drawings, poetry or anything else that will nourish my spirit when I am feeling emotionally depleted and/or just a little down in the dumps/discouraged.  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you start one!

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Better … Because You Cared Enough to Say Something

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

I’d like to share a remarkable story with you. It reinforces my desire to continue acknowledging all the ways I have become better, grown wiser and been serendipitously shaped by the people who have generously left their heart-prints on my soul.  I hope I can do the story justice!

One day, a middle-aged woman entered the crowded waiting room at the dermatologist office. She heaved a discontented sigh because it was clearly going to be a long wait.  She was aware, however, that she could pass the time begrudgingly or she could simply make the best of it.  She consciously resolved to use the ‘waiting’ as an exercise in building more patience (not always her strong suit!).  She determined herself to be a ‘patient’ patient. She had barely settled into her reading when one of the doctor’s receptionists plopped unexpectedly into the seat right next to her … gently apologizing for bothering her, but at the same time curiously searching the patient’s face and saying:

“I have a weird question for you. Did you, by chance, have a baby in February of 1986?”

“Yes” responded the puzzled patient with palpable rumblings in her heart around where this odd inquiry was headed.

“Oh good!” exclaimed the visibly relieved receptionist.  “I hoped it would be you.  When I saw your name come through the system, I was hoping I would get a chance to thank you.” With her eyes welling up a wee bit, she continued: “We shared a room in the hospital when our babies were born. My daughter was born with so many problems, it was such a rough time … and … you were just so kind to me.”

The patient felt herself feeling totally unworthy of the appreciation and a bit sheepish to accept the generous acknowledgment because she had absolutely no recollection of those moments at all.  She suspected she could not have been this woman’s roommate, but didn’t want to discount or dismiss the significance of her heartfelt recollection by admitting her total lack of recall.

“Oh my  gosh … that was 28 and a half years ago” uttered the patient incredulously.  “How on earth did you remember my name after all this time?”

With a wistful glance downward, the receptionist warmly acknowledged “I remember  it like it was 5 years ago.  I have never forgotten you. You even brought me carrots … to my house. You have no idea how much your kindness and caring meant to me.”

The patient was deeply humbled, because it really was true that she had ‘no idea’ … except for the carrots.  That comment triggered some unwelcome memories stored in the deepest recesses of the patient’s mind of an exceptionally stressful year when they had been farming carrots.  With that, the patient’s eyes softened  …  maybe, just maybe she could have been the one who shared that hospital room with the lovely receptionist after all.

It was the strangest thing though, because in that magical moment of awareness, the patient felt as if she were the one who was being transformed by the exchange. She could not believe how good it felt to know that she had somehow, however unwittingly, eased a very difficult time for a complete stranger.  She thanked the receptionist for not bypassing the opportunity to re-connect and gift her with that kind recollection.

The two women took some time to catch up on what their little baby girls were doing now that they were grown women.  The receptionist shared that it had continued to be a bumpy ride for her daughter in many ways, but things were OK.  The patient shared that her daughter had just delivered her first child … and … that her cherished 8 week old grandson might be facing a surgery.  The receptionist was all too familiar with such unwelcome things … she offered some empathic words of compassion for the patient.

As they parted, the receptionist re-iterated the gratitude she felt in finally being given a chance to express her appreciation.  She indicated that she had always wanted to say “thank you” to the patient.

Just as the patient was letting all the richness of the special moment land deeply into her heart space … another patient unexpectedly plopped into the chair beside her. It was a young lady who had caught the patient’s eye when she had entered the waiting room.  This wholesome 30ish(?) young woman was unpretentious, outdoorsy looking, and exuded a really earthy energy.  She was wearing a Bohemian style dress and she had a cap fashionably pulled down over her long blonde hair … beautifully highlighting her  bright, blue make-up free eyes.

Her name was Ayla.  She began by saying “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing you say that your grandson may need surgery.  I just wanted to tell you that my little girl had the same problem when she was a baby.  I can only imagine how scared your daughter must be.  I was a complete mess, but I didn’t need to be.  It went really well and I only had to give her a few Advil for the first day.  She was just fine after that.  Maybe you could tell your daughter so she is not so worried about it.” 

The patient was deeply touched by this genuine, sincere and compassionate offering.  She could feel the gracious warmth and heartfelt empathy that drove the young mother’s intention … she was benevolently intent on easing the fears of a complete stranger.

The patient contained her own tears of gratitude until Ayla was called in for her appointment.  She was overcome with emotion … an intense sense of appreciation for the blessings she had received that day in the crowded waiting room.  She could never have guessed the gifts that were about to be offered to her in her efforts to be the ‘patient’ patient ….

kindness everydayI share this story with you because it proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are absolutely no insignificant moments in any of our lives.  We can never begin to know, and may not even remember, the things we might have said or done that will spark something special and land indelibly in another person’s soul.

And, I can tell you that 28 years from now Ayla might not remember  the other patient’s name or how much her kind words meant to that worried grandma … but I certainly will. You see, that other patient was me.

And, it is my honor to use this public forum to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate these two phenomenal women …‘ Ayla’(from Fernie) and ‘Karen’ (the receptionist from the dermatologists office).  It is my hope that one day, you will come across this little blog … and then … I will get the opportunity, from the deepest place in my heart, to say “thank you”.  I will never, ever, not in my lifetime forget the time we shared in that crowded waiting room.

I am so much better because you cared enough to say something … Karen

stop and give thnaks

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Maria ‘B’eautiful … Better Because You Shine So Brightly!

For a time, we had three staff members named “Maria”.  In order to distinguish them, we started adding a last initial … Maria B, Maria W, Maria K … and … somewhere over the course of time, Maria “B” shifted effortlessly into Maria B”-you-teh-full  for me.  And it was such a perfect shift … but not for the reasons you might be thinking.  In fact, I’m not sure if Maria Beautiful is clear about why I refer to her in those terms.  Allow me to clear up any uncertainty.  🙂

Maria ‘B’eautiful …  I fondly and affectionately refer to you as ‘beautiful’ not because of the obvious loveliness in your external packaging, but rather because I am not sure I know anyone else who actually ‘lives LOVE’  as authentically, humbly and generously as you do!!  I say that because, from my humble perspective, you are so achingly beautiful in the deepest parts of your being.  There is an energy of love, pure and simple, that bursts forth with every breath you take …

It has been my experience that the beauty that so effortlessly emanates from your spirit and lands brightly and brilliantly upon our interactions is very rare, very unique and so very precious.  It divinely illuminates each moment into something sacred and spiritual … something beyond mere mortal description. I can’t deny that my heart has been forever shifted by the energy of unconditional acceptance and radiant love that emanates in you, around you, from you and through you.  Somehow, without even trying, you always add kindling to my own internal flame when I share time with you.

And I know it is not just me who feels that divine spark in your soul generously igniting the best parts of whomever you are with.  I could name names … but my intention here is not to speak for others. I just want to assure you that I know that my perception is not just mistakenly biased or errantly skewed in your favor.  I know others would agree that your light-filled presence has been able to brighten even the most dismal moments.  Which is not to discount or dismiss the depth of the dark moments that have descended on your own doorstep over the years.  Rather, it is to honor and acknowledge the fact that these moments have not hardened your heart nor stifled your spirit.   In fact, despite (or maybe because of)  the challenges you have encountered on your path, whenever I think of you, a cascade of adjectives to describe you wash over me including:

  • grateful
  • gracious
  • joyful
  • gentle
  • light-hearted
  • light-filled
  • enthusiastic
  • energetic
  • passionate
  • raw
  • real
  • radiant
  • compassionate
  • humble
  • vulnerable
  • kind … very kind
  • brilliant
  • brave
  • forgiving
  • loving and loveable

Simply stated … LOVE incarnate.

Thank you for brightening my circle with a glow of all glows … with a heart that yearns to bring blessings to every soul she sees … not just the ones she loves and knows … but to EVERY single being she encounters!

I am savoring my memories of our cherished times of connection … and … looking very forward to receiving my next hug.  You always know you’ve been hugged when you get a Maria Beautiful hug … the gift of her loving spirit lingers long after the embrace has been physically released.

So … beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Maria … my life, my heart and my world are so much better because of you!!

With deepest reverence for all the beauty you bring to the world … Karen xo

Beautiful eyes, beautiful heart, beautiful spirit, such a beautiful being ...

Beauty in her eyes, beauty in her heart, beauty in her spirit … such radiant beauty in her being!


Better … Because of an Absolute Stranger

Source Unknown - but deeply appreciated!

Source Unknown – but deeply appreciated!

There are simply no insignificant choices in life.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that this little thing or that little moment won’t really matter.  Sometimes we dismiss the gravity of our actions at any given point in time.  Sometimes, we never know the long-term impact of our choices …

I was purging my filing cabinet recently when I came upon a copy of a letter I wrote (almost 20 years ago!) to our local newspaper editor.  My youngest daughter was only 10 at the time, but … a stranger taught her (and me!) something really important.  Something worthy of a letter to the editor.  It warmed my heart to find that letter again.  It gave me a chance to re-experience all the hope, grace and sheer altruism that was tucked into that meaning-filled event.

I was inspired to share it with you here … because … our humanity needs reminders of the beauty and bright light that exists in our world – despite the media’s over-emphasis and sensationalizing of the dark. Integrity of a strangerMay we all find/be such miracle minded people as we wander through our days … we just never really know who might be touched by our choices/actions …

With a humble and grateful heart, Karen

kids think of you