The month of patience for my fruits of the spirit project is over (thank goodness) and the month of kindness has begun. Before it started, I assumed that this month would be all about me learning how to be more kind to others. So far, however, it’s pretty much been about me accepting kindness from others.
It all started before we moved house in Laos, when my parents spent some of their visit packing boxes and helping me sort clothes. Then, the week before the move, half a dozen friends showed up to help us pack. They wrapped up pictures, moved books, boxed up our entire kitchen, and even bought a toaster-oven-sized pasta casserole in a handy disposable foil container (the kind we wash out and keep because they’re not that easy to come by).
The day before the move, one friend came by to take Dominic for a walk while I met with another friend who helped me polish off this new website.
On Saturday the same crew showed up with some of their Lao friends for the actual move. When it became apparent that we were still short-staffed, one of these Lao friends (who we’d met only once before) rang some of her Lao friends and told them to join the kindness party. They did.
On Sunday someone came by to help us unpack boxes.
On Monday and Tuesday, only days before we were scheduled to leave for the States, Lao-speaking friends picked Dominic and me up and drove us to the local hospital where I got to experience what it’s like to have someone stick long, sharp steel instruments in your ears when you can’t understand a word they’re saying except “Wow!” Apparently the severity of my recent ear infections was quite impressive.
The kindness hasn’t stopped coming on this side of the Pacific. A massage therapist friend donated some time and expertise to help us recover from the long trip, and then even threw in dinner and wine afterwards. My sister organized a bunch of baby gear for us before our arrival and bought us a pre-paid phone to use. Mike’s parents had stocked up on clothes, toys and food for Dominic, and they’ve lent us a car to use while we’re here. This past weekend there was that angel in disguise as a United Airlines employee who went out of her way (and against policy) to help me get back to DC from Michigan after I messed up my flight bookings, and right now I’m sitting in a cabin in the West Virginian woods that another friend has opened to us for a couple of days.
So much kindness coming our way during a season when life has felt so jam-packed and overwhelming.
I’m hugely appreciative of everything friends, family, and strangers have done to help us lately, but I must admit that I don’t always feel comfortable being on the receiving end of such kindness, of being in the position of needing to accept help. Sometimes, perhaps often, I end up feeling weak and indebted in these sorts of situations – as if I’ve failed at something that I should have been able to manage on my own.
This past couple of weeks I couldn’t have managed all on my own, though. Not well, anyway. And it’s forced me to remember that while learning to manage on your own might be the main point of transitioning from childhood to adulthood, it’s not the main point of the bigger picture of life itself. To live life well, to be most happy, we must live in communion with others. And central to the ideal of community is give and take – a rhythmic, tidal ebb and flow of kindness.
I am sure that I’ll soon have the opportunity to be on the giving end of the practical kindness equation again soon (like, tonight, at 11PM when someone wakes me up just after I’ve finally gotten to sleep). In the meantime I’m going to sit here on this sunny Wednesday amidst the burgeoning green peace of this borrowed cabin and be a grateful grateful grateful recipient.
When has someone lavished kindness upon you recently?