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Monday, June 20, 2011

Small Acts of Kindness

When I was in primary school - perhaps Year 6 or Year 7 - my teacher organised for my classmates and I to make weekly visits to the local nursing home. 

We buddied up with an elderly person there, and spent an hour or so talking to them and then entertaining them all as a group with our singing.

My buddy was Mrs Napier. She was a gorgeous woman with grey hair who wore flowered dresses and spoke in soft tones. We had quite a rapport, and I took a real liking to her. At that age, I only had one living grandparent left who lived south of Perth - too far to visit with any regularity - and I think Mrs Napier acted as a surrogate grandparent.

I recall one day begging my teacher just minutes before we were due to visit the nursing home, to let me take a sugar basin I had found in one of the classrooms - stacked with a bunch of other miscellaneous items - to Mrs Napier, as I knew she'd love it. My teacher finally gave in to my pleas, and I presented it to Mrs Napier with pride. She was visibly happy and touched by my gift.

Eventually, the weekly visits stopped. A neighbour was working at the nursing home at the time, and she told me that Mrs Napier had asked after me a number of times. I had always planned to visit her myself - I missed our chats - but as time wore on, the urgency to do so seemed less and less, and I never did get back to visit Mrs Napier.

Not visiting Mrs Napier again is something I have regretted all my life. She probably didn't get a lot of visitors, and having a young girl show interest and keep her company must have been wonderful for her. We too easily forget that the elderly really cherish these small acts of kindness. Their days aren't filled with wiping runny noses, sports training and errands like ours are. Nor are they filled with bedtime stories, cuddles in bed and big long belly laughs.

Over the years, I've thought of Mrs Napier here and there - always with that familiar tinge of regret that I never got to see her again - and last week I was reminded of her.

The 4yr old is currently in to 'posting' letters. He has taken to drawing pictures, writing his name on them (and sometimes not), and then sealing said artworks in an envelope. He then insists on 'posting' his handiwork to the neighbours, and a letterbox of choice has been the elderly couple who live next door. To be honest, I didn't think much of it, but I had intended to warn my neighbours of the miscellaneous items suddenly appearing in their letterbox - I just hadn't gotten around to doing so.

Tuesday last week, I was walking down to school to collect my big boys when I found Mary, my elderly neighbour, standing at her mail box. She said, "Jodie, is it your little one that has been posting items in my letterbox to me?" I was immediately embarrassed, "Oh yes, Mary, it is. I'm sorry. I meant to warn you..." She cut me off, "Jodie, I just love his mail. I've kept every item he has sent. You don't know how much receiving the letters has made my day. I just love them."

Walking down to school after our conversation, my thoughts turned to Mrs Napier. Mary, although a mother to a number of children herself who receives fairly regular visitors, is probably a bit like Mrs Napier in that she doesn't have a lot to fill her days with. The small act of receiving some mail - pictures drawn by the hand of a young child - has filled her day with some happiness. Just as my visit used to for Mrs Napier.

I have decided that the 4yo should continue this practice. He should also start sending some items to his grandparents in Perth as well. It will most certainly make their day.

It's doing the little, simple things that can often make a big difference in someone's life.

Do your kids do anything similar for the older generation in your family? 

Image: We Heart It


Sunny Mummy said...

Jodie, I LOVED this post. You clearly have a wonderfull soul that your son also shares. It is my Nans 80th birthday today and I adore the older generation, your post truly touched my heart & has given me the kick up the bum I needed to move 'visit local nursing home' with kids to the top of the to-do list. Thanks for sharing x

Sunny Mummy said...

Jodie, I LOVED this post. You clearly have a wonderfull soul that your son also shares. It is my Nans 80th birthday today and I adore the older generation, your post truly touched my heart & has given me the kick up the bum I needed to move 'visit local nursing home' with kids to the top of the to-do list. Thanks for sharing x

Chantelle {fat mum slim} said...

So sweet. It just makes me think what effect our actions are having, we never truly know how much we are touching someone, do we?

Don't regret that you never saw Mrs Napier again, just be glad it all happened. I'm sure she was. x

Madmother said...

I am sitting here in tears. Your post brought up memories from my childhood when I would visit an elderly lady at the nursing home around the corner. For years I continued (my sister called me a goody-two-shoes for doing this), until she died. It was wonderful.

And it also brings back the loss of my mother last year. My children were constantly dropping in with me, taking drawings, reports, and in the case of my oldest, protection spells, chants and crystals. Theye both loved their Nanna so much, and she was their last remaining grandparent.

So, so hard.

MaidInAustralia said...

We did the same thing at our school once a week. It was called community service. I really bonded with one of the ladies as well. Then my mother had a special friend who lived in a retirement home, and we would visit her too. These old ladies were always so gracious and kind to me ... I think of them fondly always. I did have a Nanna who lived nearby but no other grandparents as they died when I was little, so I guess they were surrogate grandparents.

Miss Pink said...

No regularly but you have inspired me to make it a regular thing!

Maxabella said...

Wah! That's so gorgeous!!! You have put a little seed of an idea in my fertile mind... x

Mama of 2 boys said...

That is beautiful! What a lovely little boy you have and such incredible lessons he is learning by building rapport with the elderly.
My neighbour and I used to do sweet little things for our elderly neighbours also, taking them flowers, pressies and what not. I'd like my boys to have the same experiences when they're a bit older. My Mr3 absolutely adores his grandparents though and spends hours in the garden helping when we go to visit or when he stays at their place. Always warms my heart to see :o)

River said...

This is a wonderful thing for schools to do. It didn't happen when I was in school, but my grandson's high school does a similar thing now. A couple of times a week, groups of boys go and help out.

Gemma @ My Big Nutshell said...

I'm a bit teary now!

My girls like to draw and pop things in our elderly neighbours letterboxes and they always pop in to say thanks and when we go over to visit and my girls ask for biccies they always have their art on their fridges.

One neighbour has a folder going with their stuff and often takes it out. They even have their larger craft in the good room display cabinet and also on their hallstand when you walk in. They love my children and my children adore them. it is really special.

I think Mrs Napier would have thought off you fondly. She was an old duck and they 'know' things especially what was like to be in year 6 or 7.

cat said...

Oh this is so sweet.

Being Me said...

Jodie, I love this sort of thing! When I was 12, I had to volunteer weekly at a nursing home in order to get my Queen's Guide badge. I kept going long after I didn't have to because I could tell so many of those elderly people didn't get regular visits. And I started to form great bonds with them.

There is a nursing home literally a stone's throw from here. You've inspired me to follow through with my plans of last year to get my police checks finished so I can go back around with my dog (the petting pup!). It's definitely something I will be encouraging with my daughter.