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Monday, June 20, 2011
Small Acts of Kindness
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