The big events in life are fantastic, of course. And when they happen, I am blown over. Awestruck. But it’s the little things that really get me. Those smallest of events, the little graces. And when something little happens to change the course of my day for the better, I know there is nothing else to do but offer up gratitude. To yield true appreciation for what I have received.
Because that one small thing was the game changer. The difference.
Friday afternoon, I am sitting at a small desk with a stack of papers, a student to my left. As I have been out most of the week with Oldest home sick, I am truly behind. Depressingly behind. Everything’s a mess. And I hate messes. Never mind the fact that I was SUPPOSE to have been home even today. That didn’t happen because my sub never got booked. And The Call (the “where in the heck are you” call) came from the school about ten minutes before homeroom.
Where was I? And who was my sub for today? Good questions, both of them. I didn’t quite know the answer to either, to be honest. All I knew was this: I’d better get my heiny in gear as I had a class to teach, with or without a substitute.
Me still in my flannel pajamas, mopping up water spills on the cupboard. Hair like a rat nest.
So, the rush began. Trying to call a sub, while frantically moving around to get ready anyway, I ran my leg into the corner of the hope chest in our bedroom. Leaving a sharp pain searing through the torn flesh. No time to stop. Just.keep.moving.
I rush. Arriving at school only twenty-five minutes into the day. My eyes like lead balls. I have a strong desire to prop them open with my fingers. But in spite of this all, the children’s voices call out to me. And I can feel the teacher engine revving. The hugs, the little arms that envelope me. The “I love you’s” offering up the encouragement I need to make this all happen.
“I can do this,” I whisper to my inner self.
The day grinds on. I use my prep to return home to check on the invalid, bring drinks to the bed, pulling up covers. I scramble to also pull together or put away a few of the things I left hanging in my haste to leave the house. And then. I am off again. Back to the classroom.
Back to the reality of today.
And so it was that I found myself sitting there in the afternoon with that stack of papers. Feeling the pressures of deadlines and checklists weighing in on me. And right in the midst of it all, an extra little Boy showed up. “Could I come in for a break?” says he. Ah, yes. I had almost forgotten that this was that time of the day. Him needing the break, and my room being the “just-right-spot” for that break to happen.
And then, I’ll admit that I thought it. “How am I going to get all this done…with another busy little body to add to the mayhem?”
Needless to say. The noise levels rose, the toys began to take on a life of their own. My concentration was breaking, as was that of my uninterested little subjects, whom I was testing. And right about the moment that would have been the breaking point, a little voice asks, that of the Boy:
“Mrs. Gard, where is your broom and dustpan?” And I’ll admit it. I turned swiftly, expecting to see an overturned sandbox emptied out on the floor. But all I saw was a tiny pile of moonsand. And a Boy who was willing to help sweep it up. Could I find him the means to be of assistance?
But of course.
Kindness matters. It can come quite unexpectedly. Sometimes coming wrapped up in shiny, big packages, done up with bows. But at other times, it arrives quite unobtrusively. Through a Boy’s hands and feet. I like big shows of kindness, but my favorites are really the smallest of gestures. Because kindness matters, regardless of the proportions or dimensions of the expression of goodwill. It is the act of doing that makes the difference.
And when kindness comes from a child, directed toward me, the adult. I don’t know why. It just blows me away.
Of course it matters that we practice kindness in relation to our fellow humankind. But Adults, listen to me: it especially matters that we direct kindnesses to those who are still so very small. Toward those who are still the child. Who are still the impressionable ones. And kindness matters when adults are the givers because those first of all impressions are the hardest ones to undo. And our first impressions of life are of course made in our childhood.
So then. It really matters how we treat a child. It matters because children never forget. And neither do we who were once the child ever forget. We never forget the unkindnesses, but thankfully neither do we ever forget the truly wonderful little graces that make life more bearable.
Kindness always matters.
It matters when one is sitting on the bench at a sporting event, and a child is competing for their personal best. And the pressure’s on- the score is that close. It matters, whether or not, the Adult- the coach, is kind. Whether or not he treats the child with integrity, with value. It matters that the coach believes the best about the child’s abilities and thus wants to lift the child to even better bests. Every time she plays. Because he believes she can. That she is able. He has that kind of faith in her abilities.
It matters when one is sitting in a classroom, and their child’s educational records lie naked before them on a student-sized desk, peppered with 1s and 2s, along with (maybe) a few 3s and 4s thrown in for good measure. It matters, whether or not. The Adult, the teacher kindly speaks and listens to that parent’s desperate entreaty for understanding. Whether or not the teacher can see the child through the parent’s eyes, through their unique awareness of the child’s needs and conditions. It matters that the teacher listens as that parent urgently makes their case, that the teacher honors their role as the primary caregiver of this child. It matter that the teacher really cares, truly believes in the child. That she sees through to the person, beyond the behaviours. To the heart, to the essence of the human being.
And later still. It matters when one is sitting across from a school administrator, trustee or board director, and a child’s future rests firmly in the hands of significant others. And there is a lot to lose, a lot at stake. It matters that the school board personnel act with integrity and honor, always seeing the child as a face, not a number. Because children are more than just cases, or data or the property of anyone or anybody.
And when inevitably. One is sitting in a hospital room, and a child is lying limp on a bed, temp rising and cheeks flush with fever. It matters whether or not kindness has been done. It matters if the Adult, the doctor, kindly speaks and listens to the parent’s pleas for help. It matters that he listens as the parent speaks their mind, that he hears her with respect and consideration. And it matters that he talks kindly to the young patient, soothing them with his gentle demeanor. It matters that he act with the utmost of consideration. To preserve the dignity and sanctity of life. It matters.
Because kindness matters. And although the big things in life are wonderful, it’s the little things that make all the difference.