In Praise of Small Kindnesses

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 5:00pm

In Praise of Small Kindnesses

Today’s is a soft meditation
in praise of the enormousness
of small kindnesses.

Like the café worker who waved enthusiastically
to my father as he walked in the door of the coffee shop
like she was expecting him,
like he was a regular in this hipster enclave
instead of a septuagenarian
in khaki shorts and white tennis shoes.

He met me here on my workday
so I could help him format a document —
something he couldn’t figure out how to do at home
no matter how many buttons he tried,
something my mother always did for him
in the decades after he gave up his trusty typewriter.
So he arrived at the coffee shop
             vulnerable and exasperated in that way
             that only technology can make us feel:
             like slow, dependent children — and
sorely missing my mother.

Like the barista who didn’t blink
when he ordered his coffee the wrong way,
when he said la-TAY instead of LAH-tey,
who took his order from our table
as if we were in a sit-down restaurant
and she was our waiter,
who smiled the whole time like a halo of warm light,
softening the space everywhere,
who made him feel like he belonged.

You cannot know how those small gestures matter,
unless you are him,
unless you are me, watching,
unless you see his shoulders relax,
             in that way that we can do only
             when we feel safe and seen enough to let go,
and his eyes dampen, the tiny liquid pools held in at the rims,
barely noticeable, as he smiles and says,
She always knew how to do this for me. For years she did this.
She would have been 69 today. How I miss her.

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Siri Liv Myhrom

lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two young daughters. When she’s not working as a freelance writer and editor, she’s reading, writing, researching, and generally obsessing about human connection — how it works, why it doesn’t work sometimes, and how we can get more of it in real, transformational ways.

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Your levels of Intelligence matters, your levels of knowledge matters, but what matters most is your levels of humility, compassion ,kindness and Wisdom matters most. TWH stardate 04162015

The central issue of our time is how best to live together w/kindness ,love and compassion for all that live in the universe. Sustainability, reduction of suffering, and social Justice are a by-product of those moral behaviors and virtues! TWH stardate 01052015

Thomas Hazard Patience, love, acceptance and compassion is rooted in empathy and Kindness! TWH stardate 11282014

“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I so appreciate your comments...I hunger for a world as abide in..
.I'm still learning to recognize what Wholeness... might look like .

This was lovely, beautiful. Thank you!

Tender words, loving words sing this story to me. As a 72 year old disabled woman I can appreciate the learning curve described. It is refreshing when I meet a gentle, younger person who pays no attention to my age. Best friends come together at all ages, thankfully!

This made me cry. You are a good daughter and being a good daughter gets very hard when the roles are reversed.

This is a touching composition. It hits home on many fronts. Mainly it points out to me how fortunate this couple of people are to have one another, helping each other and be aware of the little things that make life enjoyable and good. Many times I face the barier of not knowing enough about technology.....and am rescued by grandchildren.......still I am grateful for so much......particularly as a visitor in Minneapolis from the Bay Area of California.........There is a vitality here, that I cannot access where I usually live, it is a smallish town, and the freeways make it formidible to drive to San Francisco Just saw "Rodney King" at Penumbria......a fantastic presentation........and Nekumaj Levy-Pounds on the same day, at the Westminster Church........this is a wonderful place to be! And, I enjoy Krista Tippet on the computer wherever I am!

thank you for writing this exquisite moment of a dance, where each of you -- father, daughter, barista, mother -- did your steps perfectly, small notes ringing true, not skipped or over-looked, including the noticing of the dropping shoulders and the reason why, including that it was your mother's, his wife's birthday. It's the middle of the night. I am jet-lagged, still on French time in San Francisco and with a bad head cold, but so glad to be awake to hear/see/feel your words, images. Thank you, Gayle

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I have just traveled cross country and back with my 90 year old father, for a deeply sad occasion, that gave me many moments of observing the beauty and wonder of having lived so long, and the grace it sometimes brings out in all of us.

This warms my heart :) My faith in humanity is renewed for another day.

My daughter is a server and when she leaves for work I give her a hug and a kiss and remind her to "Show someone love today." It's the best job we can do.

So lovely. Captures those feelings perfectly.

This reminds me of a story about a couple who have lived together an entire lifetime. They are now old. The husband and his wife are joined at the table sharing a meal.The husband looks lovingly at his wife's face, now covered with wrinkles. Then he starts to meditate how each wrinkle contain a story of their own while gently caressing her face.

Thanks for the beautiful experiences shared.... As an older disabled person I can know their truth.... and only add that if we could learn to hold each other, no matter what our ages, in a place of respect and kindness for a minute or two every day.... the world would change..... for everyone.....

I remember standing in line with my aging and ailing father at a big box hardware and him engaging in pleasantries with someone in line behind us. This was a gift, not only because he wouldn't be living many years longer but because I knew mostly his serious side, pluse he was hard of hearing. We spent some time, in the last month or so before his death, at the same hardware, where I held onto his arm as we crossed the parking lot. He said he didn't need me to do that but I told him that I needed to hold onto him that warm fall day.

Beautiful ..I recognize the setting...

This is so beautifully written. As a 63 year old woman, I can relate. Feeling misunderstood is a lonely thing. Recently I was in a local fast food restaurant. I did not have enough money to pay for what I ordered, and was quite embarrassed. A very kind young man who was in line behind me, took out a $20 bill and said, "Here, take this and order anything you want." I said, "Oh, I cannot do that, but appreciate it so much." He insisted, and I told him I would only take the $5.25 that my order came to, and he agreed. It was a humiliating thing for me to experience, yet the kindness of this young man is something I will never forget. He did this in such a way to make me feel that I mattered, and he did not want me to be embarrassed. Acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding are so special... you never know how much it means to the person you have been kind to. I know my experience touched me deeply.

I would venture that the barista got just as much out of this encounter as you did...

What a lovely way to begin my weekend. Thank you.

I am sorry to read that you lost your mother.

Your sharing of this experience with your father is having ripple effects in me and I imagine, in all of us reading. Thank you. The small kindnesses hold such great enormity when living out of the immediacy of experience.

Beautiful, just beautiful and there must be a hundred million people like this......

This meditation on small acts of kindness really resonated with me in this age of detached aloofness and disinterest that I see too often in my daily encounters with employees who seem to be angry at the whole world. Having grown up in Minnesota, where genuine kindness was the norm, it is still difficult for me, after all these years, to accept this disrespect of human dignity.
Thank you for sharing this and for helping us all to find the goodness in our hearts so that we may be the givers of joy.

This brings tears to my eyes. Thank you. I've felt those small kindnesses when I was feeling very alone. They have made all the difference.

This is beautiful; being from Minneapolis, I wonder what coffee shop this is. I would love to support a place that pours such kindness in addition to their coffee.

Hi Anneke:

Thank you for your comment! I wish I would have mentioned the coffee shop in my submission. It's Bull Run on 43rd and Nicollet Ave. South. I often work there in the mornings, and Mary and LizBeth, the ones in the poem, are unfailingly sunny. The whole crew is pretty great. They certainly have earned my loyalty.

thank you... I feel that softening of kindness which lifts the way a day may be placed around me.

As a 62 year old widower, I can relate. Since I am wired a little differently, it is difficult to even think about trying to date in this environment right now so a lot of outside activities are done by me alone. However, I always keep an open hand (and Door) for the "others" that are in the same place on the road as I and I follow the advise of the Christian writer, Robert McClaren, who entitled a book that he wrote: "You Make the Road by Walking".

I was traveling back and forth to Utah to spend two weeks each month with my father after my mother died. It was a really tough, emotional time for both of us. She had been killed in a car accident, victim of a "distracted" driver, and my dad just couldn't handle her loss and his pain. We hung on to each other as if we were each other's life preserver, which we were. We went to lunch one day and the couple who were in line in front of us paid for our meal. That one small act of kindness restored our faith in humanity, and buoyed our hopes for a brighter future.

It is the small victories, every one, that we should honor and celebrate. If big victories were possible, we would have had them by now. Small victories are where hope is nourished. Love always.

Kindnesses, caring, connection and love - these are the things that make us human. Thank you for this beautiful poem. It made me cry and smile at the same time.

So beautiful.

I LOVE this: "softening the space everywhere,
who made him feel like he belonged."

Great idea. Love stories like this. Thank you!!

I see God
in grass growing through sidewalk cracks
in laughing pink clouds hiding behind the mountains
in a mother's hand wiping the tearful nose of her child

I feel God
in warm sun striking my face
in the rough tongue of a stray cat
in drops of oil melting on my brow

I hear God
in raindrops striking dry earth
in laughter shared between old friends
in a violin's sweet trembling

I breathe God, live God, love God

Thank you for this nice reflection. My son recently got his mouth smacked during a soccer game. He tried to fight through it but he took a knee and the coach pulled him out. Coach took a good look at his month, gave him a bit of a head hug, ruffled his hair, and my son took a seat on the bench. I held back every fiber of my being by not running over to check on him but I could tell that the coach checked him out and even more importantly, made him feel secure and taken care of in that short moment. That Coach's small kindness meant the world to my son, and his mother who sat across the field trying to let her son play his game.

The sky is blue
The trees are green
Take the time
To see what's in between.

The gentleness of this caused my eyes to well up. Life is so short, kindness matters, people matter. What a joy to read this

Beautifully said! Thank you so much!!!

A lovely piece that brought tears to my eyes. Small acts like this are truly the most beautiful gifts we can give one another.

This beautiful poem captured for me the feeling of regret I have for all the time I did not spend with my father. It also reminded me to take advantage of opportunities I have now to brighten someone's day.

Oh my. I am here with my mother who descends ever so slowly into the world of Alzheimer's. Every outside encounter I hold my breath, like a mother with a specially-abled child. Will they see her beauty, her generosity, her vulnerability? Will they treat it tenderly? Your piece restores me. I exhale. Knowing there will always be some who will--who will even help me see it more clearly, on those days or in those moments when my own heart and vision are clouded. The comments below, too, are so affirming. We all want a world this kind. Thank you.

Thank you. This piece is important and I will share it with others.

A beautiful poem which made my heart full and brought tears to my eyes.
It gives me such hope in knowing that others notice what is important and so beautifully expresses grief.
Thank you.

i worried so for my father after my mother died but he found a friend

Thank you for a wonderful read .

Wow! What a beautiful blog on kindness.