Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. ~ Scott Adams
Last week’s severe storm in my region had me thinking about the importance of small things in our daily lives. I was lucky to have been spared the worst of the disaster having lost power for just three days and not sustaining any property damage short of fallen branches. I missed my morning coffee that I brew in the pre-dawn hours and sip while getting ready for my day. Luckily, I live close enough to a Starbucks which opens at 5 am. What a treat! I drove there in the early morning darkness in my jammies and hoodie and savored each sip. I missed drying my hair but I was getting my haircut on day two anyway. My hairdresser does such a great job that my hair even looks good after a full night’s sleep! I took fast showers; my water was still hot enough because of a sturdy gas water heater. My refrigerator is still reliable after 23 years and I did not toss out any food save cream and milk.
Still, my routine was disrupted. I was limited as to what I could do in the house as I always arrive home from work at the end of the daylight hours. Other things were happening that disrupted my sense of balance and peace of mind. People and situations from my past were appearing at unexpected places and times. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Normally, I would not have been bothered but then the spare key to my back door disappeared. I began to put an unhealthy equation together. Given the trauma from my recent past, it made perfect sense-at least to me. On the other hand, I knew that I was letting these small things bother me more than I should. They were taking up valuable space in my head. Still, I found it difficult to settle my mind and I left for Tampa Bay in a bundle of nerves.
I was relieved when I landed! I fell into the warm embrace of the not so tropical air and the man I love. I took some time for myself as well and headed out for a 10k walk along the Pinellas Trail. The sun was comforting and the trail was very quiet. Only butterflies skittered about-a sign for me that my mother was near. I began to relax and reminded myself of the reason why I was down there.
The day before I left for the trip, I had received a beautiful necklace that my friend Emily had made in honor of my late mother. We planned on awarding it as a special gift to a race participant (as yet unknown). The piece was clearly a work of art and labor of love (see photo). When Emily had originally presented her idea to me this summer, she had no idea of my mother’s affinity for these lovely creatures. Needless to say, I could not wait to show my father the piece.
After my therapeutic excursion on the trail, my boyfriend and I cut out to check on the pre-race preparations. My dad was in fine form as usual-running the show and attending to every detail of the event. When he slowed down enough so that I could show him the necklace, he burst into tears. In a moment of pure honesty, he said: “You should keep this for yourself.” As much as I would have loved to have the piece, I knew in my heart that a special someone would benefit from it more than I.
The next day we arose at 4:30 am and headed to the race location on the bay. The sunrise was spectacular and there was a vibrant energy in the air as runners, walkers and their families began to arrive for the event. As the Survivor Tent greeter, I was deeply moved by the stories of the men and women who are battling this monster of a disease. Some had traveled from as far as Central Florida and even Jacksonville to participate. As with any disease, age is never taken into consideration. I met two women in their twenties who have been battling pancreatic cancer for as long as five years. They are tough, strong and hopeful.
Sadly, of course, some who were there had lost loved ones and chose to take part to help raise funds for research. One particular family had lost a son, brother, father and husband only four months prior to the race. They became one of the race’s chief supporters. My father had gotten to know the widow of the man who died quite well and it was on race day that he suggested that we present the necklace to her. During the closing ceremonies, Suzanne (the chapter’s chief cheerleader) spoke of the necklace’s origins and presented it to Jen. As she descended the stage, Jen quickly walked over to me to express her appreciation. Then she said: “You don’t know how much this means to me. Every time that I go to the cemetery, I am visited by butterflies!” We hugged and cried and I told her that the necklace’s butterflies symbolized her and her husband.
I know that Jen will cherish the necklace forever. What I couldn’t know was how a gift from a friend of mine would begin to heal the broken heart of a complete stranger. My trip south and the connections that I made there helped give me perspective. I learned two things: don’t sweat the small stuff (the past is past and the key did turn up) and small acts of kindness help all of us heal our own broken hearts.