Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something Cheery (for Isabelle!)

Here is what I learnt this week : A little kindness goes such a very long way.

There is a girl in my son's class called 'Daisy'. Daisy has an intellectual impairment, and struggles to write her name, to maintain attention, and to follow instructions. Daisy's mother, 'Jenny', often arrives a little late for school, with her baby strapped to her chest, her 3-year-old trailing by her side, and Daisy chatting loudly as she meanders into the classroom. Jenny always appears calm despite the chaos, has a smile for everyone, and I have never heard her lose her temper with Daisy. Jenny seems to have it all together, and speaks confidently to the teacher when she needs to discuss Daisy's progress. I can be a bit shy initially, and I am also often racing off to work in the mornings, so I have only spoken to Jenny a handful of times this year. I have enjoyed chatting to her, though, about school news, Daisy, or life in general.

Imagine my surprise to hear, from another doctor where I work (who sees Jenny and Daisy as her patients), that our conversations had meant a great deal to Jenny. Jenny told this doctor that many of the other mothers didn't speak to her, and that whenever Daisy 'acted up', Jenny felt embarrassed, and worried what those other mothers were thinking. The 6 or 7 conversations we'd shared, to Jenny, were worthy of mention because of how much better they made her feel. Astounding!

I was glad to have made a difference in Jenny's life, but at the same time I wished I'd started chatting to Jenny earlier in the school year, wished I'd spoken to her more often, wished I'd thought more about what it must be like for her dealing with the school community. I felt guilty that I'd done the bare minimum; I felt undeserving of her appreciation. The fact that a few conversations were so important to Jenny tells me she is not receiving the support she deserves.
However, this post is not about guilt, because whilst I regret not doing more for Jenny, I am kind enough to myself to know that I cannot be everything to everyone, can't save the world, can't be some sort of superwoman. If I had realised, I would have been more attentive to Jenny, but I didn't know.

What I do know is that I will go on from here trying to remember that everyone, for whatever their own reasons, and however outwardly poised they may appear, may be 'Jenny' - in need of conversation, a smile, a shared laugh. I'll keep in mind that a little kindness goes such a very long way.


Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi Jelly, good to see you. I'm glad you're not beating yourself up over being kinder to Jenny, the fact is, you spoke to her whereas many didn't.

I have three families living close by, each with children having varying degrees of Asperger syndrome (one's almost autistic)...and through that, I have learn not to judge children's behaviour, as it's often a result of something we cannot know about. These mothers, too, are wonderful in the way they deal with their lives. I'm truly not sure how I would handle having a child with a disability...very badly, I suspect.

A little kindness does go a long way...and you've provided Jenny with that.

Stomper Girl said...

Good for you Jellyhead. You are a good and kind human being, something to be proud of.

freefalling said...

We just never know how we are going to impact someone's life.

Slightly off track, don't want to suggest "Jenny" is a mass murderer!! - but I heard an author of a Martin Bryant book speaking about how on the morning of that awful tragedy, he visited places and bought things he didn't really need and tried to make conversation - perhaps reaching out for some sort of contact that would 'touch' him.
Seems awful to think perhaps someone's willingness to give him a few minutes of their time could have changed the course of events.

Of course, I'm sure it is much more complex than that but sometimes, that's all it may come down to.

(nice to see you around)

Mary said...

It seems this is a lesson we often have to re - learn - I do anyway.

So important not to make assumptions about others - I make this mistake still and thank you for this post..

Remiman said...

You, being who you are, did what comes natural to you; not too much, not to little, but just right to make a difference in someone's life.

I get feedback from some folks about the difference I've made in their lives: excuse me: we spoke only briefly; for a moment or two.

You never know how much difference a kind word can make in a life.
Good on you Jellyhead!

TUFFENUF said...

You are so right, there is nothing better than a kind word. I always tell my son to be especially kind to the people who are "different" and oft times shunned by others. You may not know it, but your blog is also uplifting to everyone who reads it!

Alice said...

You always give us food for thought too, Jelly. We can never know what is happening in other lives, especially when the outward appearances can be so deceptively calm and serene.

We know how we appreciate any acknowledgement and word of kindness....thanks for reminding me to treat others the same.

Your posts are always so thought-provoking and usually with a positive theme. Thanks so much, Jelly.

Have a great week, won't you?

thisisme said...


I am always amazed by the impact that we have on other lives without realising. It has made me start thinking twice before I say anything negative. I'm glad you aren't beating yourself up about not doing more - just being yourself made such a difference.

Michelle said...

I have often watched the mothers of the kids in my class and wondered why they hang around so long after school while their kids play on the playground. They are the ones with kids like "daisy" - now I know why - they really need each other.

Susan said...

Your faithful readers here have benefitted from your conversations with us for a long time now, so we are not surprised to read this about you! Thanks for all you do.

John Cowart said...

Hi Jelly,

Good to see you back to posting; I've missed you.

Good to know that you are kind to others and kind to yourself.

We never know the influence we may have on others... for good or ill.

Just before we went off on our anniversary trip, Ginny and I ran into a girl we had not seen for years. She gushed about how much we'd meant to her. It was such a surprise.

But, last time I was kind to a stray dog, it bit me.

Winn some, lose some.


Isabelle said...

Aw, Jelly! It's so kind of you to leap to my commands. This so seldom happens among my acquaintances...

And a very nice happy story. You should indeed not feel guilty, but proud!

Heather said...

I'm not surprised at all that you made a difference in someone's life! You've made such a difference in mine....

Kerri said...

How nice to see you posting, Jelly, and to read your sweet thoughts.
You've made a very good point.
A smile and a few friendly words can be so encouraging, no matter who we are. It's a kindness that's easy to share.
Thanks for reminding us that little things can make a big difference.
Sending a hug across the blogisphere :)

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

A smile and a few kind words. They don't cost anything but enrich the lives of others in ways that we could never know. Your post is a good reminder to all of us to always show kindness with a great big smile.

Meggie said...

What a lovely post Jelly. What a lovely person you are!. My husband's sister has a daughter with Cerebral Palsy. I try to speak to each person I meet, who either has this condition and/or is a parent, as I know, they so often just want to be acknowledged as a valid person.

Alipurr said...