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.