Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Friday, December 30, 2011

Preseason Training Continued . . .

     Today was the 2nd day of my "preseason training" as I prepare to officially launch my project on January 1st.  Of course, in reality, there's actually nothing different about these few "practice" days than the "real thing" but it still feels helpful to experiment a little with thinking of, noticing, and acting on opportunities for kindness, as well as writing about them.  And for the 2nd day in a row, my original plan ended up getting altered.
     I decided to stretch my comfort zone a bit today by going to a local nursing home and spending some time with a senior citizen who might be lonely.  This is a stretch for me because I haven't typically been the most patient or compassionate when it comes to seniors, and I've typically regarded nursing homes as among the most depressing places one can be.  I figured this would be a good challenge for me to stay focused on kindness and making a human connection.
     As I approached the nursing home, I wondered what I was doing and briefly thought about "chickening out" and thinking of something else to do; but I reminded myself that this was part of the whole point of my project - to expand my capacity for kindness by stretching myself. 
     I really wasn't sure what to expect in terms of what I would say at the front desk and how they would react.  Walking into a brightly lit lobby filled with holiday decorations, I approached two women who seemed to be something like receptionists.  I asked them if they had any residents who might be lonely and without family who might benefit from simply having someone to talk with.  They were predictably surprised by my question, but then thought about one woman named Pat.  They tried reaching her, but unfortunately, they concluded that she must have been out of the building.  When I asked if there were any other residents they'd suggest I visit, they couldn't think of any as most seemed to have relatives visiting for the holiday weekend.  While they appreciated my gesture, I still left the building not having completed what I set out to do.
     Not to be deterred, I figured I could try another nursing home in town (we actually have several!).  I also realized that I would have to pass Main Street to get there and figured that I could stop at the Moorestown Flower Shoppe and pick up some flowers to deliver to someone.  When I went in and explained what I was looking for, the woman at the counter seeemed touched and threw in a few extra yellow roses in the arrangement she created.  Flowers in hand, I headed to the next nursing home.

     To be honest, as I walked inside, I really wasn't sure whether it would be better to simply ask the receptionist to anonymously deliver flowers to the person of her choice, or whether it would be better for me to deliver them myself and spend some time with the recipient. As it turned out, circumstances made the decision for me.
     When I explained to the receptionist that I wanted the flowers to go to someone who was lonely and for whom it might brighten the day, she got on the phone and called the nursing supervisor for input.  Together they identified a woman named Mary B. and the receptionist directed me down several hallways to where the supervisor would be waiting.  When I got there, the supervisor pointed me toward a room full of senior citizens watching TV and noted that Mary was the little woman in the pink sweater. 
     As you might imagine, Mary was quite surprised when I presented her with the buoquet and she, at first, couldn't quite grasp who I was or why I was there for her.  I just explained that I thought she'd enjoy them and then spent 5 or 10 minutes asking her a little about herself and engaging her in conversation.  As I left, the nursing supervisor assured me that she would put the flowers by Mary's bed so that she could enjoy them for several days and that she was sure it meant a lot because Mary had "no one."
     As I drove home and thought about what had happened, here's what came to mind first:
  1. I noticed that it's already (and it's only my 2nd day!) getting easier to dive right in and do something nice regardless of the fact that it feels a little strange or out of my comfort zone.  I suspect that once you do that a few times and realize that nothing terrible happened, you build confidence to just "go for it."
  2. I felt good that I had made the world just a little better place today.  While some doubting voices in my head wanted to question or diminish what had happened by wondering if I could do it every day, or if my motives were in any way self-serving, or any of a host of other fears, the bottom line was that nothing could be wrong with contributing some extra kindness in our world, no matter how large or small.
     I'm excited to see what tomorrow will bring!

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