Kindness: A Swiss Army Knife in Desperate Times

Day 16 of the apocalypse:            My pants no longer fit. It could become an emergency shortly. I consider myself very fortunate for the rotundness that has graced me with its presence, as many are not afforded the same luxury, but damn! Since our voluntary isolation, my cooking has taken on the persona of a Julia Child, butter encompassing, Emeril Lagasse like fervor with a hint of dumpster diver for emphasis. Bam!

Crème brulee is mighty tasty (I need to purchase more fuel for the torch), as are French macarons and the fancy stuffed pasta shells I concocted on the fly with creative whimsy. It has unfortunately led to the inevitable, with the undeniable circumstances we all love to hate. It has been followed up with unlikely creative expressions of highly denied consequences…the dryer shrunk my clothes, it’s just the mirror, and my personal favorite, “They still fit, just need to be worn in…just grab my spray bottle, the tow rope and that crowbar right over there!”.

That said, I am facing a bit of a pantaloons shortage, one which has forced me to take the drastic step of wearing nothing but over sized sweatpants (Clem’s preferably). Should this perplexing affliction persist, I am afraid that I may require the adoption of a ‘pants optional’ declaration within the household. That, my friends, will be a most terrifying horror story, worthy of a Stephen King novel and a Wrong Turn type movie production! Scary! I keep hearing myself say things like, “Don’t throw out those rotten bananas! I can make another cake, pie, lasagna, stew and muffins with that!”.

We’re still kicking, although not as high as we once were. I think I need to share this food with some of my neighbors, if that’s even possible right now. I now understand why they didn’t like me so much, after leaving baked goods on their doorstep throughout the years.

I hope you are all well and staying sane, or insane, if you prefer.

As many of you may have noticed, I have a vast array of different emotions I portray as I write. You’ve seen some of the most inner workings of my mind, spanning from my blatantly outright insane side (just a glimpse so far) to my most sad and vulnerable. I feel that we are all connected in one way or another, without ever having met and that our actions influence, no matter the distance. We really are just one big community.

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to find the perfect time to share a moment in my life that has affected every aspect of my being. This one experience, has directly impacted the becoming of the human I am today. I’m still learning, and have a very long way to go before I’d even consider anything I write as decent, but I won’t let that delay in its telling.

One word, so many meanings

It is, without a doubt, one of the most fundamental reasons why we have been able to survive on this wonderful, harsh planet we all call home. Whatever you may call it, it falls under one name while encompassing a vast range of components. It includes cooperation, compassion, empathy, selflessness, love, caring, thoughtfulness, creativity, acceptance, gratitude, time, effort and the list goes on. To put it simply, I call it kindness. No matter the size, the implications of just one act can be astronomical.

As many of you may or may not know, my daughter was diagnosed and subsequently treated (I’ll write more about that later) for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few years ago, as I shared here. It’s a moment of my past that I will never forget. Although harrowing and terrifying at times, we were privy to a kindness like no other.

Clem and I live in a fairly large (by Canadian standards) community, but at that time, we still hadn’t formed many friendships. Our extended family, lived a few hours away, so we were essentially on our own so to speak. I don’t know how many people are in the same boat, but there have been times where I’d have killed to have had my loved ones closer, but that wasn’t to be, at that time.

Our family, has always been supportive, and we’d always known that if needed, they would be there for us. Clem and I have been fairly independent, and often prepared (when possible) in the event of anything happening, which occasionally included enlisting the help of friends. We have some amazing people in our lives, no word of a lie, and that makes us rich beyond anything in this world. That said, I am going to focus on one sole individual.

So, enough about us, this story has everything to do with the amazing people we’ve come to know and call our ‘angels’. These people literally moved mountains and did extraordinary things, when our world was barely held together by a thread. The coming together of strangers for just one small person, my daughter, is by far, the most powerful thing I have ever witnessed in my entire life. These amazing people, are one of the reasons that I am and have remained hopeful after all of the shit I’ve not only been through, but witnessed and still see everyday. Here, is the story of how that all came to be.

An inspiring tale within an ugly one

On a dreary spring day while I was picking my girls up from school, in the midst of Caelan’s diagnosis, a mom that I only knew because of her daughters, approached and asked me how I was doing. It wasn’t until later on, that she said I looked like I was dying which is why she approached me. Anyway, I usually would’ve said things were well followed by asking her the same, but at that time, my life had shattered into a billion tiny shards and I felt like I had died inside. I spilled, uncontrollably (in what I thought was without emotion) by saying that Caelan may have cancer but it wasn’t conclusive yet.

If someone spewed like that to me, without warning, I feel that my first inclination might be to run away and hide. It’s not the most comfortable situation to be in and being caught off guard might cloak any and all compassion and empathy. That may be replaced with sheer disbelief and doom, especially when talking about a child who is afflicted. I am here to say, that that’s okay! That’s a normal reaction, so please don’t berate yourself if that’s how you’d react. I’ll write more about the social implications I’ve encountered at a later time, but this mom, she wasn’t even remotely affected in that way.

I think she knew I was beyond delicate and handled the news flawlessly, offering any support that she may. I didn’t think much of it after the fact, but that ‘mom’, was about to affect me in ways I could’ve never imagined. Okay, I got this, I can write this…just need my box of Kleenex. Anyway, on with the story.

Little did I know, this mom, one of the most incredible human beings I know, was the one person in the world, who was to restore every ounce of my faith in humanity.

That is a huge statement let alone, a major life impact. I had honestly lost that ‘faith in humanity’ a while back. I’d had too many instances where people had made me incredibly angry, sad, or just left me in disbelief, due to ignorance, pettiness, greed, selfishness and a great many other things up until then. I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means, but sometimes, some of the acts society portrays are disheartening.

I am, just like many of you out there, stubborn in asking for help, and I’m also jaded as hell. Just being honest. But this amazing lady, well, she’s like no other and she gives me hope. I don’t know about you, but hope can be a hard thing to come by, especially when you’ve been completely jaded with no intention of changing your stance for quite some time. Again, we’re all human, no one is perfect, including me.

The cavalry

My apologies, the details are a bit blurry after all these years, so please bear with me. What I do remember, is that as word trickled out about our family, others began to reach out to us. This mom, unbeknownst to us, had been busy rallying her circle of friends and formed a literal cavalry. Yes, a cavalry. The power of moms, (I should say parents, or truly anyone who is selflessly motivated by something for that matter) is an amazing force. If you ever, and I mean EVER need to form and act in an instant, these are the kinds of people to call. They will never let you down, I promise.

Over the course of the next few weeks, our ‘mom’ reached out often, which surprised me because I knew her to be very quiet and shy. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to reach out, but I am forever grateful for her doing this. She checked in for updates and was especially keen on finding out what Caelan’s treatment protocol entailed and what days we’d be in hospital and at home. I had no idea what was going on outside of my own little realm because as the world continued to turn, ours had come to a screeching halt. This mom was the link that kept us from drifting. Her anchoring was crucial, and often gave us the moments of normalcy that we desperately needed.

It wasn’t until Caelan started treatment, that we would witness the extent of the work that our ‘mom’ had been leading behind the scenes. Our ‘mom’ asked if she could pop over the day after Caelan came home from her first treatment. She said she had a few items for the girls, and just wanted to drop them off. I wasn’t up for company, but it was her, and I wasn’t going to do anything that would cause her to feel any negativity in any way, shape or form because I knew she had a huge heart and meant nothing but good. I didn’t know that her reassuring visit was what I had needed at that time, but she did. Okay! I need more Kleenex!

She arrived in the afternoon, before school let out. Her husband had driven her and proceeded to back his truck into my driveway before she appeared at my door…with her arms completely full. More Kleenex…sorry, this is emotional for me.  When I mean full, I mean FULL. She had so many containers full of things for our girls, food upon food (mostly homemade), gift cards, cards with thoughtful messages and anything else you could possibly think of from not only her, but from absolute strangers, many living within our community and even some from afar. This was all from her and her ‘cavalry’.

Clem and I have definitely fallen on hard times, but we’ve always been able to provide for ourselves. I would never ever take anything from anyone, especially if they struggled to provide for themselves and their families, so this was overwhelming to say the very least. I didn’t want to take from anyone because I knew there were many families who were also dealing with different hardships, but that would’ve been extremely rude.

Their kindness extended above and beyond, and we accepted their gifts with immense gratitude. These people, despite their own hardships, felt that our pain and suffering was far worse than what they were enduring and they wanted to help in any way they could. I will be forever grateful for their kindness and I will never forget it.

If only everyone in the world could feel and acknowledge this. The world would be a different place. One sick kid, and a group of people brought together by her, to do anything they could to help, in the hopes of seeing her well again. Just mind blowing. All you need is one reason to do great things.

Up until that point, the only feelings I’d felt was despair and fear but that day, that day, I truly understood the feeling of kindness, community, love, compassion, gratitude, relief and I knew we were no longer alone in this journey.

If you’re bawling your eyes out like me right now, a moment of humor, if you will. I have had the opportunity, and made the effort to go out and meet these kind strangers. Not only did I need to thank them profusely in person, I wanted and needed to get to know them. I am happy to say, that over the years, many have become friends, and all have my sincerest gratitude.

Some, self-professed, that they cannot cook to save their own lives, but did provide meals for us despite their culinary shortcomings, and offered their condolences for said meals. I thought that was pretty funny. We never noticed because it never mattered. I could never thank them enough for whatever they contributed, good or (in their words) bad.

I remember feeling completely overwhelmed while standing at the front door as our ‘mom’ and her husband brought everything inside that day. She hugged me every chance she got, as I just stood there frozen, in shock. Up until that point, the only feelings I’d felt was despair and fear but that day, that day, I truly understood the feeling of kindness, community, love, compassion, gratitude, relief and I knew we were no longer alone in this journey. These ‘angels’ are a huge part of the reason we survived our daughter’s cancer. Without them and their support, I can honestly say that I don’t know where we’d truly be right now.

Week after week, our ‘mom’ showed up, the day after Caelan’s chemotherapy (she had just over 2 months of treatment every week), bearing more gifts to get us through. Everything was taken care of for us. We were given the most expensive gift known to man, time. You can never get it back, so for me, that is truly the greatest gift anyone could give.

I focused solely on looking after Caelan and Lola, and was generously afforded the time to just be with my family. Our friends, neighbors and family were also highly involved, and made trips to the hospital with meals and activities for the kids and helped look after pets while we were away. Coworkers helped to manage Clem’s work when he couldn’t and made sure he still had a job at the end of the day. It was a team effort by everyone in our life.

Our ‘mom’, her cavalry, our neighbors, friends, coworkers and family, deserve nothing but the best life has to offer. Our ‘mom’ (and she’s not just a mom by the way) is a miracle worker and someone we should all aspire to be. Her actions, were not just one small act by the way, it was more of a feat. I wanted to share this story specifically because she was pretty much a stranger to us at that time, but that never stopped her from getting involved.

It just goes to show, that despite not having any ties to someone whatsoever, an act (or acts) of kindness can drastically alter a life in ways you cannot fathom. That’s why my story is so important. We’re all human, and sometimes we need to see the end result of our actions, to help keep propelling us forward, in knowing it wasn’t all for naught.

Lifelong gratitude

I will never be able to extend my gratitude enough to the kind people who stepped into my life when I needed it most. I don’t think they’ll ever understand how grateful we are. They’re in our thoughts and our hearts every single day and that will never change. I will continue to pay it forward for the rest of my remaining days whenever I can.

For those of you out there in the world, experiencing fear and uncertainty right now, know you’re not alone. If this is the first time you’ve encountered these kinds of feelings, it may actually be the best time to experience them because we’re all experiencing it together. The world has completely stopped all around you, and nearly everyone can relate. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out, even if it’s to a complete stranger. And when a stranger reaches out to you, return that kindness. It makes a world of difference, trust me, I know.

If our civilization is to survive, we need to realize that all of the technology that connects us, is truly vital to our survival and that we need to use it in the most positive way possible going forward. We should also know, it’s not the technology that makes us stronger, but the humanity behind it. No matter how advanced we may become, our actions will determine our outcome. Going it alone isn’t impossible, but it would definitely be difficult and isolating, and that’s coming from an introvert.

I hope this inspires you, by sharing that even one small act, can make a huge difference, no matter who you are or where you come from. Any effort with a selfless, positive intention, is priceless in this world. If you remember anything from this long ass read, please, remember the previous lines. If you’ve suffered through this long read, and understand what I am trying to convey, you have my sincerest gratitude. Thank you.

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