Wednesday, April 8 2020 - 4:09 AM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

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The Kindness of Strangers

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind” is an often seen meme and mantra. However, our “world” seems starved for kindness, as demonstrated by the number of “kindness” social media stories that go viral. Perhaps we don’t really understand kindness? Or we only know it when we see it? Or receive it? Or when we realize we have been unkind and try to figure out both the “Why?” and the “How could I have done that better?” in our own relationships.

As I thought about this subject, I began to realize that I am a bit uncomfortable telling my own stories of being kind, yet look forward to telling about kindnesses I have received. Perhaps because when I think about ways I HAVE been kind, I also think about all the times when I was NOT kind. Telling about kindnesses I’ve received is much easier and involves less guilt. Yet, in telling about those times when kindness overwhelmed me helps my own resolve toward being a kinder and more decent human being. And in my desire to be a true Christian…..”you will be known by your love.”

Christmas of 2008 was an overwhelming time for me, and it was more the overwhelming kindness of strangers than the emotion of dealing with my sister’s battle with cancer. Through the course of my little sister’s struggle with cancer, my two siblings and I tried to never let her be in the hospital without one of us being there. Her husband had a medical practice and their farm to run, which was nearly two hours from the hospital, so it was impractical for him to be there as much as he wanted. Often her stays would be a month or more in length. The bone marrow transplant required more than two months, pre- and post-transplant. Thanksgiving of 2008, she received the donor marrow and at that time, we could only be with her for short periods of time and could not use her bathroom or stay the night in her room. It was determined that because of my work schedule, I would come during my Christmas break, with the goal that we would do our best to help her be healthy enough to be home by Christmas Day. My brother and brother-in-law were deep into creating an isolation-type apartment for her with HEPA filtration, etc. as she would still be very fragile, both physically and medically. I contacted a colleague friend near her hospital to see about housing options near her, and he graciously offered me the use of a small apartment he rented as a man cave when he needed to “get away.” Wow. Kind and gracious and generous.

But first I had to get there! December 2008, Portland was experiencing unusual cold temperatures, and the day I was to leave saw a snowstorm that was unusual. By the time afternoon came, we had nearly 10 inches of snow, and when I arrived at the airport, almost all flights were being cancelled both in and out. I was trying to remain calm as I stood in line at the airline counter to see if there was any way to get out and get to Philadelphia. Bless the dear Delta ticket agent, who no doubt was exhausted and ready to just get home safely to her family (I didn’t think about that then), but she kept working until she found me a series of flights that were still going and would eventually get me to Philadelphia when I needed to be there for my family. The flight was leaving in a very short time AND was the LAST flight out of Portland for three days. It was gracious and kind on the part of the Delta employee and the TSA agent to get me on that flight. They had no idea of the real emotional effect of their help.

Christmas Day dawned crisp and clear. I walked to the only place I knew was open for breakfast – the local WaWa – and as I entered, a gentleman held the door and said, “Well, Merry Christmas, pretty lady! I hope you have a blessed day!”

Wow! I was in a borrowed room, 3000 miles from my husband, praying that my sister would be deemed well enough to be released to go home (she was!), and called pretty…..a most unusual yet awesome Christmas….in fact, my most memorable Christmas ever, all because of the kindness of strangers. Each was only a little thing, yet collectively, their impact was profound on MY life.

In a world where YOU can be ANYTHING, be kind.

Linda Waagen writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Linda Waagen

Linda Waagen

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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