In these times of stress, and even for those of us who are still working, like those we’re sheltering at home with, and are able to watch the blossoms opening for spring there is stress, last week brought three acts of kindness into my life that I am so thankful for I almost cried. They’re personal, so I’ll keep my descriptions brief and my nostalgia briefer still, but the emotion runs deep and the boost each of these three gifts of kindness was profound.
The first came in the mail, the US Postal Service, when an oversized envelope arrived at my door containing a quilt square with the design of a pirate. It was a marvelous (m-ARRRRRR-velous) gift from a generous colleague I’d worked with when I was a middle school principal. Robin ran the library, and not a day went by when after I’d tucked kids into classes after the opening bell I didn’t find myself leaning on her circulation counter having a conversation. It was a new building at the time, but I can imagine now that there are two grooves from the elbows of leaning teachers and kids worn into the top of that counter where countless others like me asked for advice, listened to wisdom, and laughed together as friends.
It was at Diegueno that my staff, knowing I like pirates, surprised me one Halloween with an act that I will never forget and at that special little middle school that I left a piece of my heart. Reading the note that accompanied Robin’s gift brought back a flood of memories and a sense of gratitude that someone so kind would reach out to me. She explained that she started the project soon after I’d left the school, then life got in the way, and now quarantine gave her the time to finish. There is much to bring us down in times like these, but as Leonard Cohen sang “There is a crack, a crack, in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” And that quilted swashbuckling square was light indeed.
The second act of kindness came in response to my advertisement for a (virtual) coffee with the principal. It would be my second of this quarantine, and I included a photo of myself in my backyard with a coffee mug given to me a lifetime ago by a ceramics teacher. The mug was familiar to a bundle of teachers I’d worked with in California, and not long after I posted it on Twitter I started seeing a string of responses.
One, from a gifted teacher I miss working with more than I can say, made me laugh aloud. “I just want to check in” he wrote, “to see this scene (slowly lifts mug and takes a sip, speaking with a steady, paternal tone) “all will be well, all will be well.” I could use that!” The comments from these Mavericks made a huge difference in the way I did everything last week. Yes, I believe that “all will be well” and I’ve been kidded for the phrase for decades (though it is true, honest), but even optimists need a little inspiration, and Jim, Danielle, Kari, and Gwen gave me that and more.
Then, Scott, another friend from a high school I’d worked at a thousand miles from here, actually showed up the morning of my coffee. He was on the Zoom, quietly smiling and wearing the baseball cap of my favorite team (not his own). Magic, that.
These COVID-19 restrictions have taken us away from our daily routines, our daily lives, our daily companions, but even as they have, at least at times they’ve brought some of us together in ways that might not have happened, or happened in the same way before.
The third act of kindness last week came from a more recent and local source. With campuses closed through the end of the school year we find ourselves needing to clean out student lockers and return belongings to the kids. I posted the date for students to pick up their stuff on Instagram (where the kids live) letting them know when they could pick up their notebooks and miscellany. A couple asked questions about art or dance gear, and then, tucked in the comments, was a response from a recent grad that melted my heart. “I left all my favorite teachers and principal there,” she wrote. “Can I come pick those up?”
And all three of these acts of kindness did inspire me. They inspired me to stay positive and look for the best in the world, and they inspire me now to find ways that I can show kindness to others. As we all wrestle with the emotions of being separated from so many who mean so much to us, I would encourage everyone to take inspiration from the little acts of kindness like this. And then, being the light that gets in, find ways to show kindness to those around us, both near and a thousand miles away.