Last Fall I visited my mother’s youngest sister and my uncle. It was so good to be back in the ‘home’ state of my parents, both already long passed. After picking me up in the middle of a thunderstorm, we drove in the dark, with slick streets, and little to see. We talked for a while, of course, but soon the three-hour time difference made it clear that it was time to turn in.
The next morning I got up early and the house was quiet, but my nose informed me that coffee was brewing. I quietly made my way to the kitchen and on the counter saw the coffee maker doing its job. As I looked in the cabinet above the coffee maker and took down a cup, I noticed steam curling and rising above two cups, already sitting on the counter, and filled with hot water. Uncle Jim came around the corner, smiled at me, and told me he sets up the coffee maker before going to bed each night, and then being the first one up, he adds hot water to warm the cups–his and hers–so the coffee stays warm longer.
He also braved whatever the early morning weather and filled the bird feeder, refreshed the birds’ water, and brought in the newspapers. I thought how lucky my aunt was–to have found a spouse that knew the value of uncommon kindness. Simple acts that make another’s day better! My uncle reassured me that he was the lucky one to have found such a good-hearted, humorous woman for his second wife.
That trip has stayed with me in many ways. Not only the sights of the homeland’s trees in full fall colors or the long visits the stirred so many memories, but also I’ve continued to think about acts of kindness unexpected.
Upon returning to my work with private clients, I thought about what I had available to me for sharing special acts of giving and kindnesses like I had seen between my aunt and uncle. So whenever possible I have hot tea or coffee, not just available, but waiting. Even in full daylight I often light a candle, both for the warmth and aroma it shares. For a long time I’ve incorporated water elements in my offices. A desktop water fountain helps me to quiet and deepen myself before responding. I guess an act of kindness to myself lightens my own mood.
I am not sure what people notice or deduce from these small acts of consideration. I’ve heard clients use “homey” or “comfortable” and “familiar” to describe the setting. Most have expressed being more relaxed upon leaving a counseling session than when they entered–regardless of how difficult the session’s subject matter.
These blue chairs have been very useful! When a person has been trying to find the strength–true inner fortitude–to dispute the many unkind and even cruel words and labels others have placed on them (a verbally abusive spouse, sibling, boss, stranger, or classmates) I often remind them that if someone called them a “blue chair,” like the one they are sitting in, they would have no doubt that the comment was off-kilter, did not apply to them, and that the person who had suggested such a thing was definitely in need of having their eyes checked!
Often, even if there have been tears with unspoken fears that the hurtful labels and words are somehow true, there are smiles as together we touch the blue chair. There is something special when we reach out to someone filled with self-doubt. An act of kindness, I hope, is not uncommon. The lessons learned are that no matter how much fear we attach to worry about our personal characteristics or concern with our shortcomings–we are not the Blue Chair! So therefore, maybe, just maybe, we also are not whatever negative labels others have tried to place on us.
Soon I will be taking my blue chairs home. My office mates have told me that some new high-tech, modern black office chairs will be in place to replace the old, soft blue chairs. I felt a little hurt and maybe even a little judged for wanting to keep the office comfortable—by my terms anyway! It has taken some deeper thinking and some non-judgment drawing upon my own Mindfulness to allow for this change.
I’ve reflected upon how accepting Ruffles and Mae-be are with items I bring home! So, into a small sitting room the blue chairs (and matching footstools) will go! I look forward to seeing how Mae-be and Ruffles will search and sniff and I wonder if they will find any suggestion of the many emotional contacts still lingering in the soft material.
I like the idea of making a pre-warmed cup of tea, lifting my current book of interest and having Mae-be snoring at my feet! Ruffles I expect will be comfortably curled up in the other chair.
As a new week gives us fresh opportunity, I hope you will have and be prepared to give many acts of Uncommon Kindness.
Blessings, Beth and the Girls