A Small Treatise on Kindness

Sep
15

Many years ago, I wrote feature stories for a newspaper in Texas. I interviewed several people for a particularly sensitive piece involving childhood abuse. The women I interviewed were treated anonymously in the article, as per their wishes. One woman’s story was especially horrific. She was young, married with a child at the time I interviewed her. Later, she began attending the same church as I attended. It was a somewhat large church and I don’t think she knew I attended there when she started going, but eventually we came across each other. I admit to feeling awkward, uncomfortable, to meet her again in a social context. I knew deep, dark, painful secrets about her that she had expressed anonymously. I remember feeling torn over time as to what was the right thing to do–befriend her, or keep my distance.


I kept my distance.

Whether she felt as uncomfortable around me as I felt around her, I have no idea. I didn’t give her a chance to demonstrate whether that was true or not. I simply stayed away from her and told myself it was for her benefit, though it was really for my own.

There were opportunities to reach out to her, and I didn’t take them.

And then there came a time when she went to a park in town and killed herself.

I went to her funeral and sat in the back row. When it was over, I left without speaking to anyone. I didn’t know her family. I didn’t really know her, although I knew more about her than most people ever did.

Today, I will go to another funeral. If the back row is available, I’ll be in it. I don’t know the family. I really did not know him. I know that he was a reader of my blog for a long time. I know that he was kind to my son. He was kind to me as a parent, too, always informative, concerned, and helpful beyond the call of duty. There are circumstances surrounding the situation that I am in no position to judge. This post is not intended as a commentary on those circumstances other than to say it is a tragedy from every angle. A few days ago, shortly before his death, I received an email from him. I had exchanged a number of emails with him. He had written me a few times about my blog. Primarily, the emails were about my son. This final email was sent out to all the parents of the boys with whom he worked. It was a bewildering and stunning statement–and an apology–about a situation in which he now found himself. There was pain between every word. I was torn as to how to, or if I should, respond.

I was standing in the kitchen cutting up peppers later that day and I couldn’t get that email out of my mind. I didn’t know what the truth of the matter was–I will never know–but I came to the decision that I would rather take the risk to reach out and be kind than the risk to turn my back and be unkind, even if only by silence. I immediately put down the peppers, went to my laptop, and wrote him an email, telling him how much I appreciated the kindness and caring he had shown to my child. That is the only truth that I know about him. He was good to my child.

I don’t know if he ever read my email. He killed himself within hours of the moment I hit Send. All I know is that I am glad I sent it.

And what I want to say today is–choose kindness, at every opportunity.

Even if it’s difficult.

Especially if it’s difficult.
IMG_0687
Because you never know if it might be your last opportunity with that person.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on September 15, 2009  

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  1. 9-15
    1:44
    am

    I know your post wasn’t directly meant for me or even my situation, but the universe and fate often work in ways none of us can understand. I have been struggling with forgiving someone. Someone I thought of as a dear friend, that I trusted and loved as my own family. I need to find kindness, because the hurt and anger weigh heavily on my heart.

    Thank you, Suzanne. Your stories always touch my spirit. I am so sorry for your loss, but grateful that you took that chance to show kindness when you could and to share that message with me, with all of us.

  2. 9-15
    2:07
    am

    Yes kindness is always the better way to go in fact it is one of the fruitages of the spirit. Suzanne you make a lot of people happy through your website.

  3. 9-15
    2:27
    am

    Thank you for sharing a touching post.I am sorry the circumstances are what they are..But I have goosebumps and my heart was touched.I think the world would be a much happier place with more kindness..What a nice gentle reminder for myself today!! Big Hugs to you and your family!!

  4. 9-15
    3:32
    am

    Thank You so much!!! I have been struggling with something at work and while it may be minor to many it is weighing heavily with me. Your post today made me realize just how fragile we all are and how important it is to always “show” kindness, not just think it. Thank you again.Liz in New York

  5. 9-15
    3:37
    am

    Kindness is always the right choice.

  6. 9-15
    4:08
    am

    wow, how heavy, it gave a shiffer down my spine.
    i do understand how you must have felt though, i am really an open person, always having a coversation even with total strangers, but sometimes it is difficult to know how to respond.
    sometimes the person doesn’t want you to strike a conversation even, and you don’t want to impose, especially in difficult situations.
    hats off to you for writing the email anyway, maybe it gave some peace of mind somehow.

    i wish you strength and i hope you will remember, how much joy your stories bring, even if people do not always let you know, i think they make more impact than you know.

    hugs

  7. 9-15
    4:48
    am

    Wow! Such insight! That is a great post. Thank you.

  8. 9-15
    4:50
    am

    So sad. I hope he read that email and it put one last smile on his face. We never know what kind of turmoil is going on inside someone’s head, until sometimes it’s too late.
    I always tell my children to smile at people, it may be just what they needed.
    I hope you son is handling it well.

  9. 9-15
    4:54
    am

    It’s hard sometimes when you just don’t know what they need. But you’re right, be kind always, put yourself out there, the worse that can happen is the other person will push you away. But you offered, and you never know if that’s all they wanted to begin with. It’s easy to be kind in an easy situation, but why is it so difficult to show the act of kindness in a situation like this? It’s what makes us stronger. I’m sorry you’ve had this weighing on you :hug:

  10. 9-15
    5:16
    am

    Your thoughts are so true and so inspiring. I’m sorry about the first lady but you truely did what you believed was best, I think most of us would have re-acted the same way. Your blog in inspiring, full of joy and laughter and you bring more smiles to people than you will ever know.

  11. 9-15
    5:21
    am

    Good for you Debbie for deciding to forgive. Choosing not to forgive and carrying that burdon with us weighs to heavy on our hearts and on our lives.

  12. 9-15
    5:24
    am

    :yes: :yes: :yes:

  13. 9-15
    5:26
    am

    I am sorry that you have a heavy heart today. I hope he read the e-mail before he took his own life. Maybe, just, maybe you gave him a little peace that he had been looking for.
    You are so right in saying, reaching out with kindness is ALWAYS the right thing to do. When it is hard, this is the exact moment it is needed the most. You did the right thing e-mailing him back.

  14. 9-15
    5:36
    am

    Every person you lock eyes with has something serious going on somewhere in their lives. Thank you for this post. I know what I am going to do today. reach out.

  15. 9-15
    5:37
    am

    Thank you for sharing this, Suzanne. Your wonderful blog usually gives me laughs and smiles and recipes and just fun….today it gave me much more. This is often a very hard world for so many people and kindness, from any quarter, is a blessing. Kindness is something we can all give.
    “…and the greatest of these is love.”
    Respectfully,
    Carol

  16. 9-15
    5:54
    am

    Big rolling tears. Your post makes me want to call my mom. I haven’t been able to talk to her for 7 years. I just can’t talk to her if she refuses to deny the past. She can’t accept my son. Nothing is ever good enough for her. Toxic relationship to the max. Big rolling tears.

    I come to this site to get insight into life and encouragement that I never got when I was growing up.

  17. 9-15
    6:18
    am

    I don’t even know who you are talking about, but I’m crying. I hope he is in Heaven, with no sadness or pain. Rest in Peace.

  18. 9-15
    6:26
    am

    Suzanne,
    Even if he didn’t read the email before he took his life, the thoughtfulness, selflessness, and kindness of your words are out there in the universe now. Touching many. I feel fortunate to have been touched.

    Peace – Beth aka oneoldgoat

  19. 9-15
    6:44
    am

    Such a sad thing to happen. Suzanne…you certainly have a good heart and I feel writing that email was the right thing to do. He may not have recieved the email…then again me may have…but was too far along in his despair for it to have stopped him. But..at least if he did read it he knew that someone was grateful for a kind act he had done. Either way…you didn’t just sit back and say nothing…you acted with kindness. It seems we all learn something from your blog site whether it be a recipe or what ever…today we learned that it’s important not to hold back when it comes to showing an act of love to someone who needs it. Thanks Suzanne.

  20. 9-15
    7:01
    am

    Oh Suzanne. Loving thoughts to you, your family and his family today.

  21. 9-15
    7:04
    am

    Amen, Sister Suzanne! While it is very unlikely that any of us will find ourselves living without any guilt whatever, practicing kindness goes a long way in reducing the number of those events for which we do (or should) feel guilt.

  22. 9-15
    7:04
    am

    I am sorry you are hurting. Peace. Peace. Peace.

    Thank you for the nudge I am needing right now.

  23. 9-15
    7:18
    am

    your post serves as conviction and encouragement and reassurance from God for those of us who needed it… thank you for sharing this

  24. 9-15
    7:25
    am

    omg suzanne…..{{{{{huggs}}}}}
    thoughts and prayers for you, your family and his family

    bee…. i do the same thing….you never know what someone else is going thru….that small act may make a world of difference in someones life…

  25. 9-15
    7:30
    am

    As I have come to know you through these posts and pictures, I believe that whoever you come across, you have treated with kindness. (Example: Onery Angel) I believe that the second meeting with the woman in churc was a kind act. You were concerned for her comfort. My hope is that the gentleman you are speaking of read the email from you so that his soul is more at ease.
    You are a wonderful person and to share this with us now proves it. You have shared a great lesson with us all. Thank you for that! :heart:

  26. 9-15
    7:46
    am

    Amen! :hug:

  27. 9-15
    7:48
    am

    You are an angel!

  28. 9-15
    7:53
    am

    Suzanne, you are indeed a very special woman, you share your life and intermost feelings. I hope you know how much you mean to all of us. God Bless you!!!

  29. 9-15
    8:00
    am

    There are many in the world that carry so much from the past or find each day too much to bear. Most of the time we don’t even know they are troubled until it’s too late. A blog is a personal look into someone’s life. Your blog offers us the simple pleasures of life…watching as the chickens and ducks run down to the meadow soothes my country soul. You have given a little piece of yourself to every person who visits your blog Suzanne. You did more than most to reach out.

  30. 9-15
    8:28
    am

    :heart: God bless you for your kindness.

  31. 9-15
    8:46
    am

    This post touched me deeply. Thank you.

  32. 9-15
    8:50
    am

    I have just started following your blog, i found it by accident one day, and have been very happy reading the excerpts of your life since then.

    I just wanted to comment on the strong topic you took today. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your experience and suggestions for good will. I hope it touches others as it has me.

    God Bless.

  33. 9-15
    8:51
    am

    What a great post Suzanne, you are a special person and reading your blog brightens my day, today you gave us food for thought, thank-you.

  34. 9-15
    9:04
    am

    even better if you actually live it instead of just in that “v8 ” moment

  35. 9-15
    9:06
    am

    Thank you for the simplicity of that beautiful statement.

  36. 9-15
    9:23
    am

    Thank you for your post today…
    I had a friend, we were pregnant at the same time, raised our kids and became very close. I was transfered out of state and lost contact for a while. Sometime later, after moving back, I saw her in the grocery store and something didn’t seem right.I didn’t pursue it and shortly after she comitted suicide. Years later, I have deep regrets…my thoughts are with you.

  37. 9-15
    9:39
    am

    Thank you… Another lesson I learned from this beautiful post is that we need to learn and grow from our experiences and that second chances are gifts. We are all individually responsible for our actions and kindness matters…Hoping you are finding peace in the fact that you did the right thing for you.

  38. 9-15
    9:56
    am

    There is so much tragedy in people’s lives, it is shocking. Thank you for the reminder to take time for those around us who we know are hurting. A kind word can sometimes be life saving. There are so many who surround us that have hidden pain, unspoken, that we would do well to sow the seeds of kindness with everyone we meet. Love wins.

  39. 9-15
    10:00
    am

    I doubt seriously that there is a reader out there that has not been in this same position in one form or another, many times. Thank you Suzanne for the honest, personal moment that reaffirms the incredible power of simple kindness in our everyday lives.
    Peace be with you…………..

  40. 9-15
    10:22
    am

    God Bless YOU!

  41. 9-15
    10:22
    am

    What a powerful post! It seems so many people are so volatile and demanding and thinking of themselves and what they want, that we all need the reminder to think about others and how a word, or smile or touch from us might make all the difference. I had a co-worker years ago who killed himself and although we weren’t close and had not had any issues, I still always regretted not taking that first step to get to know him better. We all have those regrets. In both cases you did what you believed to be right, and I’m praying for peace for you, your family, and his.

  42. 9-15
    10:24
    am

    Who among us does not have a regret about someone we should have been kinder to? The truth is we all make mistakes, but if we learn from them, then we have done the work that was put out there for us. By emailing him, you did that. Whether he saw it or not, this was your part. Good for you, Suzanne. You did what you could. I’m sorry for your pain. Hugs. :hug:

  43. 9-15
    10:33
    am

    Heartbreaking. Thanks for the reminder to be kind, and to live each day the best you can. Hugs.

  44. 9-15
    11:02
    am

    Kindness is always worthwhile, not matter the outcome. I always try to tell my neices and nephew (teenagers) that all the things they worry about now -who is pretty or popular is all well and good but in the end kindess is what people remember.

  45. 9-15
    11:07
    am

    So well said!

  46. 9-15
    11:10
    am

    Thanks a lot for sharing this heart warming incident. I have actually been trying to get myself to forgive someone for quite sometime now but the hurt goes so deep it is difficult. You post has made one thing clear to me…. that I am on the right track and when I will be able to show kindness I shall free myself of the burden that I am carrying. This is also what HH The Dalai Lama says. It is just a bit difficult to practise. But I sure hope I will be able to do it some day soon in the near future …
    Thanz a lot for the inspiration ….

  47. 9-15
    11:23
    am

    Thank you for that gentle reminder!

  48. 9-15
    11:59
    am

    My eyes are full of tears right now Suzanne. My heart breaks for the family/ies involved. You never know what affect a small act of kindness will have on a person. Thank you for the reminder – we all should choose kindness above all. :heart:

  49. 9-15
    12:00
    pm

    Wise and thoughtful words Suzanne. I hope your email follow-up to him will bring you peace, comfort and closure in the days ahead.

  50. 9-15
    1:00
    pm

    How sad and how tragic…that really touched me and I agree with Bee up there, just a smile and kind word can really touch someone. I know one time I was in a grocery store and VERY nervous, going through a trial, and this old man just sort of joked lightheartedly in the aisle and you can’t believe how it lightened my load/uplifted me..just one simple phrase, lighthearted…and smiles from people have touched me MANY times. So, yes, I agree, I try and smile and be kind and loving to others. one time, I was standing in line at a Dollar Store, and two women were ganging up on the young cashier,and I knew it was because of race…so when the first woman left and the second was still there, she hung around long enough to hear me take up for the girl/be kind to her and she left in a huff/shocked. Do the right thing, always, I say. There have been times too when I wished I had done something and did not…said something and didn’t…but now I try to take every opportunity.

  51. 9-15
    1:17
    pm

    Hugs, Suzanne.

  52. 9-15
    1:38
    pm

    We are all so much more fragile than anyone knows. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family and the kind gentlemen. Bless you for your kindness to him and many others.

  53. 9-15
    2:36
    pm

    Your writing is such a gift – you are able to touch people and inspire them. You and this man and his family are all in my prayers. Thank you for inspiring all of us to always choose kindness. Your words will always be with me.

  54. 9-15
    2:50
    pm

    I have regretted every unkind word I have ” shared ” with other people .
    I have no regrets about kindness “shared” , except I should have ” shared” more .
    I had an aunt who commited suicide ten years ago .
    We didn’t talk alot , but I knew she was there.
    Maybe, we should have talked more
    I still think of her and miss her !!!
    God’s peace to you , your friend and his family.

  55. 9-15
    4:19
    pm

    Thank you, Suzanne, and hug your kids for me. I have always tried to emulate my mother, who had a smile and kind word for everyone she met. She knew no strangers. I try my best, but like many of us I sometimes don’t know how to approach someone who probably needs that kind word the most. My greatest regret has been losing touch with friends because of a “busy” life. I’ve had 2 friends go rather quickly from cancer, before I even realized they were sick. Others were there to help them, read mail, do kind little deeds, but not I. I think about both of them and hope I never have to add to that number because I was too busy to make a phone call or send an email.

  56. 9-15
    4:41
    pm

    What a powerful post! I think most of us are guilty of missed opportunities–I know I am. V.

  57. 9-15
    7:03
    pm

    Suzanne
    A very wise man once taught me that all emotions stem from either love or fear, and that fear is just the absence of love.

    Thank you for your williness to open yourself up and write about such a sensitive subject. Judging by all the posts you have touched many people today.

    This week I will choose as my daily affirmation “I choose kindness in every oportunity”

  58. 9-15
    8:06
    pm

    That is very touching – and so true. My heart aches for those (and there are many out there) that don’t find the help they need. I’ll lift you up in prayer as you sit in that last pew.

  59. 9-15
    8:33
    pm

    Very dear Suzanne, the light of kindness shines from your blog every day. The situation with the young woman was hard to call. You did the best you knew to do at the time. More recently you did wonderfully. Be comforted.

  60. 9-15
    8:54
    pm

    Love conquers all. If there ever was truth, that is it. :snuggle:

  61. 9-15
    10:20
    pm

    Prayers to all…
    Thanks, Suzanne.

  62. 9-16
    9:11
    am

    Thank you.

    Thank you for sharing both experiences and your feelings about each. So many of us are paralyzed with indecision in these kinds of situations and then we are left with regrets and remorse. Your advice to choose kindness is great.

    I’ve always enjoyed your blog and the humor and optimism and personality that shines through. (One of my personal favorites is “The Path to the River and a Tale of Two Dogs”). This “Treatise on Kindness” is the new favorite.

    Catherine

  63. 9-16
    2:08
    pm

    I can´t say anything more than has already been said. But your friend did see the email…even if from heaven.God bless you.

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