Sunday, March 22, 2020

Kindness Is Contagious — Random Acts Kick the COVID-19 Blues

With so many media announcements sharing rules of what we cannot do and where we cannot go during the wise behavior of our communities to prevent unnecessary spreading of the COVID-19 virus, it’s easy to get a feeling of being trapped, even when we have the freedom to walk up and down the neighborhood and while we can still drive up to our favorite local restaurant for our take-out. There’s much to be grateful for in the world of the team “glass half-full” types, where I claim membership.

However, today’s gray skies invited a case of the blahs, hastened by the rainstorms that flowed without letup. The only cure I had at hand was to think back to childhood, when my mom would assign me the task of making a list of things that made me happy whenever I presented with a sullen mood.

I had plenty of work this week, and every freelancer is grateful for that, but the consideration of what else was on my checklist wasn’t going to be the game-changer for an attitude shift. The rain kept going.

Time for the wayback machine. Make a list. What had made me happy this week? About three weeks ago a 70 mph wind and rainstorm had taken out a good chunk of my back yard fence and I’d done zero about it since that time except lament to a dear neighbor (part-time pup, Barney’s, other mom) that it had happened. She told me that her oldest son was coming into town and he could help out. I’d forgotten about that until Saturday evening, when he greeted me with a big smile. He’d just completed a car repair on his car and he wanted to start on my fence.

It was already dark but he brought his brother, his brother-in-law and his father! One had a helmet light, and there were two iPhones with better flashlights than the ones I discovered in my house had leaked battery acid from non-use. (Memo: Get new flashlights after stores restock).

In 30 minutes, the four men, led by “my oldest boy” (I claim them as part mine as I do Barney), had taken care of Ms. Dawn Lee and all I could do was smile. The next day, my oldest boy returned with a hammer, to make sure all the nails were securely in place. And, as a sign of his mature perfection, he pulled 10 different nails out of “iffy” posts to find a more secure place to fix them. I couldn’t stop smiling or feeling more special as this incredible young man had thought to remember me. I’ve had the joy of watching him grow up the past two decades and I’m so proud of the adult he’s become.

Wednesday morning, my next-door neighbor and I had both forgotten to put the trash cans out, and given our night owl schedules sometimes, the unspoken pattern is whomever is first to get there puts both cans out and the other brings the cans back in. Except that this Wednesday, the horses had never left the barn. I'd like to brag on the City of Bryan waste truck driver who understood my series of laughable motions that resembled charades for "Can you help us? We forgot!" and he smiled, nodded, and motioned "I'll be back to get y'all when I'm going the other direction. No worries." As he did that, my neighbor and I talked about how grateful we were to be living here, where we have the best city services team and we're more than another account number.

Yesterday morning, a friend texted our “text message group” to remind all of us that the weekend approaching was Hallmark holiday movie marathon weekend. Yes, we’re all Hallmark junkies from time-to-time or all the time.

This morning a dear neighbor called to check on me to see if I needed anything from the outside world. How thoughtful! I said I’d be interested in any toilet paper if she found any. I was running low (haven’t been to try my luck at any grocery stores as I’d just run to the deli for some basics a few days ago). She said she’d look when she was out.

An hour later dear neighbor pulls up with two large shopping bags she deposited at a social distance in front of my door. She said she’d thought of a few things I might like and it would keep me from having to hit the grocery store (She knows how much I cannot abide grocery shopping since Albertson’s closed.)

To my delight, she’d stocked the bags with the most thoughtful items. One especially brought the biggest smile: a 10-pack of Ivory soap!! Plus two megarolls of TP and a roll of paper towels (my pattern: paper!). Ivory soap was my mom’s favorite choice and a childhood memory of the scent of those wonderful bar soaps I’d somehow forgotten in lieu of the fancier liquid soaps. What a grand memory!

The kindness behind every single item was so special. Plus, there was no way she could have known this, but my favorite brand of toothpaste was in that bag! We’ve known each other for thirty years, but she doesn’t have a clue of my favorite toothpaste…and yet, there it was.

Inspired by dear friend made me want to surprise someone and make them smile. So, I thought of who I might surprise…and did. That brought even more smiles, from them and from me. An hour later, I received an e-mail from a neighbor who shared some grand and poignant news. More smiles. Sky was improving and the rain was clearing.

An e-mail (reading while waiting in a drive-thru line) from a senior writer friend made me smile. Just for me, she’d sent me one of her blog posts from her archives that recalled our mutually favorite senior, now in Heaven. She had no way of knowing that just 10 minutes earlier, I’d driven past the former resident’s home, looked at the newly painted building, and I smiled. I shook my head at the coincidental timing.

Her blog post had a title that reminded me of my Mom—again. It was “Love Letters in the Sand,” a Pat Boone song that was noted as “the second song I ever heard” the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. Those were in the days where they kept you for a few days even if you had only had a standard delivery. And June Cleaver wore pearls when she washed the dishes, back then. My first three “songs” were inscribed in my baby book that my Mom faithfully kept of my entry into the world, accompanied by Dad’s pictures. Coincidence? Hmm, Don’t think so.

Back at the computer at home, a pal called me on Skype and we had a grand visit, laughing about some good memories. Text message arrived from a friend in the midst of a happy occasion, just to say ‘hi’ and ‘have a great day.’ IM’s popped up on Facebook from three different friends at once, all of which carried the equivalent of smiles. By then, the rain had stopped for good. I prepared a meal from the goodies dear friend had delivered and it was delicious. I must try cooking again soon. Next week, I will try again. Baby steps.

At the end of the day, I’d had multiple signs from above and from across the street and around the block that I was neither alone nor were things going to be bleak in the future. Just the opposite in fact. Out of each seeming disaster, there is always something to be grateful for.

At the top of the list, the researchers who are fervently trying to formulate antidotes and cures, for the health care workers who are front line taking care of those with COVID-19 and for all the city and state officials across the country who are prioritizing safety first practices for our safekeeping. We have reporters who keep the news going for us so we can stay current. And we have young people working in drive-thru windows trying to keep their bills paid. And our city services workers keep daily life flowing seamlessly, and though they're deserving of more shout-outs, sometimes they get lost in the shuffle.

Yes, times ahead are going to be rocky for a while. But if we have faith, rely on a sense of our surroundings as community, work together, look in on each other, and most of all, give those we know and care about a call to let them know they’re in our thoughts and prayers, we can get through this. Communicate however you like; text message, cell phones, landlines, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, e-mail or even mail a greeting card. Every smile you create is a random act of kindness and it just tends to domino if you jump on board and share your joy with those you care about (at a socially safe distance).

As the sign says, “Kindness is contagious.” May we all catch our fill of that in the weeks to come.

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