“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
― William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads
It struck suddenly. An active young mother fell ill to a sickness that had no name. She aged many years in the first week after losing much feeling on her left side, from her face to her foot. With children in elementary school, the mother who had been able to run the gamut of volunteer responsibilities, to cook, clean, and play with her kids was suddenly yanked to a place of little activity. Everything required more energy than she could muster even with a great amount of effort. Life couldn’t be stopped, but she was unable to participate in life the way her children were accustomed. A young lady from the woman’s church was in high school and decided she wanted to do more than watch television after school. Sarah, at 16, contacted the young mother and told her she would be coming to help her two days a week after school–the mother needed to come up with things Sarah could do for her. There was no question of “Would you like me to help?” It was a certainty that she would be coming every Tuesday and Thursday. With that phone call began a beautiful relationship, all because a young girl was willing to offer her help when she saw someone in need. Her acts of kindness and love were nameless only because there were so many.
I’ve written before about kindness and the lessons I learned in my visits to the nursing home with my mother when I was a little girl–our ‘Rolling Store of Relationship’ I’ve called it. I was being taught how to show kindness and love, though I really didn’t know there was an option. There are people who sign on for mission work and community-related volunteer opportunities, and they are doing wonderful things. That is not what I want to talk about, though. I want to talk about your being a Sarah, about your being someone who sees a need and quietly steps in, about your finding ways to make life a little easier for another person and better for both of you. I’m talking about the best portion of a good man’s life.
While there are lots of ways people can help each other, I think it is the interaction of generations that is the most beautiful and beneficial for all involved. When you who are younger reach out to help someone who is older, many things happen, not the least of which is you feel needed, and they feel cared for. Maybe you are older but still kicking–offering to teach a younger person to do something that you love is a gift they can get nowhere else. I know most people need concrete examples so they have a place to start.
- Smile. Try the experiment of smiling at everyone you see who has a scowl on their face. You’ll be amazed at the results!
- Teach. Young can teach older to use electronic devices; older can teach young skills they might not yet possess.
- Visit. In today’s busy world, it can be hard to stop and just sit, but that is something you can give someone who is home alone much of the time.
- Write. You might not feel like you have time to sit and visit as often as you’d like, so why not write notes to people? Everyone likes getting mail, especially if it isn’t a bill.
- Rake. This is the time of year that the leaves start falling. Yards can fill up pretty quickly. Maybe you know a young couple who has everything but time, or an older person who is not physically able to rake. Either way, you might just show up with your rake and tarp and let them know you are there to help.
- Walk. Do you know someone who has dogs but has a hard time getting out to walk them or who isn’t very mobile? Let them know that you would like to walk the dog for or with them. Be sure to walk on the left and bring something to clean up after the dog.
- Clean. Maybe you have money and not enough time to help a young mom, older person, or someone going through a hard time health-wise to clean their home. Let them know that you’d like to pay for someone to clean their house. Ask first if they have someone they would like to use. If they don’t, offer the services of a reputable person.
- Listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and most people want to share that story. Take a minute to listen to another person’s story. If you are listening to an older person, this is a priceless gift of allowing them to share who they were before they were “just some old man or woman.” You might learn a thing or two in the process.
- Drive. Not everyone has a car, not everyone drives, and not everyone wants to get out on their own. If you are able to drive someone to the grocery, to vote (November 4th will be here soon), or just to get out for a pretty drive in the country, you might be surprised at the difference your help makes.
- Help. Find ways to help a young mother who has discovered she has more needs than energy to meet them, or a young father who wants to help his son play ball but doesn’t know the game. The next generation always needs the generations before.
The ways to help another person are endless, but this list is a good start. I’m not sure if Sarah had a list, but she picked up the phone and made the call. Today, I am healthy, and I am the Godmother of Sarah’s son. It was her act of kindness many years ago to help me, a very sick young mom, that began a relationship we still enjoy. She taught my son to drive and she taught me to accept love in a new way. It’s the simple things that can enrich lives–their lives, our lives. It might be a peer, a neighbor, a relative, a person you pass on the street. When you do ‘good’, it is the best portion of your life, as you commit little nameless acts of kindness and love. I do disagree with Wordsworth on one part. I believe those acts are not forgotten. They are remembered and treasured in the hearts we touch.