Random act of kindness, or more?

June 19th, 2015 9:26 am

First Posted: 11/11/2014

Once in a while, something happens that begs the question, “Was that a coincidence, or something even greater?”

A friend and Abington Community Library Board member contacted me because she knew I worked with children.

“I’m looking for organizations that have a need for gently used books. We’re having our semi-annual book sale and any unsold books are donated to different organizations. What we don’t donate gets recycled.”

I was given several boxes full of great books which were distributed all over Friendship House. The early childhood teachers were thrilled with the board books for their toddlers and the foster children I hand-delivered them to were pleasantly surprised.

The outpatient department took some to spread around the waiting room. A number of copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul books were a big hit there. Chicken Soup for the Preteen’s, Kid’s, Mother’s and Child’s Soul, as well as Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Volumes I, II and III were donated. These books give the young patients coming in for trauma therapy something to do. Since we anticipate getting these donations twice a year, we decided to let kids take them home, if they feel moved to do so.

Later in the week, on Halloween Eve, I stopped into the autism department to ask how many kids would be coming by my office to trick-or-treat. I found the director laying out a tiny Halloween costume, complete with accessories. Knowing she doesn’t have little ones of her own, I asked whose it was.

“There’s one little boy who, I get the feeling, will be the only one to show up tomorrow without a costume,” she said. “There are financial problems at home and possibly a lack of motivation on the parents’ part. Just in case, I put this together to make sure he wouldn’t be left out.” Having been told by many children in foster care of the Halloweens without costumes, the Thanksgivings without dinner and the Christmases and birthdays without gifts, my heart was warmed by her forethought. Her kindness may provide that child’s only happy Halloween experience this year.

My husband and I had a rare night out when we went to see a comedian at the casino on a recent Saturday night. We got there early and had a cocktail while we waited for the show to begin. A woman seated next to us turned and smiled and before long, we were making small talk. She was a lovely lady who had moved to the Poconos after retiring from the New York City post office. She was thrilled to be treating her sisters to a night out and she mentioned that one was biological and the other had been adopted from foster care by their mother. I told her that I was a social worker who worked in that area and her eyes lit up. She explained that she had been looking for something to do, a way to feel useful, to give back. She had retired after 27 years with a nice pension, but she was still young and vibrant. She explained that her own children were grown and she had thought seriously about becoming a foster parent.

“There must be some reason you and I sat next to each other,” she said, as we exchanged contact information. “Maybe there is some child out there right now, just getting ready to need me.” I contacted her on Monday and she is actively going through the application process now.

I drove into the driveway one recent evening to find my 13-year-old stepping out of the house with an aluminum foil-covered platter. As I approached, the unmistakable smell of freshly baked cookies emanated from the package. I asked what she was up to and she explained that her class was asked to do random acts of kindness. She was about to deliver her home-made goodies to her favorite neighbor.

A few minutes later, she came home with a big smile on her face. The recipient is a lady we have enjoyed being neighbors with for the past 12 years. She has always been friendly and outgoing. She is about the same age as me and my husband’s mothers, and has always said how much she enjoys the sounds of the children playing outside, filling up our old neighborhood with life. Our parents are not nearby and her children are also far away, so we look out for each other. If either one of us needs something, we know we can pick up the phone or walk across the street and ask. We take care of her snow removal and she bakes us the best crumb cake imaginable. This was the first time anyone in our household had baked for her, and we never could’ve known the impact it would have.

My daughter received a hand-written note a few days later. It seems that the Random Act of Kindness project was assigned on the very day that our neighbor had received some difficult news. She had been diagnosed with cancer.

When the doorbell rang, she had finished telling her children on the phone. The next day she knew she had to schedule very serious surgery and start the battle of her life. Despite having loving children who would come and care for her after surgery, as well as numerous friends to assist in other ways, she was, at that very moment, afraid and alone.

Fast forward to current day and our neighbor has come through her surgery beautifully. The outlook is extremely positive and her smile has returned. Looking back, it is uncanny how this little act of kindness came just when it was needed most.