Small Kindnesses

Sitting among hundreds of little humans at the Davies Symphony Hall Concert for Kids this morning, waiting for the concert to begin, I started to think about climate change, refugees, mass shootings, and what being an American may mean today. I thought about how we all need to do so much better, in so many big ways. And I realized that my sphere of influence had never felt smaller.

As we left the concert, Marc (who was still in Cincinnati) called to say that our elderly neighbor, Ed,* fell in the bathtub today, and his wife, Helen, couldn't help him up. I immediately called Helen. She explained that in addition to calling Marc, she had gone across the street to a neighbor she saw was home, but who didn't answer the door. Helen said she continued down the street to another neighbor who fortunately came right over, with his tiny daughter in tow. He helped a shaken and exhausted, but seemingly unhurt, Ed out of the tub and into bed to rest. As Helen said, "It was really scary. It has been an awful morning."

Wyatt overheard my end of the conversation, and he became visibly concerned about Ed. I explained what had happened, and that Ed seemed okay now, just tired. Wyatt supposed, based on his own experience, that Ed had been standing up and playing around in a wet bathtub with the water running when he fell. I put on my best serious face and opined that it was probably just an accident.

On our Muni ride home this afternoon, Wyatt and I talked about Ed and how we hoped he was feeling better. Somehow during this discussion, we decided to bake Helen and Ed an apple pie. Maybe it would improve their day. Or maybe they would just have pie. Either way, we figured it was worth doing. The pie turned out beautifully. We carried it over while it was still hot. Helen beamed at us when she opened the door, and she said the pie would really brighten up the instant chicken soup she was having for dinner. Ed was still resting and didn't feel like eating. She mentioned how lonely she had felt during the day, so we promised to stop by tomorrow, too.

Wyatt and I walked back home and after dinner, as Wyatt dug into his own slice of pie (yes, we made two pies), I noticed a missed call and voicemail on my phone. It was Helen, calling to say how much she and Ed had enjoyed the pie and had eaten the whole thing. Just kidding! They only ate some of it, and "Kelly and Wyatt, you did a great job!" Wyatt grinned, made me play the message three times and asked me to save it so he could listen again. We talked about how it feels when you do something kind for someone and then hear a message like Helen's, and the answer is "REALLY GOOD."

I think the kid's heart grew at least one size today. And while our neighborly pie baking and delivery is a very small thing, especially in light of all the big things that need doing in the world, it's something.

I can't be the only one who feels like she affects so little. But it doesn't mean I shouldn't try. Perhaps all of our small kindnesses in all of our communities could add up to something big. In the worst case, there will be more kindness. Or more pie. Either way, we win.

*Neighbors' names have been changed, because if I fell in the bathtub, I might not be thrilled about someone writing about my mishap on her blog.