kindness interrupted…

July 17, 2008

Do you see this face? This is the face of pure goodness. It’s the reason I wanted the man in the first place, it didn’t hurt that he is so easy on the eyes too. This is the text I got from him at 2am last night on his way home from hanging out with some buddies and singing karaoke:

“Just picked up a guy that is desperate for some foodtaking him to mcdonalds”

The place in my pregnant heart where everything feels bigger jumped into my throat but I had not yet panicked. I call him, no answer. I call 9 more times in a row, no answer. I call his best friend, still somewhat calm but more nervous. He answers, listens and offers to call. He gets no answer, I go into hysterics.

Jorge finally calls, I freak (and I’m not prone to freak), he drops the poor guy off halfway to his destination in Churchill. I cry until he gets home…

The reason he never answered the phone: because he was inside, listening to the guy and his story, being kind…

I lay my head down on the pillow and can’t help but think about my dad. The ultimate friend to strangers and wanderers. I wonder how my mom did it, maybe it was a different time, maybe they just trusted the world, maybe kindness protected him.

I am pained that I was so afraid. My head was spinning with statistics of homelessness and mental illness…addiction…and yet I know and have been in these situations myself so many times before….Sometimes you have a sixth sense, sometimes you just know, and sometimes you are wrong. So we are careful and calculated, we guard our hearts, we hold back to protect other people we love, sometimes we do nothing at all…and many times this is an appropriate response.

“No one has ever done anything like this for me before, thanks man, you are like my guardian angel…” the old man says to my kindness husband.

“Awww….I’m no angel…” he replies.

I wake with an emotional hangover, not sure what to think. I feel a little silly, my husband is still horrified he scared me. And I wonder, outside of the moments when physical safety wins out, have we let fear take up too much space in us? Have we separated ourselves from the humanness right around? The kind that stands before us but over time has become fuzzy and hard to see. What are we really protecting? We tell ourselves stories to soothe the conscious but the greater risk lies in muffling our intuition.

The mental chatter wins while I do the dishes, the candle is lit though…hoping it will take me to the places I need to go.

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7 Responses to “kindness interrupted…”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I’m grateful for your transparency and for Jorge’s willingness to be present and available to someone in need. What a beautiful model it sets for your children. I will always carry with me the fact that my dad would empty his wallet when passing someone on the street needing money. Amazing how our parents’ acts of kindness root themselves deep in our hearts.

  2. Ann Says:

    Thanks for this post. About 3 years ago I stopped doing things like this b/c I ended up in a situation that almost ended very, very badly for me and for the woman I was trying to help. I spent the next few days crying off and on wondering what I, a mother of two young children, was thinking putting my life in danger for a stranger. The fear has won ever since. I need to find a balance between the fear and the kindness.

  3. Ellie Says:

    I so struggle with this same thing! My husband keeps the fear in the forefront and maybe that has saved me. I don’t know. I hate that it stops me from helping people like I instinctively want to do. My mother raised me to be compassionate first and foremost. My husband’s mother didn’t do the same for him. In his mind, the kindness stops at the boarders of our property.

    I am so happy to hear that there are people like you and your husband out there that let their kindness triumph over their fear. It inspires me to try harder to do the same.

  4. Kristin Says:

    First of all, you have an amazing man & he was acting out of pure kindness & empathy.

    I think it’s a fine line, too. When I see people holding signs out asking for food or money, I don’t stop – and if I’m really honest, I lock my doors when I have babies in the car. But, I do take the time to look at their face and smile with genuine kindness to let them know they are not invisible to me. Sometimes I say a prayer, too.

    As a former social worker in the inner city, I would say that there are many ways to help. Jorge trusted his instincts, his gut and made a difference in that man’s life. But, there are others who will seem as genuine and sadly are not.

    I know this sounds callous, but most folks who are homeless are very versed in area services & know what they need to do to access them. Caritas is a great organization to spend some time helping if homelessness is a passion. They’ve organized many churches around Richmond & now they provide year round shelter & food to men, women & children. Steve’s on the Board & they strongly encourage people not to hand out food, but ask if they know about shelter & area resources.

    Thinking of you & your family. . .

  5. kindnessgirl Says:

    too clarify just a little- it’s interesting because I was thinking a little more abstractly when I wrote this but I came off more specific…and I still believe the risk was too great for Jorge to help the man even if I really understand, love and respect him.

    Ann- I’m so sorry for a yucky/scary experience…everything about the issue is complicated and messy.

  6. Kristin Says:

    So, your post has been on my mind. I opened my Oprah magazine a moment ago & there was a review called, “The Kindness Manifesto – Why we need to care now.” The book is called, “The Samaritan’s Dilemma”. Abstract or specific, it’s a great post that got people thinking – thanks! 🙂

  7. Jim Says:

    So true that kindness can be dangerous. How else can a relationship be described? After getting caught up on your blog, I wandered over to another favorite of mine. It was a little uncanny that there was this post about “small acts of compassion.”

    http://africaunchained.blogspot.com/2008/07/our-shared-humanity-chris-abani.html


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