Small kindnesses live here.
Today, I am, with my sister and good friends, giving a concert for a dying woman. A woman who, barely knowing me, offered me one of the kindest gestures I’ve ever received. We will, with some of her best friends and neighbours gather in the palliative unit, sing old-timey gospel songs, a Marty Robbins tune or two and some we’ve written, inspired by people in our town and family. Songs with dialogues about living close to the ground, watching our roots grow, allowing our time to be measured out by sun, seasons, and others rather than contorting our days into twisted, ragged messes of rush.
My husband’s mom had cancer. When she was very apparently nearing her end, we, as a newly married couple, were starting a business, had an eleven month old daughter and were expecting our second child in two months. Everything was tight.
Around noon on a Monday, while I was preparing lunch for our daughter, the phone rang. The hospital calling, saying my mother-in-law was drawing her last breaths. With fingers that found dialing difficult, I called Glenn. “Hurry up, leave your tools, Simon will understand, and drive.”
The second call I made was to this woman. I knew she was home. I knew, as tiny towns are suspended upon an invisible webbed netting of connections, she knew our family. “Please, could you come.” She did. Within minutes I flew out the door under a hot July sun, to be at the hospital to help catch my husband when we told him he’d arrived too late.
Today is an opportunity, to repay, only in part, a deeply meaningful gesture. A gesture that embodies what a small community is. I am honoured and thankful as repayment doesn’t often happen in this way. It’s a rare opportunity.
I'm reminded of what seems a million other kindnesses given and received. Over and over again, all of them layered in between people and time. Holding doors, bringing over a cake or a meal when a baby is born, neighbours checking that you’ve turned your stove off when you are already ten miles down the road, pulling the ass from down the road out of a snowbank despite the fact he is a bonafide ass, the same ass putting in a good word for you which makes you rethink your proclamation of assness as a trifle too harsh, friends offering grain in support for your daughter venturing out on her dream of being a farmer, holding snotty-nosed babies so a momma can eat a meal, a woman dropping everything to come watch your baby so you can go to be with your life partner as he loses his momma. These are the power of community, the strength of it laying exposed. All the cliques and petty grudges peeled back so all can see what holds this community up, to view its elemental sustenance.
I'll go sing and I'll also write this as a way to say thank you, to honour this woman for what she did and also affirm that, by her actions, she helped reinforce that sense of care and concern remaining as the undercurrent here. A million opportunities of kindness are scattered around us, waiting for us to offer them to others. All are reminders that where small kindnesses are, we as a community are and each brings forth a reason for thankfulness.