Kindness Comes at All Ages

Recently I read John Steinbeck on kindness, courtesy of Brain Pickings. Current events have jolted me from a complacent faith in goodness. That’s not our story anymore—or is it?

Steinbeck wrote:

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too — in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well — or ill?

A bad back led to my own recent brush with kindness. My back had gone out and I could scarcely walk. One afternoon, my house a jumble, and my back even worse after a jaunt to the mailbox, it dawned on me to ask if Sophia, my neighbor’s 11 year old, might help with housework. Seemed unlikely, it was such a pretty Saturday afternoon.

She was delighted–and only had to ask her mother. Within minutes, she was at my house. She vacuumed the large house, including the flight of stairs and the edges along the baseboards in every room; swept and mopped the kitchen; tamed a paper tiger; and organized my granddaughter’s toys. She watered my wilting plants. She hugged me. She arranged a bouquet of flowers.



At the end of each task, she’d ask if she’d met my standards. I’d chuckle and nod.It turned out that this is the question her mother asks whenever Sophia says she has finished a chore at home. At my house, the only incomplete chore was that she could not   “pick up the exoskeleton of the cicada” that she found while vacuuming.

She  is not allowed to accept money for her work (in the past, she’s watched my dog when I’ve been out of town) so I come up with trades. This time, I’m going to give her a day of painting with watercolors from a class I took on painting a rainbow elephant. I’m trying to come up with a rainbow llama. Suggestions most welcome.

Meanwhile, I sense that Sophia and I simply meet each other’s standard for kindness. More kindness, please. Enough rage. More joy. More Sophia’s.She told me that she can sense peoples’ hearts. And I suppose that she sensed mine that day. Whatever it is, I am grateful for this young girl and her kind heart.