Something I’ve been noticing a lot, during this Year of Living Mindfully (that’s actually a better title for this blog, but it’s too late to change it!) …. is kindness. I’ve blogged about that quite a bit, including here, here, and here.
That first linked post is about kindness I encountered away from home, in February — in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.
The second post is about kindness I deliberately decided to notice after I returned home — to beautiful Boston, Massachusetts.
The third one is about my realization that kindness, lately, has been making me cry even harder than cruelty has — and in a healing way.
And whenever I write about people who are on “My Teams” (the people who support me) — like here and here — I’m writing about kindness, too. That’s because Kindness and Competency are my two main criteria, when I’m picking team members.
I think kindness is all around us. I see it. I think I always have — when I’m open to it.
Sometimes, of course, it is very difficult — if not impossible — to see that kindness. Especially when cruelty is unmistakably present in the moment.
My experience on April 13, in Boston
As I wrote on April 16, I was in Boston on April 13, two days before this year’s marathon, walking around the site of the future bomb blasts, with my son. The proximity of that experience — in time and space — to the violence, danger, and cruelty on April 15 — felt traumatizing to me after the bomb blasts occurred.
What I haven’t told you yet was this: WHY I was in Boston with my son, on April 13.
There was another reason why April 13, 2013, was a happy day for me. Another reason, in addition to sharing — with my son and hundreds of other people — the excitement and anticipation that has always preceded every Boston Marathon.
I haven’t told you another reason why my memories of that day – when I was, with my son, in such close proximity to the violence and cruelty to come — were such good ones, that — when the bomb blasts occurred — I feared those good memories might be tainted for ever.
I was there, a few blocks from the Marathon finish line, with my son, on April 13 for ….
Dental appointments! Geesh! I’m assuming THAT was a surprise to read.
Dental appointments, which a lot of people might find a little traumatizing (and painful and even cruel, sometimes, too).
But I was happy to be there. (And my son had a good time, too, believe it or not.)
And that is amazing, especially for me.
Some background about why a trip to dentist might be scarier, for me. (Which I am putting in italics, because it’s the most personal section of this post, and I’m assuming some readers might want to skip or skim it.)
I have some reasons to be more scared of dental appointments, than most people. As I’ve also written about this year, I have an unusual heart which makes me prone to endocarditis. (I’ve gotten endocarditis three times within the last 15 years, but have caught it early enough to prevent any damage to my heart.) And a month ago (as I blogged about, of course), I thought I had endocarditis, again. I didn’t.
Question: What do 10 out of 10 doctors say would cause endocarditis, in somebody like me?
Answer: Any chance for bacteria in my mouth to enter the bloodstream.
In other words, any time my gums bleed, I am at heightened risk to get endocarditis, which — unless somebody vigilantly catches this almost immediately — will cause heart damage.
So, you can probably understand why anything — like going to the dentist — that might make my gums bleed, for any reasons, might feel extremely dangerous to me.
By the way, my medical team and I work very hard to prevent the danger. These extreme measures include my getting my teeth cleaned every three months, after I get an intravenous hit of anti-biotics.
Why — despite excellent reasons why a trip to the dentist would be especially awful, for me — my trip to the dentist on April 13 was wonderful.
Here’s why. My dentist, Dr. Luis Del Castillo, of 77 Beacon Street, Boston MA.
He is — besides being an excellent dentist — one of the kindest people I have ever met.
Really. A kind dentist! Go figure.
And, like kind people I have met everywhere, he likes to work with kind people. Here is Stephane, one of the other wonderful people at his dental office:
I met Stephane for the first time, that day. She was incredibly welcoming and thoughtful, explaining everything to me and asking me, frequently, with the kindest voice, “Are you okay, Ann?”
The Kindness of Strangers kills me.
What I mean by that is this: I am unbelievably touched when people who don’t know me seem authentically and beautifully kind.
It means a lot to me, because of my experiences as a child (in the hospital, in a time and place where parents couldn’t stay with their kids).
It means a lot, to a lot of people.
And I LOVED the way Dr. Del Castillo and Stephane interacted with each other, too, as they were working with me that day. I wrote a note about it, so I could remember it (and put it in my blog).
This was the interaction I noted:
Dr. Del Castillo (after successfully completing a procedure in my mouth, that was a little tricky): YES!!!
Stephane (to me): Have you ever seen anybody get that excited about dentistry?
Me: No. That is one of the things I love about him.
I’m looking at my line, above, and I’m noticing that I didn’t name — to Dr. Del Castillo in the moment — the other things I love about him, which are: (1) how kind he is and (2) how accessible he’s been to me, when I’ve been scared about something.
Dr. Del Castillo, if you’re reading this, I hope you know — at least, now — those things I appreciate, so much, in you.
Because of the kind way Dr. Del Castillo and Stephane were acting with me — and with each other — that day, I knew I was going to put them in my blog. I figured I would write about them within the next couple of days. Perhaps on April 16.
But then, other events ensued, delaying my writing about my wonderful experience at the dentist — until today.
Back to my point (and I did have one) about kindness.
When I am open to it, I see kindness around me.
It’s there. Sometimes it’s hidden, by the cruelty that can be around us, too.
Here’s something else I think:
Experiencing pain can make us kinder, to those around us. Not always. But it can happen, for sure.
I’ve seen that — in myself and in others.
I think I’m seeing that now, in Boston.
Evidence backing up my observation that people are being kinder in Boston, now.
I’m more distracted, right now, like most people in Boston. As a result, when I’m driving, it can take me a second to realize a light has changed.
Since April 15, when I’m sitting at a light and it changes, I notice my own distraction and step on the gas pedal (and here’s the punchline) …. BEFORE I hear a car beep.
This reminds me of a joke I heard on a David Letterman show, many years ago. It went something like this:
Scientists have identified the smallest measurable time span. It’s the amount of time between a light turning green and the guy behind you hitting his horn.
But people are not hitting their horns, now, IN BOSTON. For those of you who are familiar with that area of the U.S., THAT is headline news. (How come you’re not all over that, CNN? Huh?)
That huge change, which I’m observing, might just be evidence of something else. It might mean that everybody else — besides me — is more distracted. So they’re forgetting to hit their horns.
I am observing that people in Boston, in general, are more distracted. That is true.
But I’m also seeing more patience with each other’s distraction, here in Boston.
My final point, so I can finish this post.
On my walk, yesterday, between the hospital where I work and Fenway Park, near where I park my car each day, I saw this:
A few moments after I took this picture, some guy stopped me, trying to sell me something. I told him, kindly (I hope), that I wasn’t buying.
Then, he asked if he could give me a hug, and I said, yes. After the hug, as I was walking away, he said, “I hope I didn’t offend you.” I said, “You didn’t.”
Now, maybe he gave me a hug because I was wearing my badge, which identified me as a social worker in one of the Boston hospitals, which have been in the news lately. (I was too distracted to realize I was still wearing it, at that point.)
I don’t think so, though. I don’t think he noticed that.
I think he gave me a hug because we were both in Boston.
Boston Strong AND …
That’s what I wanted to tell you, today.
Thanks for reading, wherever you are.
P.S. As always, dear reader, if you think it would help you or anybody else to re-blog or otherwise share any post I write here, please feel free to do so. Thanks!