The Gift of Small Kindnesses


“When true friends meet in adverse hour;
‘Tis like a sunbeam through a shower.
A watery way an instant seen,
The darkly closing clouds between.”
~ Sir Walter Scott

When someone is going through the bumps and difficulties of life, a friend can make their journey that much easier.

We have become a society where we are not good at asking for or accepting help when we need it; and where in our desire not to intrude, we often don’t offer that help when we could have given it so easily.

Conversely we often we don’t need someone to fix things for us – we’ll be fine to get through things in our own way, and that is also how we learn in life. But it can be so uplifting to have someone ease our burden, if only for a moment.  It reminds us that we are loved, that there is hope and goodness still, and it allows us to focus on what’s in front of us so we CAN find our way through.

Don’t ever underestimate the gift of small acts of kindness.  A simple phone call, a cuppa and a chat, a bunch of flowers from your garden, a casserole or a pot of soup, the loan of some books or DVDs – all of these simple gestures can make a vast difference in the life of someone who is busy coping with whatever life has just thrown them.

Image by Paul Grover

Anyone who has suffered from depression, ongoing family or relationship issues, the prolonged care of a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness, or who has suffered a loss or setback in life will tell you that support is often strong to start off with, but fades away, or worse – people begin to tell them to ‘think positive’, to ‘look on the bright side’, to ‘snap out of it’, ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or other such sentiments that are equally unhelpful.

Some situations in life are over in an instant, but leave a lasting impact.  Some situations take a very long time to resolve. And we all manage grief and loss in our own way.  It’s actually okay to let people who are in the midst of misery express grief, be sad, feel flat or lost, and be anything but the life of the party.

So how do we help when difficulties are drawn out for our friends and loved ones?  Think about the times in your own life when things have been hard. What made a difference to you?  Firstly, don’t judge them, and don’t feel you have to fix anything or take responsibility for changing them or their situation.

Ask them how they’re going.  Ask them what they need.  Sometimes we need to talk things through, sometimes we need to talk about ANYTHING other than what’s really happening, sometimes we want to be left alone. And our needs might change from moment to moment, hour to hour.

The best advice here is to stay in contact, and then ask the simple questions:

‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you okay?’

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

If you can see an obvious need, don’t be afraid to ask and then step in.  Or if it’s appropriate, just go ahead and do it – hose the garden, mow the lawn, bake the cake, mind the kids, take the washing off the line, bundle up a care parcel.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a hug or a kind word.

When I was ill recently, one of my lovely writing sisters brought me homemade chicken soup, and another brought me a book.  It was the difference between me eating something healthy and decent, and going without or grazing on whatever I could scrounge in the pantry that didn’t require cooking. And I had soul food in the form of something new to read. Heaven.

Image from knitsheerbliss.typepad.com

Two days ago, I came home after a long and very difficult day at my dying grandmother’s bedside to find that one of my dear friends had washed my dishes, put my teapot on the bench, filled the kettle with water – ready to go, primed the pot with my favourite French Earl Grey, and left a note telling me to call her if I needed to, that she loved me, and that all I had to do was flick the switch on my kettle and I would have a soothing pot of tea in no time flat.  It was one of the most comforting and supportive gestures I’ve known.

It’s these small acts of thoughtfulness, these simple gestures of kindness that ease the way for us when life’s road gets hard.

How can you be a friend today?

Image by Nha Le Hoan

12 thoughts on “The Gift of Small Kindnesses

  1. Nicole This is such a beautiful moving post I love you and how and what you write. This has moved me to tears today- first to see you sitting with your Nana who is so special to you secondly you have touched a chord in me that will spur me on to take action and to ask. It seems this current journey I am on is so much about asking and I still seem to have to accept that it is okay to ask. Today I will be a friend my being true first to me and then sharing my feelings as well as calling a friends and asking how my I help Love and blessings xxoo
    PS Thank you for stirring up some squashed emotions

  2. This was just an excellent post – I have found myself in many of the situations you described and all I wanted was a “how are you” or a “can I help” and not cliched advice. I hope this awakens people’s sensitivity – I know it helped me be more aware.

  3. Yes it is those small love filled gestures that make a difference…and the hugs. I find it difficult to ask for help but with each day acceptance and courage are helping me through…and finally dear one..How are YOU? Are you OK? and is there anything I can do to help YOU? Big hugs Sista..X

  4. What a beautiful post! You described all the things that people minimize others by suggesting they have total control and they should just move on. The suggestion to ask “How can I help you?” is an easy way to connect and offer assistance. Unfortunately fewer people then we would like to believe are capable of good communication. Hence, people avoid helping or even avoid contact. It’s painful for both sides. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to avoid others in their time of need, simply because one wouldn’t know what to say, how to say it, and lacks empathy. Could you imagine having the inability to communicate effectively and help others?

    You have emphasized the kind gestures of your dear friend while you spend time with your dear grandmother. First, what a blessing your friend is to you and it shows how much you appreciate the simple things. Second, you know how important “time” is to spend with your grandmother and I’m sure she’s appreciating your presence to be with her. Finally, you are caring and loving person and while you are giving for your grandmother you are receiving from a dear friend. It’s the simple things in life that matter…time, hugs, and love.

  5. I really enjoy reading your posts and seem to connect with them all thank you. You remind me to be the change I want to see and send out the ripple effect of love xxx

  6. That was lovely what your friends did for you. It’s so rewarding being able to offer these little supportive services to friends when they need it, and likewise to receive them. I’ve sometimes felt that the response to such small gestures seems way out of proportion with the simple thing done, but then it’s not so much the gesture itself but the thought behind it that creates the response. Someone thinking of you and caring about you enough to go out of their way to show it, that’s what you need when you’re struggling, and I’m very glad that you’re surrounded by that kind of support system. Thank you for the reminder to be a friend, having that opportunity in life is a real blessing.

  7. Hi Nicole, Loving this blog. I am a long-term m.e/chronic fatigue sufferer.Know only too well how a little bit of kindness can make a huge difference. Thank you for sharing your blogs of kindness with the World. Be well Nicole. x Jane B

    Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2012 20:29:50 +0000 To: jane.bates777@hotmail.com

    • Hi Jane, I agree that all it takes is a little bit of kindness in this world to make a huge difference in someones life. I feel that you are a kind, warm, loving soul dealing with a major debilitating illness that is way to often greatly misunderstood. I just wanted to send you a note of kindness to let you know that you are in my prayers, and I am sending angels your way.

      Love and Light, Heather

  8. Wow! You have some very kind friends, and anecdotes ;). There’s an award I gave to you on my blog, Nicole, to thank you for having such an amazing blog.

  9. Pingback: The Value of Encouraging Other People | Cauldrons and Cupcakes

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