A few months ago I wrote about Alison Guernsey, the teacher who went an extra mile for the students in her care.
“She had to see before she could hear.
Alison Guernsey is a teacher in a K-8 school in which numbers of kids simply stopped coming to school, some for considerable lengths of time. Guernsey was saddened by the serial absences and the impact they had on her classroom and on the school. Not surprisingly, she felt she had failed, or the system had failed, or the world had failed; she was overwhelmed by a problem she could not conceptualize.
She was puzzled. Guernsey knew her students were happy at school; they had friendships that were disrupted by absence, and they missed significant special events. Their absence did not make sense. Finally, summoning her courage, Alison Guernsey went to her students’ homes to see if she could do anything to turn the situation around. She persisted in asking the same questions and listening carefully, sticking with her visits long enough to build trust with her kids and their parents.
She found out that the children she taught often had no clean clothes.”
They have clean clothes now because Alison Guernsey found a way to bring a washer and dryer to her school. Her efforts made an immediate difference in the lives of children and families and allowed other generous people to offer the same kindness to children in other schools across the country. At the time, I was particularly moved by a teacher’s willingness to move past her own assumptions in asking parents to talk about their children and in listening thoughtfully to what parents had to say.
Listening is an act of kindness.
Last week, many news outlets presented the Thanksgiving feel-good story about Jim Ford, a Repo Man with Illini Asset Recovery, who repossessed an elderly couple’s car, then paid off their debt, and returned the car to them free and clear. He actually went father, paying for an oil change and a thorough detailing of the car.
Another act of kindness because Jim Ford saw the couple, Stan and Pat Kipping, and recognized their struggle in an instant.
“My grandparents are gone,” he said, “but, you know, I could see them in the Kippings. I knew what was going on. The cost of medications have doubled or tripled… I knew why they were behind.”
Truly seeing someone is an act of kindness, and the actions that follow are far from random. Kindness follows connection, and connection arrives when we take the time or drop our guard enough to listen and to see. Many voices remind us that there is no such thing as a small act of kindness, no wasted acts of kindness; each act of kindness speaks of connection, and connection reminds us of what it is to be human and what it is to long for kindness.
Jim Ford and Alison Guernsey are ordinary folks who chose kindness; anyone can.
“My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama