Octo Observations: Be Kind

My last article on Woman Around Town was entitled Random Acts of Kindness. If you read it, you will know it was inspired by a thoughtful phone call from the widowed husband of a sweet friend who died several years ago. He has never remarried, and while his daughter was helping him sort through books, she found my first effort, entitled Get Moving: A Joyful Search to Meet and Embrace Life Transitions. He sat down and read it, loved it and shared it with a friend. His special thank you call touched my heart. Thus, I decided to write about the importance of each of us reaching out to enrich someone else’s life.  

The story does not end with Bill’s call. This weekend we spent an enjoyable 90 minutes with him. We caught up on his life and how he is coping, how we have all grown even more appreciative of generous gestures by other people. Bill brought us a gift that now hangs on our front door. It is a simple wooden plaque, painted with the powerful phrase, “Be Kind…” accentuated by a red heart.

“Where did you find this?” I asked. Bill regaled us with the story. Apparently, these wooden signs are made and distributed by a neighbor of his. As of now, the handmade signs have found resting places in all 50 states plus a few other countries. With each plaque comes an envelope containing this message:

“I started making the `Be Kind’ signs as a way to cope with all the negativity and polarizing messages that exist today. What began as a simple sign in my front yard has spread across the country, and signs are now on display in schools, businesses and friends’ and strangers’ front yards as a way to remind people to ‘Be Kind.’

It is a simple reminder that a kind word or gesture has power and can change the trajectory of someone’s day. Please place the sign in a highly visible area (preferably outside) so the message continues to spread.

If the words on each sign can touch just one heart, then my purpose has been served.  Thanks so much for helping to spread the message of love and kindness, one sign at a time.”

Included in this message is the artist’s name along with her email address. I wrote to thank her for her “mission” of goodness. Before this story is finished, hopefully, I will receive a reply from her. Maybe she will give permission to share her name so that if you want to have your own sign, you can contact her. 

The artist responded quickly, and requested anonymity. No wonder; it would be impossible for ONE person to keep up with the deluge of requests that could result from this one story. But at least we can take heart in knowing that her “Be Kind” effort is spreading far and wide.

Just a thought. After the tragically horrific shootings in Texas and Ohio this past weekend, wouldn’t it make sense if every TV station in the land and every public building reminded people of the need to “Be Kind?” Can’t each of us try to do whatever possible to change the negative narrative of our country? 

Among unread emails today I discovered one that caught my interest. Are you familiar with the expression, “Shoulder Taps?” It was often used during my youth as a signal to “cut in” at school dances…thus, allowing guys a chance to dance with a gal who was someone else’s partner. The custom required a quick tap on the shoulder of the fellow, and he was expected to relinquish his girl for the remainder of the song. Very civilized and proper. In today’s world, this practice is probably extinct. Luckily, I do believe there are still youngsters who treat each other with respect and courtesy. 

“Shoulder Taps” is currently being practiced by a middle-aged man named Bill Hart in California. He is an author and 20 year-long life/business career coach. Successful in his teaching, he makes videos, and the one today shared an experience of the coach and his wife as they were enjoying lunch at a restaurant. 

Looking around the room, he noticed an older lady, very attractive and alone, sitting at a nearby table. Soon she was joined by family, including three young grandchildren. The coach was mesmerized by this woman’s radiance. As he and his wife departed, he paused at the table, leaned down, and said, “Excuse me, but has anyone told you today how lovely you look?” To which, she replied, “I know you.” Realizing they had never seen each other before, the coach answered, “Oh no, m’am, we don’t.” But the lady shook her head, saying, “Yes, I do know you. A year ago, I lost my husband, and your words are exactly the same as he would have said to me.”

Touched to the core, the coach’s eyes filled up. His day was made. On the video he commented, “God taps us on the shoulder and uses us for just that moment. We listen, and the more we listen, the more in alignment we are with God.” What a beautiful thought….to take the time to reach out and away from ourselves, to make an effort to say something unexpected and kind to a complete stranger….well, isn’t that how we can each do our small part to make the world a slightly better place?

Being a hospice volunteer years ago, I will always remember learning a lesson from the wise lady who trained me. “You will always learn more from your patients than they will from you.” It is true. I would not trade that experience for all the tea in China. To this day, I remember watching the Disney movie Pinnochio with a dear man during the last hours of his life. To see his delight, to feel his peace…and to be there with him as he realized a long-sought dream tells me that life continues right to the very end.

Thus, during these challenging, often tragic times in our country, please take a moment or two each day to think how you and those you love can do or say something that will brighten someone else’s day. Never forget that it is through giving that we receive the best life has to offer: a sense of selflessness and satisfaction. 

Remember, you don’t have to hang a “Be Kind” sign on your door to spread the message. Your actions will speak for themselves.

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

Top photot: Bigstock