Do you have a moment?
It’s a question that may easily induce mild panic or annoyance in most people. What demand on our time or energy is going to be requested of us? We may smile outwardly and respond, while inwardly gritting our teeth.
I don’t mean those kind of moments – times when others are asking for a favour or want to talk intensely for a while. I’m talking about the little moments in-between the hubbub of activities that dominate our lives.
Our days are made up of everything from eating, drinking, sleeping, washing, work and chores to leisure pursuits, projects, plans, errands, to caring or managing, learning and doing. In between all this busyness, we often find ourselves faced with a moment. A person or situation observed where we could make a difference in some small, seemingly insignificant way.
A moment where we could walk by or a moment when we could engage.
In his gripping life story, ‘Ghost Boy’, Martin Pistorius tells of being imprisoned by his illness-onset disability, unable to communicate or manoeuvre his body, even after his brain functionality had been restored, unbeknownst to his carers. He tells of a time sitting in a car on the street, waiting for his father to return, when a man walked past and smiled at him. Used to being ignored and talked over, just this small, friendly gesture and acknowledgement of his existence restored his hope in humanity, giving him a reason to not give up on living. That one smile made a big difference not just to Martin’s day, but also his life.
Frequently we use our spare moments to read or to look at a screen; I know I like to use spare minutes to read the news or look at social media on my phone. On Sat, while visiting my elderly mother in a busy hospital ward, I was on the other side of the curtain while two nurses were carrying out a procedure on her. I looked around at the other elderly women on the ward. One frail, white haired woman in the bed next to mum had been sniffing and lightly coughing. Looking around for nurses or auxiliaries, I saw none. All staff were otherwise occupied.
I decided to say yes to the compassion that rose in my heart and to engage.
“Are you cold?”
“Would you like me to find you another blanket?”
Again, a simple nod.
I went to the nearby reception desk and asked if I could take a clean blanket from the trolley for the lady by the window? A receptionist said yes.
Collecting one of the standard NHS blue blankets, I folded it in two and lay it on top of the coughing patient, also pulling up her sheets to cover her shoulders and neck. I asked her if she’d like some water to drink. Again, she nodded, so I picked up the plastic cup on her table and guided the straw to her lips. As I set the cup back down, she summoned up the energy to whisper ‘Thank You.’ My heart melted. What I did took less than a minute, but it meant a great deal to her. No visitor had dropped by to see her during the three and half hours afternoon visiting slot.
Kindness doesn’t necessarily take up a whole lot of our time or effort. Sometimes we just need to respond to that gentle call to action that stirs up within us during unsuspecting moments. I will certainly be grateful if other people visiting relatives on Ward 6 of James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston show kindness to my fragile mum.
We should never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness. Not only is the recipient of such acts blessed; the giver is also rewarded with an enormous sense of purpose. It’s in giving to others that our humanity is revealed and we glimpse something of our compassionate God, who loves to work in us and touch others through us.
The line from a song we’ve been singing at church recently kept resounding through my head later on – “Let heaven come.” When we show compassion and kindness, we experience evidence of God’s kingdom being revealed on earth. That’s when a part of heaven touches earth.