I hadn't written about about this, because it is personal, but also because I know my friend will be embarrassed, not because of something bad, but something GOOD she did. I decided to change her name to protect her privacy. The story is real.
My mother and I moved into our house in the beginning of October this year. Before moving here we were living in an apartment building, where we were very unhappy, and had a lot of trouble with the lack of maintenance, brown water, and loud and mean neighbors. We found an ad for our current house and had come to look at it. The landlord had explained on the phone that the reason the house was available for rent was that the elderly couple who had been living here had been killed in an auto accident a few months prior. The night we came to see the house, one of the daughter's of the previous tenants was here cleaning up. I'll call her Nancy. Well, as you can imagine, Nancy was upset. She had lost both her parents suddenly only a short time ago. Her son was with her as well. He is a wonderful 8 year old boy I'll call John. Instead of looking at the house, I spent most of my time here that night talking to Nancy about her parents. She told me how happy they had been here, how good the landlord had been to them and how she and John lived nearby and used to ride their bikes over almost every day in the good weather to visit her parents. I hugged her as she cried and told her that she and John would always be welcome here. I think that made her feel a little better, she wouldn't have to give up the last touchstone to her parents she had. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.
My mother and I did take the house and just before we moved in, I got a call from Nancy. She wanted to know how we were doing. My mother had just been in the hospital, I was stressed from trying to pull together the move in less than 2 weeks and we were ready to be out of that awful apartment. Nancy promised to be in touch after we got settled in.
The day of our move, Nancy showed up at our door with a basket filled with goodies. There was a loaf of Irish Soda Bread (my favorite!), a box of chocolates, a map of the town, a local newspaper and several other helpful things. She and John delivered it to our door, along with a card welcoming us to our new home. What a change from where we had been living! I was so touched, not only at her thoughtfulness, but I knew all she was going through in her grieving and felt it was especially kind that she reached out to us in her own time of grief and pain. I was also grateful to have a new friend so soon after moving in.
We spoke on the phone several times, but it took us almost a month to get together. Both of us had busy schedules. We met one morning for tea and scones. We started chatting like old friends and found we had much in common. Unfortunately one of the things we share in common is endometriosis. While I was sad to know that Nancy had suffered and struggled to have John, I was glad to meet someone who "gets" what having a chronic illness is like. She is a nurse and works in a local hospital. What a blessing for the patients she deals with, she is kind and compassionate, having firsthand experience with pain, illness and loss.
During our talk I mentioned that mom and I didn't have a Christmas tree. We had an artificial one when we lived in North Carolina, but when we ended up in an apartment in New York, with nowhere to store it, we hadn't moved it up. Money was too tight this year to even think of buying a tree, real or artificial, so we had decided we would be without one this year. I knew it was the right choice, but it did make me a little sad, I mean I love having a tree. Immediately Nancy offered us a tree. They have a small artificial tree that they had used in the past down in their basement as an extra tree. Last year her parents had used it in this house. She wouldn't be having Christmas at her house this year (they are going to her sisters) so she wouldn't be putting the little tree up anyway. Would we like to borrow the tree? I was so touched. It was like an answer to a prayer. She brought the tree by just after Thanksgiving and it sits decorated and lit up in my living room as I type this. It is perfect for this house, only about 4 1/2 ft. high, we have it up on a box. Not only did it make us happy, but I know it made Nancy feel better about the holiday too. Just the week before we had gotten together she and her husband were going through things in their basement and had come across the tree. He had asked if they would be putting it up this year and she had said no, and had thought sadly about her parents. Now her tree stands once again in the same house as last year, albeit under very different circumstances, and blesses another family with the love and kindness that Nancy learned from her parents. I can tell her parents were happy here, you can feel it in the house. I know that may sound hokey to some, and I never thought I would say a thing like that, but this house has a happy vibe, something our apartment certainly didn't.
I feel blessed to have met Nancy, and although I wish the circumstances had been different, I know her parents are looking down from heaven and watching this friendship grow - helping both of us in different ways!
Again I am reminded how blessed I am. Blessed to have this friend, blessed to live in this house and still have my mother with me, blessed in the health I DO have. It's a small thing to have a tree, but it has big meaning to me, and Nancy could see that and she responded in love and generousity when she could have hid in grief. I hope I am as good a friend to her as she has been to me.
I've written a lot of posts lately on the little things we can each do to help someone else. This is another example of something that didn't cost any money, but couldn't have been more priceless. When we take the time to listen to people, we often find what they need most isn't even a "thing", usually it is someone to care about them. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor that would welcome a visit from time to time, or who needs a ride to church or the store once in a while. Maybe you have a working mom who could use a few hours of childcare to get some shopping or gift wrapping done.
In the past week I have done several small acts of kindness that didn't cost me anything. We had our first snowfall last weekend. When I went out to clear off my car, I cleared off the car of my upstairs neighbor as well. This way when she came down, she could just get in and go. It only took me about 5 extra minutes and it made her day easier. Yesterday my mother had a doctors appointment. When we arrived at the office, there were 2 ladies that my mother has met through the local senior center. They were finished with an appointment and were asking the receptionist to call them a cab. I offered to drive them home instead. My mother was going to be back in the doctors office for awhile, and instead of sitting in the waiting room, I took them home and came back for my mother. It took me about 15 minutes in total and saved them at least $10. Surely we can all do small things like this for others.
I want to close by saying that each night as I look at our tree, I say a little prayer for Nancy and her family, for their friendship and kindness to us. And I am trying to honor it by passing it on.