Anyone who follows me here, or my personal posts on social media (look me up, I don’t hide), probably knows by now what I think of kindness. In other blog posts I’ve talked about it as a personal strength, a basic foundation of our innate humanity, and one that often needs to be forcefully, intentionally exercised to remain vibrant and valid in a culture that seems to teach us that it’s a weakness. As this year, one of too many sorrows and fear for the future comes to a close, I was taught that if kindness is something you practise with purpose and believe in, it will eventually begin to happen without any intention at all.
Yesterday I went to see a mental health nurse at my local clinic to have an updated evaluation done in preparation for some paperwork I need in order to further my claim with the worker’s compensation authority here in Ontario. The fact that I have PTSD, and that it is a result of a workplace injury, needs to be documented up and down the yin-yang (and, at least in the past, they would still deny you). While there, though, she pulled a yellow post-it note from the edge of her computer screen and told me that one of the social workers in the health team, when told that a paramedic with PTSD was coming in, had scribbled the name of a book and its author that she thought might be very helpful. It was On the Other Side of Broken, by Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Brian Knowler.
Now, Brian and I, though we’ve never met, have been Facebook friends for a bit. He’s involved with Badge of Life Canada, an organisation I’ve been familiar with for a few years, and the peer support network for first responders here is a fairly tight circle generally. Everyone, though they may not have met, mostly knows of everyone else, and that’s a good thing. So when the nurse showed me the name on this post-it I smiled very broadly and said, “I know him!” Of course, when I got home I posted this story on Facebook because I thought it was cute and of course I tagged him thinking he might get a wee kick out of it. I was wholly unprepared for his response, though.
“Wow. I don’t quite know what to say. It’s one thing to write out your story, its quite another to be told that its getting recommended to people as something that will help them. Patrick, you made my day brother!”
He shared the post later on his own feed, with this message:
“What an amazing way to end what has been an amazing year – to see that ‘On the Other Side…’ is being recommended by PTS professionals for brothers and sisters on the frontline. Its incredible to think that the book has taken on a life of its own beyond the sphere of influence of (my wife) and I. Makes me feel like a real author. :-)”
Without meaning to, without setting my mind to work the kindness muscle, I’d done something I thought was only cute and maybe just a little nice that had had a large and quantifiably positive effect on another person. Like I described in The Nature of Kindness II, there is always a reward for this sort of thing, and my reward was the glow of happiness that was a little vicarious, but mostly from the feeling of having done a good thing without knowing that’s what I’d been doing. I get the same glow when someone tells me something I’ve written here has caused them to think on things in ways they hadn’t before, or that I’d validated for them something they’ve felt for years, when my intention is only to explore this stuff for myself.
Brian’s sentiment was a wonderful thing to wake up to on this last day of 2016. All this week I’d been wondering what I should write about today because I’d felt some sort of obligation to scribble something of import, and this, dropped in my lap as it was, was gob smackingly perfect.
There is momentum in all things, I suppose, when you give it motion. Even kindness. Go do something nice for someone today as your own gift not just to that person, or to the new year, but to yourself as well.
And from me to all of you and your horde if you have one, the best for 2017.