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Small but Glorious Acts of Kindness

17 Jul

Sometimes glorious human behavior comes in small packages that you could easily miss if your attention happened to be elsewhere.  But I guess decades of being a therapist, for better or worse, has rendered me pretty much a Noticing Machine.  I don’t miss much, even when I’d rather.  And there are some things I’m really happy to notice.

The other day I was at a communal event, and I was walking unobserved in a crowd of kids behind a terrific teenage boy I know.  We were walking down a hallway with adolescent traffic going both ways at a steady clip.  His teenage sister was approaching, coming from the other direction.

Now, this sister of his has been challenged with fairly severe autism, which has affected her abilities with language, non-verbal behavior, information processing and socialization, and although she’s made great gains with the help of a very proactive, resourceful and loving family, she’s still not entirely regular-looking yet.  She may never be – hard to say.

Now, most teenage siblings of an “irregular” kid go through various phases of being embarrassed, impatient, angry, put-upon and mortified when in range of both the sibling and their friends and acquaintances.  It’s kind of reflexive at that age – almost age-appropriate, you could say - to do things that subtly disown your sister or throw her under the bus altogether when your friends are around.

But here’s what this boy did as his sister approached:  He said very casually and without making a big deal of it, “Hey, Claudia” and gave her one of those friendly, light punches on the arm in transit, the way the regular kids do when they’re passing one of their good friends at school.  Not merely a public gesture of acknowledgement in front of his peers, but of affection and inclusion, too.  With that one offhand gesture, he ‘regularized’ his sister.  And he wasn’t doing it for show - he didn’t even know he had a secret, admiring adult witness a few steps behind him.
Wow, thought I.  This one's a keeper.  Can't wait to see what kind of adult he turns into.  May all of us never be so preoccupied with ourselves or our dumb lists of things to do, that we lose out on noticing beautiful, everyday generosity of spirit like this.  Makes you wanna vote for the human race..

Take care and be well,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award