Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Even a person like me, often given to cynicism, runs up against unexpected kindness, both of friends and of strangers. “The Kindness of Strangers” is a lovely phrase, no wonder it was taken into the language with such enthusiasm. Tennessee Williams has Blanche DuBois say it at the end of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. In the play it is a very sad phrase, Blanche is a lonely, confused woman, broken and about to be taken into an institution; she has no real friends and the kindness of strangers she has experienced has been much in her imagination.

Recently, Beloved and I have been shown much genuine kindness. Late yesterday afternoon was a case in point; I returned a friend’s call, who had phoned to offer to take Millie for a walk while were out. The friend had already gone out and come back home, but when I mentioned that Millie had been in the car with us all afternoon and had not had a walk, she said she’d take her out anyway, although it was getting dark by then. I was tired from driving and taking Beloved to see health professionals and very grateful for having this additional task lifted from my shoulders.

Beloved now has a small army of personal carers visit him in the morning to get him ready for the day. They have little to do because he is quite independent again, but getting in and out of the bath can be tricky; they are professionals and know how to keep their charges safe. Their work can be unpleasant and stressful, they work long hours for minimal pay, yet each one of them is friendly, smiling and willing, full of good cheer and compassion. And, above all, common sense. Good old practical common sense allied with natural, abundant kindness. I wish there were a way for me to make those in power realise the goodness and worth of these people and see that their remuneration matched their qualities and labour.

I had a day ‘off’ last week, to go into town and do some urgent shopping which had been neglected for months. I’d left Beloved with a lady from one of those charities that give the occasional respite to full-time carers - I was a little taken aback when I got home to find that she had left her own and Beloved’s washing up for me to do, but Beloved said she was a pleasant woman and he didn’t mind too much having her around during my absence. Anyway, she’s not the one who showed special kindness, that was left to a middle-aged woman on the park-and-ride bus back to the carpark where I’d left the car. As I entered the bus, laden with bags and parcels, scanning the interior for a vacant seat, this woman got up and offered me her seat near the door. I was fairly surprised, it’s never happened to me before but, reader, I took it. Perhaps the woman saw how exhausted I was. It was my first visit to town after being ill; something of my need for a rest must have been obvious to her and she simply got up and stepped into the crowded aisle before I had even got over my surprise and internal debate whether to accept her kindness. Sitting down felt enormously satisfying and I have every intention to do the same for an old lady the next time I feel able to stand on the bus.

You might ask what the picture of a spider has to do with kindness? She was stuck in the bath this morning and I rescued her, but took her only as far as the outside window ledge from where I left her to find her own way home. She’s probably shinning up the drainpipe right now and climbing through the plug hole back into the bath.


  1. Family care-givers should all be presented medals and an all-expense paid vacation at least once a year.
    Professionals who come and assist at home should earn the same as professional sports figures!

  2. Kindness comes in many forms, whether it is rescuing a spider, walking a dog, giving a bath or offering a seat. I am so glad that you have been the recipient of such acts of goodness -- for you are so very, very deserving.

  3. With so many going through extremity to be desperately wicked, it is glorious how little effort it takes most of the time to be kind. A word, a smile, a seat on the bus or a meal taken to someone's home makes all the difference sometimes.

  4. "The kindness of strangers" is such a full and important phrase. Taking it apart, word by word, gives it such a depth of meaning. I had just read an article on care-givers and it brought back my time with my mother before her passing. I should go back and synthesize any posts I wrote back then. It is so hard to give up our independence...so hard.

  5. The gift of kindness is so easy to give and oh so wonderful to receive. And isn't it great when they are offered at just the right moment? When some kind heart sees our need. You know you have ahead of you that warm feeling you get when you pass on those act of kindness, too.

  6. You bring up many important points that you learn as a caregiver. Simple acts of kindness can be very meaningful.

  7. Now you have me. What on earth are the words which follow 'itsy bitsy spider?....I'll probably remember in the early hours and awake 'blessing' your name.

    With you on carers. Mother had a fall - getting out of bed in the early hours to investigate a noise in the garden. Luckily no serious problems, but taken to hospital for a look see much to her disgust. On return she found she was entitled to a care package for a few weeks to see her on her feet again and she and I echo your wish that these indispensable, kind and cheerful people were paid according to their worth.

    We had a miserable day on the health front yesterday but on the bus home a medical student from our local town who had seen my husband in the hospital took the time to sit with him and talk things over, then helped him from the bus to the car and promised to keep in touch as a conduit for any concerns. A very decent young man...who will make a caring doctor.

    Now, don't do too much too soon and don't be too independent to accept help.

    1. There are lots of variations but this is the one I grew up with.
      'The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
      Down came the rain
      and washed the spider out.
      Out came the sun
      and dried up all the rain
      and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.'

    2. That's exactly how I learned it, in Iowa, in the late 1940s.

    3. Many thanks!

      What a resource we have in blogging!

  8. It is so good to add up these little acts at the end of the day. Makes one feel warm and toasty.

    And I try to pay them forward.


  9. Thanks for sharing this restorative post, Friko

    ALOHA, Friend


  10. I remember the phrase 'I have often depended on the kindness of strangers' as being used as a euphemism in English tv period drama. I guess I don't need to spell it out. Good to hear things are improving for you. Are you a reader of John Gray's blog? His post, 10/11, mentions someone who he performed a minor kindness for and many years later, it was not forgotten.

  11. Caring is sadly underrated - and severely underpaid as a profession.
    Kindess is always a blessing.

  12. What a world we would have if we were all kinder to each other. Glad to hear Beloved is doing better.

  13. I'm so glad you are experiencing the kindness of strangers and friends alike. Bureaucracy is often heartless and unfeeling, but the people on the ground are full of the milk of human kindness.

  14. Shopping can be exhausting even when we are at our best in terms of fitness, and being able to sit down at some stage is very welcome then, isn't it! It was very kind of that lady to give up her seat for you.
    I, too, would have expected the woman who was staying with Beloved while you were out to do the washing up - it would not have been all that much for her to do, but helpful for you. Maybe she thought Beloved was going to do it, now that he is better?

  15. Unexpected kindnesses are the best!

  16. Hi Friko - interesting how thoughtful and kind people can be, yet lacking for that little extra occasionally.

    How pleased I was to hear someone had got up for you .. that pleases me and you were obviously in need - which we all understand .. but those on the bus would not have realised the back story.

    Spider ... I bet she was glad to left alive ... she's a pretty magnificent specimen.

    I'm glad to read that you have help ... and the two of you can relax a little as you both recover and heal. With many thoughts and cheers from down south - Hilary

  17. Sometimes kindness of strangers surprises . And sometimes we can not see the kindness of the loved ones. There are kind people around you, Friko.

  18. Your sharing that I just read
    my early morning
    was a blessing to me.
    I am having the same thing happen
    to me - yesterday was overwhelming
    with so much happening and finally able
    to run errands.
    Everywhere I turned someone was smiling,
    picking up something for me, took cart back int
    store as I was unloading to my car.
    Saw so many that I had not seen in a long time
    and many hugs received - which I needed.
    Could go on and on
    about what is going on with me at this time
    but will not
    and think of you
    and so pleased for help that came your way.
    Take care - life is still so good...

  19. Ah, yes; it is often these small acts of kindness that carry us through. It is good to hear you are getting out and about, if only a wee bit more, Friko. Take care.

  20. Thanks for sharing your nice story. Reminds me of the Wm .Wordsworth quote which I still remember from high school ... "That best portion of a good man's life,/ His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."

  21. Thanks for the reminder to be aware of the needs of others in our daily lives. Simple acts of kindness are so appreciated, and they encourage others to pass it on.

  22. Just last night, after I had loaded some groceries into the car, I was taking the cart back to its designated pick-up spot when a young man offered to take it for me. I declined with a smile, but it was lovely, although it also made me realize I'm of an age now when I'm seen as an older woman who might be in need of assistance! This web of little kindnesses we weave is as important as your spider's web. It gives us a place of safety to remember on those days when the world isn't so kind.

  23. This made me smile and warmed my heart. Thanks.
    Am sick as a dog right now.

  24. Your observations about the professional carers, how much they give and how much they are undervalued, strikes a chord. Three friends of ours now have round the clock carers, and we've heard from them and seen for ourselves how much they give, with such good grace and, as you noted, common sense, which in the world at large is so often in such short supply.

  25. I too am often amazed at the kindness and patience of carers. In London they're not even allowed parking yet they have to get all over the place, convenient public transport or not, to tight schedules, too. And their pay is awful - no matter how hard they work they can't afford to rent anywhere nice. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian just wrote a piece about the government trying to get rid of social housing for ideological reasons.. which seems almost incredible seeing how many hard working people need it. I can see no other rational explanation for what is happening. My parents both had very kind carers as did a friend nearby and it is sad to see their value being overlooked.

  26. Ah ... Kindness, yes ... after I immigrated to Canada in 1982 ... I worked in home support for 2 years ... $6.30/hr ... bathing old peeps and cleaning their house ... at the same time I studied to get my Canadian nursing licence ... and learned English via my clients ... and most of them were ever so kind ... example: Will you wear your long johns today or your short johns, sir? (long Johns are a type of underwear for cold Winter nights, but there is no such thing as short Johns) ... quietly and very politely my client replied: Me think, me wanna wear my short johns today ... now, if that wasn't kindness towards this scrawny, miserable and scared to death immigrant woman called cat, I don't know what is ... smiles ... years later as a staff nurse ... I had the same kind client die in my arms in Rimbey General Hospital ... R.I.P. George. Love, cat.

  27. I, too, love that phrase and often rely on the kindness of strangers for a number of little things. I'm so glad you are encountering it.

  28. having arachnophobia I first had to calm down to read this post.
    You are a better person than I; I would have pulverized the thing so I could relax knowing it is dead.

  29. I'm surprised by your surprise - I mean that I would have thought this would be a common courtesy. But then again, you're not riding the bus often enough to have that happen much, I guess. Glad to hear that you're out and about again, and that your man has made some substantial recovery.

  30. You posted "I wish there were a way for me to make those in power realize the goodness and worth of these people and see that their remuneration matched their qualities and labour." - You thanked them all in this lovely post. Here, we call it "Paying It Forward". When you have gained all your strength back, smile more and give that seat to a stranger with those wonderfully thankful feelings you have in your heart. Have a great day.

  31. Little things like a friendly smile or someone holding a door open are very cheering . But being offered a seat in the bus can change the whole day ! Small courtesies perhaps , but very important .

  32. Yes, Friko, such unexpected little kindnesses give us proof that civilization still has some unfrayed fibres. Let's continue to contribute to this tapestry. xo

  33. I've spent much of my life being oblivious to the needs of many people. I find I am more compassionate with animals. Why just yesterday, I had my garden helper put out hundreds of bulbs. We have to make sure the Vole has plenty to eat this winter. ��

    PS I cringe when others tell me I am Sweet. I too think of myself as a bit too cynical for my own good at times. And yes. Blanche Dubois was pathetic. Unfortunately, women who showed a trace of independence in the bad old days we often carted off somewhere. And Marlon Brando was a pig on screen and in real life!

  34. Ahhh Kindness has a way of being returned. I loved the spider story. Mostly, I loved that you are getting such support from others. Take care. I'm so glad to know you have those around you that are looking after you.

  35. Dear Friko, It can be hard accepting kindnesses from others, especially so when they are needed as well as appreciated. Take care and go steady. Freda from Dalamory


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