Letter: Simple acts of kindness

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2001

How do you measure kindness? In what units of measure can you quantify or even acknowledge this indescribable thing? Is it something born of compassion? Empathy? Concern? I wonder because I think I have experienced (and continue to do so) this indescribable thing. When you hear your neighbor or acquaintance say, "The world is becoming increasingly filled with self-centered, self-absorbed, cold-hearted individuals who care nothing for others," don't be so quick to agree. I know that I am not. I know that kindness and human compassion still rule most people's hearts and I am alive because of it.

At some time in our lives, most all of us will face tragic, life-changing events. Things will happen to us regardless of how "good" we are or how "healthy" we are. Events completely out of our control. None of us is immune to the tragedies happening all around us everyday. To remain untouched is dumb luck and as most of us will agree, at some point, our luck changes. Mine did. With a case of acute leukemia. Shock, disbelief, anger, acceptance, in that order. A potential death sentence with far-reaching effects for my family and friends. Our happy, ordered lives had been shaken to the very core and we were shown that no future is certain.

I now believe that with all tragedy and travail, blessings follow. I've heard this before and have given it lip service, but now I know it with my heart and soul. Through this illness and the struggles of close family because of it, I have experienced kindness. Some of the best that humanity has to offer. Strangers came into our lives and have become family. Homes and hearts were opened to us without thought or consideration. Our own community of Juneau rallied like I didn't know possible. We can never thank all the people, known and unknown who helped us through their prayers, financially or with just a kind thought. We have been shown a golden gem that exists in the hearts of most of us and are changed because of it. Had the outcome of my illness been different, I would still count myself fortunate to have seen the light in so many hearts.

Don't ever discount a kind thought. Don't believe that prayers are worthless. Don't underestimate a kind hand on the shoulder or comforting hug. These simple acts of kindness are powerful indeed as my continued existence in this world proves. So, how do we measure this thing called kindness? Does it come from empathy? Or compassion? An innate sense of selflessness? I don't know. All I do know is that it is alive and well in this world, especially in Juneau.

Nancy Peel and the Peel family


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