This I Believe

Mary - Charlotte, North Carolina
Entered on August 4, 2007

I believe in the power of a simple act of kindness in changing someone’s world.

My friend was in prison. I had not talked nor seen him in twenty-five years. He used to be a prosperous, happy, husband and father. He used to remember how to go to work, come home, eat a meal, play with his children, and call it a day. Along the way, he got tangled up in the messiness of life with addictions. This lead to loss, which lead to arrest, which lead to prison, which lead to bottom.

I lived another life of busy mother, teacher, wife, and community volunteer. He had not passed my memory much in those twenty-five years. From a brief gentle email from a mutual friend in late October 2000, I learned of his path. Next to the screen with the message “David has been incarcerated…” sat a pile of laundry to be sorted, empty lesson plan pages to be filled, and two teenagers needing computer time. I stopped everything else at that moment and wrote a letter. I did not think. I just reacted and wrote words of sorrow, surprise, a voice from youth, and a few details of my status in life twenty-five years hence.

It was his lifeline. He took hold of my words and believed again. He started to see himself as I did. He shed the unworthy cloak as best he could and pushed to see the light. Along his path I went in my separate life, learning to push away my shadows to see my light. And good begets good. He now works as a Peer Counselor advising others how to live sober and straight. He knows his three teenaged sons now. They too are enriched.

One simple act of kindness has created ripples and ripples of good from person to person; gender to gender; father to son; son to mother; mother to children; wife to husband. We are each made better when we help another. Just by one simple act. Simple, and powerful.