I believe in the unknowing kindness of strangers. I had a difficult year with my son. When he was 10, he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It was as if he had demons in his head that told him that danger was around every corner. He didn’t want to leave the house, and eventually he was out of school for ten straight weeks. In those weeks, he was my constant companion. In the middle of the day, on the way to his therapist, we would stop at Starbucks. My lovely boy would lunge to pick up the change of the woman in front of us. As he carefully placed it in her palm, she looked at me and told me what a gentleman he was. (If she only knew how much her words meant to us.)
He is so beautiful, with a bright smile. He would offer to push the elevator buttons in the doctor’s office building. The other passengers would comment on his lovely manners. He couldn’t go to school but had to accompany me to the grocery store, to show that he could be out in public without panicking. He had to walk next to me and not grab onto me or say he was sick. He stopped to play peek-a-boo with a baby whose mother was trying to decide on dessert. She thanked him for giving her a moment to think.
He wasn’t ready to go back to school yet. He was not well enough to feel safe there all day. One night we had to take him to the emergency room because he was sick on a medication that made him want to kill himself. He helped some people work the fancy vending machine there and I overheard the nurse tell him he was helpful and kind.
It seemed like every day that year we had comments like these from strangers. They were unaware of the struggles and the heartbreak we were facing every day, but they spoke out and recognized a thoughtful little boy. If they only knew that their kindness boosted the confidence of a boy who struggled daily and their words meant the world to a mother with a broken heart. It was the kindness of strangers that got us through those days. I believe that those small gestures, those words, donated by unknowing strangers was kindness that made a world of difference.