One of the things we can celebrate about our generation growing older is that we also grow wiser. We see merit in things we probably didn’t see before. That’s what Phyllis Edgerly Ring does in this beautiful look at a child’s kindness, which she calls, The Hand That Gives Us Roses.
A proverb advises, “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives us roses.” Mother Teresa described a similar truth when she said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
The older I get, the more moved I am by inspiring actions from those who are still very young. One nephew of mine helped me understand that the practice of kindness, beyond being a beneficial thing in the world, actually requires us to believe that life itself is generous.
As a kindergartener, he was crazy about gumball machines. The shiny silver quarters that gave him access to them took on nearly iconic significance. While at a ball game with his family one day, he received one of those precious quarters, which he tucked into his pocketwith care.
Later during the game, the woman sitting behind him was munching from a bag of potato chips and he asked politely, “May I please have some chips?”
His family could have felt embarrassed, but this woman chose to validate how politely he’d asked and shared her snack. He’d been taught about the importance of sharing, so figured it was okay to ask someone else to do so.
After the game, he was walking with his family outside the stadium when they saw someone sitting on the sidewalk. “Why does that man have the cup for money?” my nephew’s older sister asked their dad.
He told her it was possible the man didn’t have a place to live, or very much money.
“Why doesn’t he work so he can have money?” she wondered.
“That would be a good way to get some money, but maybe he can’t find a job, or there’s a reason why he can’t work.”
After a pause, she said, “I wish he could have some money.”
Tromping along beside her, her brother stopped and realized aloud, “I have some money!”
Without a second’s hesitation, he bounded back to the man on the sidewalk, no doubt causing his family to turn and race to keep up with him on the busy street. With a smile at least as large as the one he’d had when he’d first pocketed that quarter, he fished the coin out and placed it in the man’s cup.
What struck me in his actions was the complete lack of hesitation he had in expressing a willingness either to receive or to share and give. He seems to have an innate understanding of what a reciprocal pair these acts are, like two halves of one whole.
I’m told that the recipient’s response was emotional. Along with the coin, he received regard and friendliness—someone who looked him in the eyes and saw him.
That one small exchange no doubt left fragrance lingering on both sides for a long time to come.
Follow the writing of Phyllis Edgerly Ring … click here. Ms. Ring and her family live in New Hampshire.