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This morning I heard a story on the car radio that moved me. A woman was waiting at the airport gate for her flight. Seated near her in a wheelchair was an old man, waiting for another flight. He was alone. His grey hair was long and matted, and he sat hunched over, staring at the floor. The woman approached him and asked if she could brush his hair. The old man said, “I guess so.” Just as she finished, the gate attendant came and wheeled him down the ramp, onto the airplane. In a few minutes the attendant returned and told the woman the old man had started crying. He couldn’t understand the woman’s kind gesture. 

“Why would anyone care enough about me to brush my hair?” he’d asked the attendant. 

It reminded me of another old man. This man was homeless and a frequent fixture at a highway intersection in the Texas Hill Country town where I used to live. In the late afternoon, when the summer sun was at its most brutal, sometimes I would see him sitting under a large oak tree. One day he was there, sitting in a folding chair with a white towel wrapped around his shoulders. His long unkept hair was wet, and a woman was standing behind him, cutting his hair. She had several large, plastic gallons of water on the ground. The image of her kindness has stayed with me for years.

Both of these women were giving love and compassion in intimate ways most of us—myself included—would be uncomfortable doing. But there are other meaningful ways we can give to others. 

What if we give the gift of loving kindness—to total strangers—this Christmas and Hanukkah?

Instead of making the holidays all about us and the minutia of to-do lists and wrapping paper, what if we step outside ourselves and connect with someone we don’t know? Like the person behind us in line at the grocery store. We might comment on something in their basket and ask, “Do you like that brand?” or smile and say, “So how’s your day been?” We won’t wait for an opening to tell them about our day, but comment on what they say, and get them talking. I do this frequently because a sad, unhappy looking person now has a smile on their face, and that makes me feel good.

What if we’re the only person they talk to that day, or the only person who’s nice to them?

Great doors are hung from small hinges. We may never know if our small kindness of saying, “Hi,” to someone as we go in and out of a store, or telling the woman behind the counter her sweater is a pretty color is the best thing that’s happened to them all day or all week, but that’s okay. When we extend ourselves to someone else, we’re giving them—and ourselves—an invaluable gift of love.

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  1. Brenda,
    What a loving post this is.
    I, too, would be uncomfortable providing an intimate service to a stranger but I love your idea of visiting with people in line at the grocery store! I’m going to try it this next week.
    Thanks for the suggestion…a perfect time of year to reach out to others.

    • Good Morning, Sally, Good. I’m glad you’ll try some of my ideas next week. They don’t cross any comfort boundaries for us or others, and the rewards for all concerned will help you wash away any negative things you’re feeling. xoxox, Brenda

    • Thank you, Barbara! The world has gone mad. We need to find ways to reach out to one another without talking about the affairs of the day. I think we all need giant daily doses of kindness. xoxox, Brenda

  2. How fabulous to have this be the first thing I’ve read this morning! It will influence the way I go through my day.
    Thank you for the reminder that all we need is a kind heart, and a willingness to extend that to others. ❤️

    • Hi My Friend, You’ve summed it up beautifully. “A kind heart and a willingness to extend that to others.” I hope you and your sweetie are having a wonderful day. Love, Brenda

  3. Excellent points made Brenda. I always remember when I lived alone and was unemployed. I sometimes went days without talking to another person. I always talk to those around me in stores, etc. Thank you for this timely reminder of what really matters…

    • Good Morning, Laura! I live alone and am inclined to be a hermit, so if it weren’t for my dogs and my visits to the gym each week, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. Now you live in that beautiful Colorado country with your husband. I hope all is well with you both. I’ll pop over to your blog and check on you. xoxox, Brenda

  4. There are so many people alone in the world. When my mother in law died the day after Thanksgiving, a staff member at the nursing home commented that it was wonderful to see the attention our family had paid to her, because there were so many others there that did not have that attention. Right now, I am absorbed in some of my own pain, but I don’t think I am going to forget that comment.

    • Alana, I know you’re grieving, and I’m sorry for your loss. My mother was in a dementia facility for 10 years, and I was one of the few family members that visited other than for holiday meals. I would drop by at lunch time a couple of times a week. Mother was on her best behavior in front of others, so it was easier on me, and I’d sit at her table and got to know all the other ladies. Some of their relatives never came. It made me sad. I’d come armed with photos on my phone, jokes… silly ones like “I’m on the ‘seafood diet.” I see food, and I eat it,” and they’d laugh. I always knew that if it was cold, I should wear my long suede/fur coat because it made one of the lady’s eyes light up. I’d give them hugs and tell them how pretty their hair was… Most of them got their hair done, weekly, at the in-house beauty salon. As you know, seeing a parent in a nursing home or a dementia facility isn’t easy, but I can’t imagine being there and NO ONE COMES!! That breaks my heart. You were a great daughter-in-law. xoxox, Brenda

  5. Oh Brenda! You’re preaching to the choir. Ever time I’m out, I make sure to smile at others and say a few kind words. Why not? It takes no time nor effort to offer such a small gesture and can mean so much to those on the receiving end.
    The actions of those two women was truly selfless. They are among the few that are blessed with the ability to reach out to those less fortunate in such a meaningful way.

    • Joanna, Brava for reaching out to people you don’t know! It’s so easy and so rewarding. I’d like to be more like the women who brush or cut a stranger’s hair, but I’m not comfortable with that kind of intimacy, but I know that in my own small way, I make a difference. Thanks for your awesome comment. You made my day! Brenda

  6. What a beautiful idea Brenda. Kindness can be so forgotten as we all stare mindlessly at Instagram. The world is full of folks who need that kindness. And those of us who have so many blessings need to forget the screens we’re watching and pay attention. That you for a great reminder.

    • Hi Margaret, My Instagram numbers aren’t what they should be, and it’s because I place more emphasis on the here and now with my dogs and with real people. I love seeing how other people live and all of the gorgeous IG photos, but they don’t brighten my day or love me back like in the moment interacting with living, breathing beings. I hope you’re doing well. xoxox, Brenda

  7. How touching. Literally. I don’t know if I could brush a strangers hair. But I can certainly connect and say “Hello, what a lovely sweater. How’s your day?” I do some of that. But I’ll do more. You always have some bit of knowledge the makes me remember to be a little bit better. Thank you. I’ll following right behind you and listening to every word.

  8. Thank you for your post today and for sharing your nursing home experience. I also spent years visiting facilities and used to pick up nice (nearly new) clothing when I saw it in thrift stores or things on sale to give to residents. I need to stop by this week and find out from staff who could use some things. When helping the needy, the elderly are often overlooked. Some of the nursing home residents have been tucked away there for years, forsaken and on a limited income. Not to mention, they often have no way to shop when things wear out (from the terrible laundry services that turn all things grey?)! Note to anywone considering doing this: Be sure to check with staff as there are rules!

    • Vicki, many are left in nursing homes to finish out their lives. How selfish of their family. The residents make excuses – they have busy lives, live too far way..Such acceptance and love for those that never come.
      I have a therapy dog and we visit nursing homes. She brings smiles to many faces and it warms my heart, as it does their’s. I never thought of clothing needs. I’ll ask next time I’m there. It takes so little to bring a touch of tenderness and happiness to another’s day. You’re a good person, Vicki.

      • I admire you for doing the therapy dog visits. The interaction means so much to the residents. The thing about volunteering is that I get just as much pleasure out of it, but I’ll take the good person compliment. You are a good person too!

      • Joanna, You and Vicki are both great women for caring those who for the most part, are forgotten. We warehouse the elderly like rolls of used carpeting. It breaks my heart. Taking your therapy dog to visit with older people is such an expression of love and respect. Thank you, dear lady! xoxox, Brenda

    • Brava Sweet Angel Vicki!! You truly are an angel for visiting nursing facilities and thinking about their needs. The laundry where mother lived was pretty good except that she often wound up with someone else’s clothes. The elderly are overlooked at every turn, I think, and I hadn’t even thought about the needy elderly. They slip thru the cracks. Bless you for doing this and giving us the idea to do this as well. xoxox, Brenda

  9. Lovely reminder, Brenda! Thank you! It’s so easy to smile and cheer up another’s day. I wished a store person a Happy Thanksgiving that morning, and he thanked me for the smile. These sales people are worked heavily during the holidays and people can be so unkind. Thanks for the reminder. The Lord encouraged a salesperson this afternoon just talking about my email address. His grandmother just passed away and that was something they said to each other regularly. It was just what he needed. I was thankful for the chance. I love Beth’s story. She has it on video, and it’s so good. Thanks for sharing! Hugs! Grateful for you!

    • Dear Beckye, Are you referring to Beth Moore? She’s the most likely one you and I both “know,” but I didn’t hear it through her. I’m grateful for you as well, sweet lady! Thank you for being here and being so supportive of me and 1010ParkPlace. I appreciate you. xoxox, Brenda

      • Yes, I saw the video on one of Beth Moore’s teaching series. I love how she tells stories! This one was so powerful. May I humbly serve and obey, as well.

  10. Dear BK, as the song goes “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”. Those words are as true today as when they were a hit in the ’60’s. Thank you so much for your generous spirit that reminds us to be kind and to be loving. Thank you for your investment in this blog to raise the tone of life for your readers. I also thank your responders. Let’s all take a breath, and remember, that a little kindness does go a long way. Sometimes we feel as if we are pushing against an endless tide of negativity. I remember my 2 grandmothers who lived through world war II and lost children and husbands, and yet were still sweet and kind. We can be that too, because that is our true nature. Turn the tv news off. Turn the social pages off. Be real and be kind. Blessings Xxxxx

    • You’re so right, TJ. Love… “that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” I sometimes think our elders dealt with their woes and those of the world in a much better fashion than we do. They seemed to be more concerned with other people’s feelings and were of the “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all generation.” Now we feel like we have license to scream it from social media, act out with road rage, bad language and kill one another. You suggested we should “Be real and be kind.” We’re all craving authenticity, don’t you think? I’m on Instagram less and less because most of the photos are of every facet of life at it’s best and blingyest, and that’s just not life. I can only handle so much of that. Thank you for your sweet words about my blog. I appreciate it. xoxox, Brenda

    • Aren’t they though, Hilda? I wish extending myself like that came naturally for me. I do up to a point, but brushing a stranger’s hair… unless she was a woman in my mother’s dementia facility, would feel uncomfortable for me. Kind of selfish, I think, and something I should work on. xoxo, Brenda

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