As a parent, I feel an extraordinary sense of responsibility to be the best parent possible for my two daughters. By that, I don’t mean being a perfect parent, as no such creature exists, except perhaps in movies or in books. I don’t have script writers and multiple takes or authors and rewrites to get it right, and I just try to succeed more than I stumble. I hope that my daughters learn as much from my mistakes as they do from my triumphs, and I find that some of the greatest lessons that I have to offer them are the ones when I lead by example. I always have told my daughters that whenever they have the chance to be kind and to help someone, they always should, and I do my best to take my own advice. Today, my oldest daughter let me know that my words had not fallen on deaf ears or a closed heart.
Part of her preparation for confirmation in the church and a requirement of being in the National Junior Honor Society is to perform service hours in the community, and she readily embraced the chance to volunteer at the day shelter for homeless men where I work. So, this afternoon, I accompanied her there and assisted her in working at the front desk for several hours. Her tasks were simple-greet the men as they entered the shelter and confirm their name on our roster and where they stayed the night before. She soon learned that there were tasks far more valuable than the ones listed in the description for this volunteer position, though.
I witnessed my daughter’s confidence overtake her shyness with each gentleman she welcomed and checked in, and it was with immense pride and joy that I watched her take a liking to the men and the men to her. A number of the gentlemen complimented her good manners, sweet disposition, and warm smile, and they thanked her for volunteering. She quickly discovered that taking the time to look them in the eye, smile at them, engage them in conversation, and listen to them were the true tasks at hand. She genuinely enjoyed spending time with them, and they immediately sensed this. They engaged in conversations about school and her extracurricular activities, and several gentlemen offered her advice about earning good grades, working hard, and staying out of trouble. What may seem like insignificant actions can mean the world to those who are invisible to a large segment of society, and to see a young girl accept those who have been deemed unacceptable by so many was truly beautiful.
Often times, adults make being kind far more complicated than it has to be by thinking that kindness and compassion are best shown through large donations of money or sweeping, grand gestures, when sometimes, the smallest acts of kindness are the greatest gifts one can give, or adults believe that they are too busy to perform kind acts, when being kind can be done in an instant. While I have tried to teach my daughters well, today, it was my oldest daughter who reminded me that one of the greatest resources that we can offer to another human being is the gift of ourselves. Most people desire to be seen, heard, accepted, and loved, and for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, my daughter gave the finest gentlemen in all of Louisville her very best. I have a feeling that this is not the last that they have seen of one another, either, even when she has completed her service hours. It is in giving that we receive indeed, and what they gave to each other was absolutely priceless.
Just one thing each day . . .