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I had surgery on Monday. Since then, I've been thinking a lot about gratitude. Also, about
kindness, especially the kindness of strangers.
I'm certainly grateful that the surgery went well. Grateful for the skill of the doctors and
nurses, the kindness of the hospital staff. Grateful for having family who looked after me and
friends who prayed for me. But my thoughts about kindness and gratitude go beyond that, back
to a story I heard on Monday.
During the surgery, while my son was in the family waiting room, he had struck up a
conversation with a man who was a retired 28-year veteran of the New Orleans Fire Department.
His duties included being a first responder to emergencies of all types and he had many stories
to tell. But the one my son told me, the one that's stayed with me this week, had to do with a
gunshot victim and a very special request.
His unit was first on the scene some years ago when a jogger had been shot in a robbery
attempt. He had several wounds and the responders had their hands full just trying to stem the
bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Amazingly, the man was conscious and alert and, as the
sound of the ambulance siren drew closer, the injured man looked directly at the man who was
telling my son this story and asked him if he would please go to his house a few blocks away and
make sure his dog was cared for until his sister could get to town. This request touched the
firefighter, because here was a man who didn't know if he was going to live or die (and, in fact,
neither did the people who were engaged in trying to save him), and all his thoughts were of his
dog, left alone for an extended period. So, the firefighter promised that he would take care of
True to his word, after the ambulance left, he dutifully went and got the dog, who turned out
to be a big, friendly Labrador Retriever, happy for an excursion and very happy to make a fire
station full of new friends. He spent the day at the fire house, with NOFD personnel petting him
and feeding him treats in their spare minutes, until that night when the sister arrived to take him
It had been a day that was out of the ordinary for them, no doubt about it - having a canine
guest - but there were fires to fight and all of the many other crises that first responders deal
with every day, so they didn't have a lot of time to dwell on it.
But, several weeks later, they looked up one morning to see the man and his dog standing
at the fire house door. He had survived (some would say miraculously survived) and was well
on his way to a full recovery. His first outing was a trip to the station to thank the firefighters for
taking care of his dog. His heart was full of gratitude for what they'd done.
Remember the character Blanche DuBois' line from A Streetcar Named Desire? "I've always
depended on the kindness of strangers." In truth, none of us know when we may suddenly
become dependent on a stranger's kindness and it's easy to imagine, in that circumstance, how
grateful we would be.
There's an old French proverb: Gratitude is the heart's memory. I think that's a perfect
description. We hold many memories in our minds, but gratitude to a stranger who helped us in
a time of need, that's something that would surely be held in the heart. -- Nancy, 5/9/14
|The photos on this page were taken in Austria and Hungary.
|A little kindness from person to person is better than a vast love
for all humankind. -- Richard Dehmel
|Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround
us every day. -- Sally Koch
|If we give someone a piece of bread, that’s kindness, but if we put peanut
butter on it, that’s loving kindness. -- Barbara Johnson
|It's difficult to give away kindness. It keeps coming back to you. - Cort Flint