We tend to make lists this time of year with plans to better ourselves, to take up physical fitness, to stop anything that we find bothersome about ourselves, what we consider our flaws and oftentimes, said list can be very long. It’s easy to spend time thinking about what we are not. I’m not a neurosurgeon. I’m not an astronaut nor a superhero. I can’t recall what I wanted to be when I grew up aside of being a farmer and maybe have my own unicorn, one that could fly would have suited me. That was the extent of my plans. I don’t think I thought of being a concert pianist or an Olympic gymnast, which in hindsight was a wise decision considering my skill at both. In Grade Thirteen, I was desperate to figure out what was the next step for me. My father insisted I have an education first and then I could come home and farm with him. We had a deal, using words like I promise. I spent hours searching university syllabuses for the answer. “Go with your strengths,” Mr. Ross said. I wasn’t sure what my strengths were, or if I even had any, but off I went to the University of Manitoba in pursuit of my Bachelor of Physical Education with a minor in Calculus. The whole time I was there all I wanted was to come home, every second of every day.
My dad didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. It wasn’t intentional, of course. His heart let him down a few weeks into my first year of university, so my one big plan was removed from my now empty list, the unicorn going with him.
It’s true, there is a long list of things I can’t be or can’t do. I can’t be famous, nor do I want to be. I can’t be rich, which I couldn’t care less about. I won’t travel much but I am very fond of my own back yard. I won’t solve world poverty or be part of a dialogue that creates world peace. I won’t have a hand in finding solutions to pandemics and disasters caused by climate change. But there is one thing I can always do, and it doesn’t require a degree or a sizeable bank account or height or perfect eyesight, nor must I be able to run fast or jump high or speak many languages. I can be kind.
I was remembering the long list of those who have extended kindness to me since I was a child. I could fill pages. Mrs. Mason always set books of horse stories on the corner of her desk, downstairs in the library’s children department. Barry Cox always shared his wonderful smile from a very tall place over the counter at the post office. Mr. Quesnel offered solace and safety in home room so that each morning, before classes started, I felt a sense of belonging. Betty with her lovely white hair twisted at the back of her head and exotic eyeglass frames asked me what I was going to create with the fabric she was cutting for me and told me not to be afraid to imagine something that seems out of reach. Annie’s kindness to me and the lessons she taught me while I was on her knee changed me profoundly and there isn’t a day that I don’t call on her example. Or the person that held the door for me at the post office or a neighbour who waved and shouted good morning on a day when I needed to feel connected or the person who brushed the snow off my car in the grocery store parking lot just because. It all matters.
The fundamental truth is there are more things that I cannot do than what I can, but every single one of us can be kind and it is that very kindness that changes the world.