Royally Kind Blogging Event

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D_Button_RK.jpgI've survived the dentist! I'm shlurring like a drunk when I speak, because my tongue and lips are still pretty much numb, but I'm alive!

Alive to tell the tale of what I ended up doing for the gorgeous Duchess Jill's Royally Kind blogging event (or operation 'stranger danger', as I've affectionately nicknamed it) which kicks off today.

Ever since pledging my participation months ago, I have been wondering what act of kindness I could possibly commit that would fit the bill. As I've mentioned in my original post, since I work from home, I don't get out all that much. In fact, I can easily go a week or two without seeing a solitary soul, so my first order of business had to be finding an actual stranger to be kind to.

My reclusive existence of the past decade has also made me a bit shy, so although I had fantasies in which I envisioned performing dramatic acts of astonishing kindness that would make Oprah's massive car giveaways pale in comparison, I knew that the reality would probably be far more mundane.

So for the past few weeks, whenever I ventured out to go grocery shopping or run errands, I have been wracking my brain for The Perfect Act of Kindness. Terrified that I wouldn't be able to come up with something great and worthwhile and thus have nothing to blog about, I started doing small... no minuscule, really... things to build up a sort of reserve of kindnesses: I smiled at people more. (Which, actually, may have made me look slightly insane, so people didn't take as warmly to that as I may have hoped, and instead took a few terrified steps back whenever I grinned in their direction.) I told the ladies working at the check-out counter that they looked beautiful. I put money in someone's parking meter... only for them to drive off shortly after! At least that made me laugh out loud.

In the end, my act of kindness was something totally unexpected. Something I did without any premeditation but out of spontaneous reflex. It happened a couple of weeks ago and I'm not even sure that I can really count it as a Royally Kind act, so I'll just tell you the story and let you be the judge.

Before I can relate the act, I have to tell you another story. (It's relevant to the kindness, honestly.)

About three and a half years ago, I reconnected with an old college friend on Facebook. After writing on each others' walls for a bit, we decided to catch up via e-mail. At first he wasn't extremely forthcoming about his life; only telling me that he was married to the love of his life and that he had left journalism and was now a firefighter/paramedic in the very same town where I used to live with my mom after returning from the States.

Then, in another e-mail, he poured his heart out. Told me that his wife had died in a car crash before they had even been married a year. It had happened just the year before, so he was still extremely raw. He was always an intense guy... incredibly creative and a brilliant photographer and prone to long depressions back when we were in journalism school.. and I could tell that he was drowning in his grief. It was especially difficult because his second chosen profession was to rescue and save people, and yet he couldn't save the person he had loved the most. 

I tried reaching out as best as I could on the web, but I wasn't effective. I did not want to pretend that I knew what he was going through. So I handled it clumsily. I should have done more. Tried harder.

But I didn't.

He disappeared from Facebook and e-mail for a few months. I sent e-mails. Wrote on his wall a few times. But then, when I didn't get any responses, I just stopped.

In early June 2008, he wrote on my wall again. I was ecstatic. He said that he was back and would be around more. I responded immediately, saying how great it was to hear from him again and I remarked on the new profile picture he had put up of himself to replace the cartoon of a firefighter.

Another quick aside (but still relevant, promise):  I had once written something on his wall (a teasing comment) and another Facebook friend of his had replied to me, getting in on the joke.

Two days after receiving that "I'm back" message from him, I received a private message on Facebook from that girl who had replied to me on his wall all those months before. The subject simply said his name, and I knew... I was sobbing so hard by the time I had opened the message, I could barely read the dreaded words. She told me that she was contacting me to let me know that he had died the morning before. She had the kindness not to tell me that it was suicide, but again, I just knew. She eventually confirmed, when I asked.

In the digital age, grieving means paying tribute on Facebook. I had no other outlet, so a day later, I left a comment on his picture.

And forgot about it, until... Those of you who are also on Facebook would know that, when you leave a comment on someone's picture or status update, you get an e-mail whenever someone else leaves a comment. Well, about two weeks ago I got an e-mail alerting me that someone else had also left a comment on my late friend's picture. (Because yes, after all this time, his Facebook account has never been shut down by anyone, so it is still there, and I don't have the heart to delete him from my friend's list.)

I was curious - it was nowhere near the anniversary of his death or his birthday, which is the only time people usually bother to write anything on his wall or his albums - so I read the comment posted by the other person.

It was left by another firefighter/paramedic, and the guy said that he loved him and missed him and that the job was still heartbreaking and tough, but - and this is the part that chilled me - that he had every intention to 'join him very soon, much sooner than you think'.

I immediately sent this guy a private message on Facebook. I told him that he would probably think that I'm crazy for writing to him, and that I'm sorry if I misunderstood his comment, but if he was planning to follow in our friend's footsteps, that he should please not do it. I begged him to reconsider. It was a long, rambling message and, in retrospect, it was embarrassingly intimate. I told him about my own battles, and about my college friendship with our friend and how much his death has affected me.

I didn't receive a reply from this person, but a little while later, he sent me a friend request. There was no personal message attached. Just the request, which I of course accepted.

I still don't know if I had completely misread his message or not - maybe I had and he was just too gracious to tell me - but I don't actually regret reaching out.

A few days ago, while trying to figure out what on earth I was going to blog about for the Royally Kind project, I remembered this. As I've said, I don't know if it even really counts, since it happened online and via writing and not in the 'real world'. (But hey, considering that this is where I spend most of my time...) Also, I have to admit that this project was definitely not on my mind when I wrote him that message.

You be the judge. In the mean time, meet the rest of the participants in my group and read what lovely kindnesses they've extended: Paige, Vanessa, Elizabeth, Andrée, and Crystal.

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7 Comments

Hi "Red",

Your story of your kind act was most touching. It brought a tear to my eye.

I'm happy to find your website. I lover your humor and honesty. Looking forward to reading more.

Paige

kyknoord said:

Reaching out is definitely an act of kindness, especially when you've had your hand bitten in the past.

Marco said:

About 18 years ago, I lost someone who I was very close to, when her dad killed his whole family and himself in an "extended suicide"...the tradegy in it all, he mentioned the idea of suicide a few times to different people - and no one took him serious...

What you did is an amazing act of kindness.

Absolutely an act of kindness and I am so grateful that I somehow, someway, stumbled across Red Said and you, darling girl! I'm always listening! Thanks for being a part of the blogging event. Next blogging event is going to be called "forcing Red out to have fun!" ;-) We (of course meaning I) need photos of your part of the world. It sounds beautiful. xxo

Res said:

I read this after I posted my contribution, and I am ashamed.
Hat's off to you, Red.

TerraShield said:

It is an act of kindness, Red. And very, very touching. I think I teared up a bit.

What a powerful and touching post.I must say also that you did and amazing act of kindness towards other people.

At first I was smiled about the first sentence but as I read the whole post, I was touched.And I bow to you my friend.

Thanks to this and more power to this site.

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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comments
  • acesyyl from Dentists Bend Oregon : What a powerful and touching post.I must say also that you did and amazing act of kindness towards o... [go]
  • TerraShield : It is an act of kindness, Red. And very, very touching. I think I teared up a bit. ... [go]
  • Res : I read this after I posted my contribution, and I am ashamed. Hat's off to you, Red.... [go]
  • Jill the Duchess : Absolutely an act of kindness and I am so grateful that I somehow, someway, stumbled across Red Said... [go]
  • Marco : About 18 years ago, I lost someone who I was very close to, when her dad killed his whole family and... [go]
  • kyknoord : Reaching out is definitely an act of kindness, especially when you've had your hand bitten in the pa... [go]
  • Paige of Redefining Wealth Author Profile Page: Hi "Red", Your story of your kind act was most touching. It brought a tear to my eye. I'm happy t... [go]
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