It’s amazing what a simple act of kindness can do. One simple act has stayed with me for years.
Divorced, Broke, Depressed, and Lonely
I’m glad to say it was several years ago when this happened. I’m glad because I remember being smack dab in the middle of the most painful period of my life, as if someone dropped me from space and I was living in the crater I had created.
It was just about seven years ago. I was divorced, broke, depressed, and lonely. (I want royalties from any Country Music artist who creates that song). I had moved to a new city and was separated from my kids at least some of the time.
I had enough money to survive, but barely. If it wasn’t for the fact I lived in an old, cold apartment and worked from home, I’m not sure I would have had the money to make it.
I’ve struggled with depression most of my life and this didn’t help. I didn’t know anyone in the area except my boys and my boys’ mother’s family. That made little difference.
I was in low gear, in a go kart with a split block running on empty. (Again, I want royalties.) Yet a simple act of kindness from the music minister at a local church made a huge impact on me then that I still remember today.
Lonely in a Sea of People
For those who don’t know what depression is, it’s not sadness. It’s a loss of hope. It’s pointlessness. It’s a lead blanket that holds you down and blocks out the sun. When I say it blocks out the sun, I mean the warmth, the light, and the understanding of time. It’s unbearably heavy.
When people knock on the blanket, and ask “are you okay”, it’s thoughtful, but it’s not like it will change anything. It’s a nice gesture, but probably not the simple act of kindness people think it is. It’s not like they have the power to lift the blanket, so it makes it easier for the person under it to just say “I’m fine,” because who wants to try to explain to someone why what they’re doing won’t work when you’re crushed by a mountain of lead?
As I was carrying this blanket around, I was going to a church. Sadly, No one noticed my blanket. Very few people even greeted me. The ratio of giving and receiving greetings definitely ran hot in my favor. The church started to feel more lonely than staying home. My mood was dark and negative; lead blankets have a way of making people cranky.
I knew a few people, some who were great to talk to, some who were not. I tried my best to drag my blanket around so I could be friendly. Some days it was just too painful. On one day in particular, I had given up. I was sitting on a couch in the lobby going through social media just hoping the loneliness would stop. That’s when a simple act of kindness peaked in through the darkness that was covering me and changed my future.
Pushing through the Blockades
When you struggle with depression, you have a habit of putting up blockades. Why? Pretty much because you have to. Let me explain.
Depression is like a dementor. It sucks the energy out of you. It leaves you empty, hollow, and hopeless. There were many mornings during that period of my life where I laid in bed racking my brain for a reason to get up. Thirty seconds turned into a couple minutes. A couple minutes turned into fifteen. Fifteen minutes turned into an hour. And there I lay in the middle of it all, still unable to find a reason to get out of bed.
When you’ve managed to tap the reserves and get enough energy to get dressed, then make plans, then get outside, and then to meet people, at that point you’re running on fumes. Inevitably someone will ask you how you’re doing. To tell them the truth is to find the energy to say it, then explain it, then answer the questions that arise, then put on a kind face while they regale you with all the wisdom they have on how to cure your depression by thinking positively. “Oh! Positivity! Why didn’t I think of that?” It all takes so much energy that only serves to make you more depressed.
So it’s no small feat when someone finds their way past the blockades. They realize that depression isn’t just sadness. They know that depressed people would love to be positive, just like a person locked in a dark cage desperately wants to get out. They understand that it’s not about solving the situation. They focus on sitting on the other side of the cage and simply letting the other person know they are not alone. That’s how they get around the blockades: with that simple act of kindness.
More Than a Music Minister
That’s what the music minister of this church did. As I was sitting on the couch scanning social media, he came over and talked to me. He wasn’t pushy, but, sadly, I was. I pushed him away simply with my blockades. I focused on my social media while he just showed me that I was important. He showed me a simple act of kindness.
I wish I could say something transformative here. I wish I could say that the few minutes he stayed to show me that I mattered caused me to break down in tears, open up, and resolve all my problems. I wish I could say that I apologized for my blockades and returned his simple act of kindness.
But life isn’t transformative, at least not like that. We don’t change in big sweeping changes but in small, unexpected ways.
The conversation didn’t last long. It wasn’t very friendly – at least I wasn’t very friendly. I wish I could change how I acted. But despite all that, it had a huge impact on my life. I knew that someone cared. I knew that, despite the cage that held me, someone was willing to sit down and lean back against the bars to minister to me and show me I had value. That simple act of kindness has stuck with me all these years.
That’s how the world is changed: not with gigantic sweeping gestures, but with a simple act of kindness. You can make a difference in the world today. You can change someone’s life. You can alter the path of someone that matters toward a brighter future.
All it takes is a simple act of kindness.