Never underestimate the power of gestures of kindness. Whether it’s big or small, lavish or simple, to your best friend or a stranger makes no difference at all. Regardless who you give to, kindness has power.
Kindness implies good will, understanding, sympathy and grace. Depending on the circumstances, a kind gesture can serve as an olive branch, an apology or to simply let someone know you cared enough to extend the gesture.
Meet Henry Fraiser. Henry is from England, and in 2009, when he was seventeen years old on vacation in Portugal, he dove into a shallow part of the ocean, dislocating his neck. He was instantly paralyzed from the shoulders down.
When you have a catastrophic injury, like a broken neck resulting in paralysis, you go through a lot of departments in the hospital until you come home. Every hospital is different, but you generally start in the intensive care unit (ICU) until you are somewhat stable.
Next comes a rehab unit to get you familiar with the way your new body works. Finally, some individuals go home at this point or, some choose to go to a longer term rehabilitation facility to get as strong as possible before returning home.
Some people are not able to return home, so they have no choice but to go into a nursing home, regardless of their age. I was injured at twenty-one years old, Henry at seventeen. I can’t fathom what it would have been like to go into a nursing home at our ages, knowing it was our home for life.
I won’t lie to you, the beginning of being injured is hell. Or to be more accurate, what I remember of it was. Much of it I don’t remember, some due to medication I was given for this purpose, and some because my body wanted to protect me from the emotional pain. It was the same for Henry.
Both Henry and I received countless flowers, letters, phone calls and visits during our hospital stays. When circumstances were so bad I didn’t think I could bear another moment, I played a little game with myself. I’d close my eyes and think of a letter from a friend or a picture drawn from one of the kids I babysat for or the feeling of my Dad’s cheek against mine or a note from a well wisher I didn’t even know.
And the unbearable moment would pass. While those types of severe circumstances don’t happen anymore, I certainly experience challenging times. My game still works, and throughout the years I’ve only gained more gestures of kindness to put in my mental library.
Somewhere along the way in Henry’s hospital stay, he was transferred to pediatrics instead of an adult unit because he was still a minor at seventeen years old. Out of the many letters of love and encouragement, one in particular stood out. It was from a stranger.
I am at my first year at DC, year 3. When you are well enough, you could come see us at school. Maybe you could watch us play rugby. Here is a joke, I hope you think it’s funny! Q – Why do cows have bells? A – Because their horns don’t work! I hope your food is better than ours, it is still really bad yuck.
See you soon, Freddie”
Henry said moments like this saved him in the hospital. He calls gestures like this “the little big things,” and to never underestimate the power of your actions. I can’t say it better myself.
So if you have friend going through a challenging time, take a moment to make a phone call or send them an e-card that will be waiting for them the next time they check their email. You can do the same if it’s someone you don’t know but you heard about in your community that is having a challenging time.
The power of these gestures are so significant because they let the person know someone cares. Injured or not, imagine truly feeling there wasn’t a single person in the world who ever cared about you. As Henry Fraser put it, it’s the little big things, and never underestimate the power of your actions.