Bill and Jim: Ambassadors of Kindness

Years ago, when my four children were very young, I announced to the my church that my husband was going to be away for a while.   The outpouring of support was astounding.  We got all kinds of cards and well-wishes.

One of the treasured gifts we got was from a friend of ours, Bill, who was, frankly, very overweight.  But we loved that about Bill. When Bill hugged you, you KNEW you were being hugged.  So when he came by one day when I was hoofing it alone with the four kids to offer his services in cutting the grass, I accepted tenuously.  We didn’t have a riding lawn mower.  We had, at that time, a $50 second hand mower with a cutting swath of about 6 inches.  I knew that it would be a struggle for Bill to mow that expanse of grass, but I accepted his kindness, trusting he would cry uncle if necessary.

He never cried uncle.  I had made a meatloaf dinner, but given my paltry cooking skills, I’m sure I was still greatly indebted to him after we ate.

He died a few years later of complications from diabetes, and my husband and I went to his memorial service at the same church (he had died in another state).   For some reason, even though I really didn’t know Bill very well, I started crying and couldn’t stop.  That’s not like me–the stoic Connecticut Yankee!  I guess I just felt it was so sad that we had lost, on this Earth, an Ambassador of Kindness.

*****

Fast forward many years, to my being gainfully employed and traveling a lot.  One night I was at a facility doing market research.  I had never met the director, Jim, but he was very intent on great customer service.  He would have done just fine in that regard in any case, but as it turned out, the city was surprised by a snowstorm.  I asked Jim to get me a taxi–but with the snow, it was going to be a long wait to take me to my hotel about ten miles away.

Jim offered to take me to the hotel.  “No, that’s too much!” I told him.  What an offer!  Everyone knows how daunting a trip home can be in the snow, and in this case, Jim was offering me this daunting trip all the way to my hotel, and from there he would have to head home–God knows how bad the snow would be by then!  I accepted the offer, and I have never forgotten it.  Just a couple of months ago, I called him to commission his facility for a study and I had reminded him of his kindness.

Today, I came to work at his facility, and one of his employees got me settled and then said, “You know Jim, right?  We lost him last week in a car accident.”  I felt the wind kicked out of me.  Jim was 35, with a brand new baby son.  My eyes welled up with tears, and I felt stunned for much of the morning.  Why?  I didn’t know Jim.  I didn’t know his family.  All I knew was the kindness he had shared with me once.  Once again, I had lost an Ambassador of Kindness.

Goodness is not in short supply.  There are plenty of wonderful human beings.  But it would be great if we could hold on to them for a while.  It would be even greater if we could take their example and be Ambassadors of Kindness in their names.

RIP Jim, whom I barely knew.  Thanks for the lift on that snowy night.

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