Lately, I've been learning about compassion and kindness. I've always tried to be "nice." I use my manners and I'm polite. I can get along with pretty much anyone. But that's not enough in this world. Politeness is not enough to fight the hate and fear that is running rampant all around us. Kindness is not only a reaction or a response to someone or something, I believe it should be proactive. Pro ACTIVE. Meaning, seek out ways to show kindness that require some kind of giving of yourself.
Anyway, I've been learning this. Eddie has been a great teacher. I've never seen anyone deal with other people with such patience and eagerness to help like he does. He is a law enforcement officer, and while many of his past and present colleagues get into scuffles, arguments, and pull their weapon or taser, Eddie has an unbelievable track record or DE-escalating situations, simply by talking, trying to understand what the problem is, and putting himself in another's position. Even when he is forced to write citations, or escort people from the property, the offender often THANKS Eddie when the episode is over. I've never seen anything like it. But it has me believing much more in the effectiveness of compassion, over the effectiveness of pride and stubbornness.
Well, this is a true story. It happened yesterday. There was a knock on the door, which sent my dog, Joy, into a barking frenzy and my toddler and baby into fits of yelling and chaos. I finally got to the door to open it, carrying my 11-month old and holding my 2-year old's hand (both wearing only a diaper), while simultaneously holding Joy back with my leg. The woman at the door was an older, middle-eastern woman wearing a head scarf. I asked how I could help her. Her English was extremely broken, made even harder to understand by the fact Joy was STILL barking non-stop. However, what I picked up, was that she was looking for my husband. Then I remembered that twice before, Eddie told me that a middle-eastern woman at the grocery store had asked him for a ride home, which he gave her, and it turned out that we live in the same apartment complex. She had paid him with with a box of Life Cereal, and later, a tub of strawberries. I told her that I understood. She went on to explain something that was clearly very important, however, I could not make out a single word, until she said very clearly, "Your husband, he is very kind." There was nothing more I could do for her and I asked if she could come back later when Eddie came home. She said she would.
When she returned later, she and Eddie sat on the couch as Eddie patiently listened to her desperately explain something that was obviously worrying her. I heard "Russia," "My husband," "My son," "Afghanistan," "Senator." But Eddie understood much more. As I got the boys' supper ready in the other room, I noticed Eddie get the laptop. She called someone on her cell phone, then handed the phone to Eddie. There were a few more phone calls. She was worried, that much was clear. I began to feel nervous when I heard the word, "Taliban." That is a word that invokes terror in most people's heart. Should we really have anything to do with this woman? I caught myself thinking.
The woman gazed at my boys with such happiness and emotion. She watched them as they ran around, played, whined, fought, and made a mess with the fish sticks. Both boys were dressed in their matching red, white, and blue "U.S.A" outfits that I put them in because it was July 5th and I was trying to make the most out of their seasonal clothing. Eddie had given me a vase of colored roses for our 9-year anniversary. I pulled one out and gave it to my 2-year old. I whispered in his ear to go hand it to that lady. He obeyed with a smile on his face, which deepened his dimples. The woman was stunned. "Oh my gosh! Beautiful!" she whispered as she touched his cheek. When she and Eddie finished talking, she thanked us, handed us bread in a ziplock bag that she called, "Persian cooking," and walked out the door. As she turned, she wiped a tear from her cheek.
Eddie explained. She and her family are from Afghanistan. Her husband was killed by Russians in the 1970's. One of her sons made it to the U.S. and lives in Tennessee. Her other son is stuck in Afghanistan and they cannot get a response on the status of his visa. She is very worried about him because he is being threatened by the Taliban. He was one of many translators who helped the U.S. military in Afghanistan during the war, but when the U.S. left, there was no one left to protect these translators. As a result, many of them have been killed or threatened by the Taliban. Her son is one of them. She is terrified. She wanted Eddie to help her figure out how to write a letter to our Senator. She is desperate to get her son out. Eddie is not a politician, nor an immigration expert. He is a middle-class husband and father who works for the National Park Service. So why, WHY, out of all the people in Atlanta did this woman come to Eddie, basically a stranger, to help her with this very complicated, deeply personal problem?!
Because, "he is very kind."
If there is one thing for certain, Eddie will see this through. He will research and help her write her letter to the appropriate person. She will likely re-pay him with another home-baked good, or possibly some more fresh fruit. That is not necessary. He would help anyway. Because the thought of this widowed mother in a foreign land, unable to communicate effectively, all alone in this state, fearing for the life of her son (does he have dimples too?) is too much to simply brush off and say it's not our problem, or to allow irrational fear justify inaction.
For many, kindness and compassion are learned behaviors. For others, like my husband of 9 years today, they are innate. Be kind. Or learn to be kind. Both may be another person's answered prayer.