Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lasting Kindness

 We’d played together as children, but hadn’t really known each other as adults. I left home at eighteen for college, and he left two years later. He and my brother had stayed in touch, though, so he and his wife attended my brother’s wedding reception. We shook hands warmly and he asked, smiling, “What’s it been—forty years?”
            We settled in for a lovely chat as the DJ cranked up the music behind us.
            “You came over every morning when my mother was in the hospital to make sure I was dressed and got to school. You don’t remember that, do you?” he asked.
            I shook my head. “How old were you?”
“I was in second grade. You walked me to my classroom.”
            “That means I was in fourth grade,” I said, embarrassed by my own kindness, my maturity, then realizing, “That would have been my mother, telling me to go over to your house and make sure you were up and ready.”
            And so it would have been. My mother was endlessly kind to other people, endlessly annoying me with her care of neighbors and relatives. It would have been just like her to promise the ailing woman and her husband, who had to leave for work before school began, that I would stop in to get their son off to school each morning. Because my mother had to get to her own factory job before school began, so I would have been delegated.
I remember major events of that fourth grade year: John Glenn’s first space flight, My Weekly Reader stories, Mrs. Smith reading us Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books after recess, watching the open car carrying presidential candidate John Kennedy go past, and my struggles with long division. A no-doubt frightened eight-year-old boy hasn’t remained in my memory. But I was glad to have this story, knowing that my mother was behind it. I realized again how much she taught me about hospitality, a very Christian virtue.

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