Relationships

A Small Kindness I’ll Never Forget

The Beatles

When I was pregnant with my first child, my doctor discovered a grapefruit-sized cyst in my right ovary…

It was most likely nothing, she said; a benign blob that had probably always been there, possibly blooming after marinating in pregnancy hormones. But it had to come out because if it were to rupture, I could go into septic shock. And we had to test it to rule out cancer.

Since we couldn’t remove it while I was pregnant, my doctor explained that I would need major surgery within a year of having my baby. Admittedly, I break out in boob sweat at the mere thought of a hospital. The idea of surgery produced full-body shudders.

Caught up in the thrill of new motherhood, I was able to put the grapefruit out of my mind. The days were joyful blurs of nursing, diapering and binge-watching my son, Owen, as though he were a TV. In the middle of the night, however, my postpartum mind replayed worst case scenarios on loop. What if it was cancer? What if I didn’t wake up? I pictured a knife slicing through skin, flesh, muscle and organ. I imagined a version of Owen’s life without me in it.

Me being me, I waited the full year, just before Owen’s first birthday. I wanted to face my fears like a mother, bravely and gracefully, but I was struggling. From the backseat of a taxi, my husband and I watched the sun rise over the East River, as we headed to the hospital, quietly holding hands. The hospital was a linoleum hive of early morning bustle; for some people, this was just another day at the office. I remember pulling on fuzzy hospital-issued socks with trembling legs and chattering teeth. Is nothing more vulnerable than having your bare ass exposed in a mauve hospital gown?

Handing the nurse my belongings felt uncomfortably symbolic. Here are my jeans, I thought, riddled with nerves. My purse, my dreams, my life. Take them.

“I’m a mother,” I tried explaining, through tears. “I have a little boy.”

The nurse had short blonde hair and don’t-bullshit-me eyes. Her stoic, tough-love demeanor reminded me of Frances McDormand. She looked me squarely in the face and told me it was going to be okay. She let me squeeze her hand as my IV was administered, and she rubbed my shoulder.

There are few things more terrifying than being wheeled awake into an operating room. The room is blindingly white, and with my contact lenses removed, the semi-circle of surgeons and nurses appeared to be aliens waiting to harvest my organs. Furthering my bewilderment, Led Zeppelin was blasting on a boom box.

I know it’s un-cool to admit this, but I have never really liked Led Zeppelin. I get why other people like them but to me, they sound like a duet between a jackhammer and a cat in heat. If this were to be the last song I would hear in my life, please god, don’t let it be Kashmir.

I jokingly asked if the DJ was taking requests.

“You don’t like Zeppelin?” a nurse asked, in his thick Queens accent. “Who do you like?”

I heard myself muttering the first band that came to mind: “The Beatles?”

Someone actually left the room in search of a Beatles CD but returned empty-handed.

“Well, I guess we should just call the whole thing off,”  I said, laughing nervously.

They stood around me in awkward silence. I could see in their faces how much they wanted to soothe me; they were all trying so hard to be cheerful and upbeat, but the truth was, the show must go on.

Then, from somewhere behind me, outside my peripheral vision, a lone male voice started to sing. “In the town, where I was born… lived a ma-a-an who sailed to sea…”

He was slowly joined in chorus by the other surgeons, nurses, assistants and anesthesiologists, in what was possibly the strangest, sweetest, most tuneless version of Yellow Submarine ever to be sung. 

“…and he told us of his life in the la-a-and of submarines…”

I counted backwards to a song I had loved since childhood; a song I sang nightly to my baby. I relaxed as the medicine took me under and I let go. 

Next thing I knew, it was over and, thankfully, I was ok.

When placing your life in someone’s hands, you want to know that they are particularly skilled hands. You want the best surgeon that exists in the universe. But beyond skill, beyond technology, medicine and state-of-the-art equipment, the thing you remember long after you’ve healed is human compassion. 

It was a simple gesture — impulsive and somewhat goofy — for someone to sing Yellow Submarine to an excessively nervous young mother who would most likely by all statistics get to go home and live a healthy life. Others may have been put off by my jitters — they see far worse on a daily basis — but in my personal hour of desperation, this medical staff displayed a kindness I will not soon forget.

I find the small kindnesses in life to be the most poignant because they are not expected. There is no obligation by the giver. They may not even know you. But in that moment, they mean everything.

In this current climate of gasp-inducing headlines and daily doses of wobbly uncertainty, the world can feel cold and sometimes cruel.

On those days when we wake up feeling tender and raw after a sleepless night, when an old friend mysteriously un-friends us on social media, when our children ask us with worried eyes if they will be safe at school, when the week’s small slights and emotional bruises strung together threaten death by a million paper cuts… look for the small kindnesses.

They are there. You will always find them.

Here are mine from last week: Homemade biscotti wrapped in tinfoil, left on my doormat from my upstairs neighbor. Thoughtful, detailed praise of my work, via Facebook by someone I have never met. A childhood friend who listened — really listened — to a particular heartbreak of mine; who offered no advice or admonishment; and when I cried, he cried too.

But on a particularly hard day or week, if even the smallest kindnesses seem to be elusive — be kind to yourself. There is tremendous kindness in a hot shower. A steamy, glasses-fogging bowl of soup. Cat cow in your pajamas. A badly sung song (even Kashmir) sung from your heart, with all the air in your lungs.


Lisa Rubisch started her career at MTV and now directs commercials and music videos for major brands at Park Pictures in New York. She also contributes writing to websites, anthologies and books, and has written two other essays for Cup of Jo.

P.S. Happiness vs. wholeness.

(Photo of the Beatles.)

  1. I have had some scary experiences in the E.R. and I must say, I remember every nurse and doc who was kind to me. I try to get their names and come back with treats to thank them, because as a person who deeply fears hospitals and surgery, I cannot express how the folks with kindness and compassion can change the experience entirely. I recently had a routine eye exam, and I am being referred to a neurologist for a dilation issue— I am 34. It’s likely nothing except a condition I’ve had since birth, that was somehow not caught, but I am scared I’ll have to have a CAT scan or MRI— I have a lot of anxiety surrounding those procedures. Reading this tonight reminded me that there are awesome people in the medical profession, and things will be okay. Humour helps, and I can ask for support. Thank you to EVERYONE for this post and the comments— as I sit here balling— I really needed this tonight.

  2. Tears, happy, happy tears.

    Thank you for this.

  3. Isabella says...

    I need to stop reading these stories, or I’ll dehydrate myself from crying! Sending huge hugs to all of you. And speaking of kindness, a CoJ reader named Elise left the most thoughtful, helpful reply to a comment I’d made on the recent “what do contractions feel like?” post, and I hope she’s reading now so that she can see my THANK YOU!! For taking the time to write so much and with such empathy, and for sharing an experience that resonated and mirrored my own and my lingering sense of trauma. I can’t tell you what a comfort it’s been, to hear someone say “I know what you mean,” when no one ever seems to. Thank you.

  4. Erin says...

    About those horrible hospital gowns: I had minor surgery last year (but “major” enough that I had to be put all the way under) and I brought my own bathrobe to the hospital. I wore it through all the surgical prep, which for the procedure I needed was fairly extensive. My bathrobe couldn’t come into the OR, but it was a huge help to have it there for all the other parts of the day because I didn’t have to sit shivering in nothing but a stupid flappy gown.

  5. Breanne J says...

    As many have mentioned, I type this through tears. Although the story is touching, what is particularly skillful to me is her ability to convey emotion on the page. The way she writes— skillfully and honestly— is nothing short of art. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us.

  6. Kelly says...

    I’m a young mother and I needed this today. Thank you.

  7. Sandy says...

    Thank you for reminding me that small acts of kindness can mean so much. My two year old was offered a chocolate kiss today while at the Post Office and before accepting, she asked if she could have one for her older sister who was at school, and who has the biggest sweet tooth. She ate hers right away, but saved her sister’s chocolate kiss in her pocket all day, and gave it to her sister when she got off the bus. It was a little act of kindness, but one that would have been hard for a two year old, and I have never been prouder of her!

    • Misha says...

      This. Is. Precious. Your daughter sounds like a gem. I bet some of that kindness came from you. xo

    • You are doing things right Mama- what a beautiful act from one so young <3

    • freya says...

      so sweet

  8. Sarah says...

    Oh man. This makes me want to look around and be a little kinder to everyone

  9. Sonja says...

    There is a mother who suddenly lost her child. She said the only thing that got her through the days were the random acts of kindness that strangers did. Intentional kindness. She started Ben’s bells in memory of her son. She and the community come together to create these bells, Ben’s bells, that are left as a random act of kindness for a stranger to find. I have taken both of my kids to paint beads for the bells. Website is bensbells.org. Your story resonates with me much like Jeanette Mare’s story of coping by the kindness of strangers.

  10. Ryann says...

    This might truly be the kindest place on the internet. Thanks for the love and light.

  11. Alana says...

    My baby’s heartbeat disappeared when I was in labor, and I was rushed to the OR for an emergency c-section while nurses and doctors jabbed me with injections, and yelled at me for my consent. I closed my eyes, and nodded my head. In the middle of all of it, a nurse whispered in my ear, “try to connect to your baby.” I immediately thought/said to my baby, “Laila, Laila, please wake up.” And just like that, her heartbeat came back.
    I will never ever forget the humanity that the nurse showed me, and I am forever thankful that she reminded me that I was an active participant.

    • Allison Dobbins says...

      Alana, your story really touched me. I’m 32 weeks pregnant and will remember this story during my own labor. Thank you for sharing.

    • edie says...

      what an amazing story! the singular power of a mother’s voice.

  12. Cam says...

    I love this essay. As I get older, I think small kindnesses might be the most important thing. And as an OR nurse, I extra love the story she used. Between our masks, the bright lights, and a snazzy cocktail of drugs that makes patients forget things quickly, I often wonder if we are remembered at all. I used to work in a small town, and I’d occasionally see patients out and about. Someone whose neck I’d spent half an afternoon poking around inside of for a thyroid case, or a mom who had rested her head on my shoulder while getting the spinal at their c-section – and they’d pass me without a flicker of recognition. Nice to know we do make an impression, even if you won’t remember our face!

    And the music thing – I once had a nervous patient wheeled into the room just as Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was playing. Needless to say, he wasn’t feeling that particular choice :-)

  13. I have to share my own yellow submarine story. I student taught in the most amazing fifth grade class and on my last day of student teaching my students put on a class talent show for me. Every student performed a talent, many of which they customized with things they knew I liked. The last student to perform slowly began to sing “yellow submarine” and the whole class jumped up to join, putting their arms around each other and swaying along to the song. They all remembered what a huge Beatles fan I am and planned their talent show finale as a whole class.

  14. Ally says...

    I loved this post – thank you.

    I don’t have one big regret in my life that stands out – but what I do regret are the collection of times I’ve been unkind to strangers for one reason or another. We all have these moments – usually a result of the daily grind of life, a bad mood or a day of low confidence. Most of these interactions I don’t remember, but there is one from many years ago that pops into my mind occasionally – I can’t seem to let it go. I just pulled my bag from the trunk after a long road trip and a couple pulled up to the curb to ask for directions. I was grouchy and tired from a long weekend and I made it very obvious that I was annoyed to be helping them. I scowled walking over and I know I could have been more detailed and clear with the directions I begrudgingly gave. I doubt that couple remembers this interaction. But who knows – maybe it’s catalogued into their memory in the same way I remember specific times strangers were kind or unkind to me. What I know is that I had a choice to be kind that day and I wasn’t. Moments stay with people – big ones and little ones. Why not be kind and thoughtful when we have the chance to be. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

  15. jessica says...

    when my daughter was first born, i couldn’t make milk. i had been through 3 full days of immediately intense and unmedicated labor, and despite how hard i tried to hang on, i ended up having a c-section. through the trauma and exhaustion of it all, my body just wasn’t making milk, and my little 3 day old baby was suddenly looking so skinny and dehydrated. i don’t think i’ve ever felt so low and it was made even harder because… wasn’t i supposed to be so blissed out? the lactation consultant that was helping us knew how badly i wanted to breastfeed and while she couldn’t make me make milk, she did the kindest thing– she rode her bike all around town in the frigid february weather and collected breast milk from so many generous moms that i would never meet. they didn’t know me and they were willing to give this precious stuff up to help a stranger? and a friend, with a very small baby of her own, cleaned out her freezer and gave me her milk stockpile, despite needing to return to work the following month. it was in these acts of very palpable generosity that i came to appreciate my new station in life. though those first days were some of the hardest of my life, i am so thankful for them– i realized that i had not only become a mother but i had also crossed into a real and powerful sisterhood that still knocks my socks off almost every single day.

  16. Sara says...

    I love this essay. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, “People won’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.” I try to keep this in mind as best as I can as I move through the world, and appreciate those small kindnesses from others as well. <3

  17. Eva says...

    Reading this was just what I needed today. Thank you!

    On a different note, out of all medical professionals I dealt with during two long labors that were followed by c-sections, I remember the anesthesiologists most fondly. They were so very kind and really managed to put me at ease.

  18. Erin says...

    I was flying alone with my (at the time) 2 year old and he screamed and wailed the entire 2 hours. As we exited the plane a woman came up to me and hugged me and said “you are doing a great job” despite what must have been such an annoyance for every passenger on that plane. I was so flustered and embarrassed and that kind comment is one I will never forget.

    • Anna says...

      I fly for work often. I am going to start doing this! I often smile at them in support but I should be more explicit :)

  19. This lovely story made me tear up. I am a retired operating room nurse and the story was all the more poignant because it was sent to me by my daughter, pregnant with her first child.

    • Luciana Clark says...

      Congratulations, Frances (or should I say Grandma)!!!!

  20. Heather says...

    This was wonderful – it brought me right back to my own hospital story when my second daughter was born early and went into the NICU. Of course I was a mess – seeing her in that tiny little box with all those tubes and wires, that constant beeping, unable to hold her whenever I wanted.

    One night, a nurse just sat with me and we talked about normal things – non NICU things – like how my two girls would be close in age and how challenging, but fun that would be later on. When I came back during the next visiting hours, she had made these colorful signs to hang up – one with her name and birth info and another with my two girl’s names followed by ‘Best Friends Since November 2016″

    Its such a simple thing, and really those nurses do it for all their babies, but gosh I burst into tears. Seeing something personal in her little cube, seeing that someone had been thinking of her and of me.

    We had six weeks with those nurses – I spent hours with them and couldn’t possibly thank them for all the small ways they made it bearable. I think of them every time I see that sign – its sitting in the girls’ playroom.

  21. sandy says...

    Good Grief! This is everything I needed today. Scary CT results from my oncology nurse- progression in tumors and chemo no longer working. After 56 rounds of the gold standard chemo, I have to think about trying something different and being Stage 4 that is daunting.

    A friend just emailed me that she couldn’t come up with the right words to comfort me, but purchased a gift certificate for me at our local tiny bookstore, so that I may get lost in a book. Gosh it is the little things.

    • Shana says...

      Lovely. I also have cancer, and don’t completely know what you are going through, but know the scan anxiety and the scary results. I also know that colours seem a little brighter, songs a little better, articles like this a little more meaningful. Good luck.

    • Apollonia says...

      I don’t know you Sandy or Shana, but I’d like to give you a virtual hug. You are so, so strong. I hope you find a good book, Sandy! Good luck to both of you.

    • Sarah says...

      Good gracious, Sandy and Shana — I agree with Apollonia: You are BRAVE. And other COJ readers are with you. I hope you are on the receiving end of many, many random acts of kindness from strangers and loved ones alike as you fight this cancer.

  22. Sasha says...

    I’m a Med student on a surgical rotation. What a poignant piece! Thank you for sharing this moment, and for the reminder of all of life’s little kindnesses.

  23. Sarah says...

    Thank you for sharing this story.

  24. This is a beautiful experience you’ve shared. And I can relate. When I was 16 weeks pregnant with my second daughter I had my gall bladder removed. Fun fact: all of the extra estrogen from a babygirl can cause gallstones.

    Going into surgery was terrifying, I had a two-year-old girl at home as well. Every mothers biggest fear is leaving their children mother-less.

    It was a risky surgery considering I was pregnant but I knew I couldn’t have a healthy pregnancy for the new baby if I didn’t have it taken care of.

    My husband and I are University of Michigan alums and as they were putting the anesthesia mask on my face the anesthesiologist told me he went to Ohio State (huge rivalry). I think that was the universes way of making me laugh so I would go to sleep in a positive place.

    These experiences really give us perspective. At the end of the day if we are all happy and healthy then everything will be OK. That little baby is about to turn 1 and she was the joy at the end of a brutal and high-risk pregnancy road.

  25. Jenny says...

    Yes! Thank you. Kindness is too often overlooked. That was a beautiful reminder and one I needed today.

  26. kaela says...

    My heart is warm. People can be so unabashedly kind sometimes.

  27. Liz C. says...

    this is everything, thank you.

  28. I hear what your saying about small kindnesses. I had the same experience during two of my many surgeries.

    3 1/2 years ago, I had a mastectomy. My son was just 18 months old. I remember telling everyone I met that I had a child and I had to be ok. I know that fear of facing the knife while being a young mom. I also remember the car ride to the hospital, the sun barely rising as we got there. I also remember the chattering teeth and the crying, the making jokes that not everyone laughed at…it’s all so familiar.

    You talked about being rolled into the OR. How about WALKING to your mastectomy! Yes, I had to walk! My surgeon kept her hand on my back so I wouldn’t run away. I guess she knew what I was thinking.

    The first act of kindness that day was having them put me under right away. I begged to not be awake anymore. I couldn’t handle the anxiety. I think they probably wanted me to stop sobbing anyway. The next act of kindness was the way my surgeon woke me up in recovery. She was gently stroking my cheek, looking into my eyes and then she told me that everything was ok. That it was done. I’ll never forget that gentle touch after something so violent happened to my body.

    My plastic surgeon is not so loving and gentle. But my reconstruction was actually a very big surgery. It’s called a DIEP Flap. They take fat and vessels from your belly area and use that to reconstruct the breast. It’s a long surgery, 7 hours, and a 6-8 week recovery. I also cried like a baby walking into that surgery. I was scared because it was so long. And I was terrified of the pain I’d be in when I woke up.

    When I walked into the OR, covered in tears and snot, the anesthesiologist’s assistant took one look at me and opened her arms and embraced me. She had a big smile on her face. She told me that she was happy to see me. She acknowledged how I was feeling and soothed me. I don’t remember much after that but I’ll never forget how she welcomed me into the room like I was an old friend.

    Those small kindnesses go a long way, especially during traumatic experiences. I try to keep that in mind in my everyday life. I always try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. If we could all do that and try to understand each other better, I think we could heal the world.

  29. Rachel says...

    This was just so beautiful, as were all the comments. I’m sitting here trying not the sob and losing the fight. It immediately made me think of a nurse I came in contact with recently. My long term boyfriend’s mom passed away on good Friday and the nurse who cared for her that last day was just such a blessing. Michelle had been in and out of the hospital for about a month at that point and although we had come in contact with some great nurses this one was a step above. She cared for her like she was her own mother, sitting in the room with us, singing to her and comforting us all. She was just so amazing and I was so thankful she was there that last day. She was a ray of light.

  30. ALI says...

    My word, aren’t nurses incredible!

    I had to have some surgery and are very bad with medical procedures. I went in with my Mom and husband and worked very hard to keep it together all day because I knew that in reality I was very lucky there was nothing life-threateningly wrong with me and I was determined not to make any of the staff at the hospital’s life any harder than I’m sure it already is.

    Well………. as I was rolled into surgery emotion I had successfully repressed during the day came out all at once and I was UGLY crying in a room full of people.

    At first it seemed like they had no idea what to do with me, but then one sweet Nurse started to talk to ask me questions so I had to focus on something else. “How many days until Christmas? What would you like as a present?” I am a 30 YEAR OLD WOMAN and it was JULY and the sweet absurdity of her questions made me laugh almost as hard as I was crying. She squeezed my hand and I have never been more grateful in my life.

  31. Joanne says...

    This is the most beautiful, sweet, poignant thing I have read in a long time. Thanks.

  32. Riley says...

    I’m loving reading everyone’s comments, so I’ll share my moment, too.

    My mom was on hospice as she was dying from liver failure, and hospice on medicaid is really, I mean REALLY bare bones. A nurse would stop by every couple of days to renew her prescriptions and take her vitals, but there was no hospital bed, no 24-hour care… it was me, my aunt, and my cousin tending to her round the clock until she finally died. It was like some kind of brutal death marathon.

    I had been given a long list (13 or so?) of medications that I had to round up from every pharmacy in the city. I had honestly been to 5 or 6 at this point (it was a Sunday night), and none of the pharmacies had this one crucial medication. I was at my wits end, and I just started sobbing at the pharmacy counter. I told the pharmacist that my mom was dying and how powerless I felt, and she just reached out and grabbed my hand while tears streamed down her cheeks. It was so simple but so vulnerable of her, and it helped me take a few more steps forward.

    I always think about that night and hope that I too will take those kinds of risks to help others feel less alone in their darkest hours.

  33. Gillian says...

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.

  34. Blair says...

    I was moved to tears by this beautiful piece. I know that terrifying feeling of being wheeled into the operating room (while I was in septic shock) and I would have loved to have been soothed in this way. Medical professionals are incredible for what they do as part of their job description, but this gift of humanity takes the cake.

  35. Heather says...

    Such a beautiful story! I found myself scrolling to the end to make sure Lisa was okay. One act of kindness I will never forget happened almost seven years ago when I was waiting to have a D and C after a missed miscarriage. Only three months prior, I’d also lost a baby at 21 weeks, so I was feeling pretty raw. The anesthesiologist came in and made small talk and after looking at my file he wrote me a prescription – for a baby – due 2012 – (it was late 2011 at that point). He signed it and everything. I held onto that prescription forever and did end up delivering my beautiful son in August of 2012!

    • Grace says...

      Marvelous!!!

  36. Heather says...

    Oh I so love all of this!! Reminds me of all the hope that is out there in the world!
    After our second child was born, as my midwife caught him and passed him to us, she gently said to him ‘you are such a lucky boy to be born to such wonderful parents’..It just warmed my heart and gave me hope that we could do this crazy journey again…

  37. Karen says...

    I had HELLP syndrome when I was pregnant (think pre-eclampsia but far more fatal as there are added dangers such as bleeding out).

    As I was rushed into the OR, with necessary drugs in my system that made me shake uncontrollably, there was a terrifying rush of activity around me as 12-15 people ran back and forth between instruments and tables, and I was thrown between gurney and table. I was terrified. Tears running down my face, the pace of everyone in that room was at an ultra high intensity; there was a good chance I might die, and they were trying to save me. But I felt like nothing more than soulless body – no one looked me in the eye, no one spoke to me.

    I begged someone who was holding my arms down to tell me their name…and then everything changed.

    One by one, the pace didn’t slow, but every doctor, every nurse took a moment to come to my side and look in my eyes. And they told me their name.

    It changed the tone of the room; I was no longer only a patient, I was a person again – a moment of human connection in the most terrifying time of my life.

    • Maggie says...

      My eyes are welling up after reading this. I’m so glad your medical team connected with you person-to-person when you needed it most.

    • elly says...

      That brought tears to my eyes! I’m glad you made it through ok :)

    • Susie says...

      Great story! I also suffered from HELLP syndrome with my second pregnancy, when I was pregnant with my twins( I had pre,pre-eclampsia with my first pregnancy).Thankfully I didn’t realize how serious my condition was at the time, but I will say the drugs they gave me were horrible. Like you I remember shaking uncontrollably. I also was having severe anxiety, maybe from the drugs. I tried to lift myself off the table.. I was huge since I was pregnant with twins, I think everyone in the room was horrified. They had to give something to calm me and thank God it worked. My husband was with me the entire time which definitely helped

    • Maggie says...

      This took my breath away. Thanks for sharing.

    • jen says...

      Im glad things changed for you, Im glad they took the time to tell you their names. Yes, that sort of experience is terrifying, I hope you and baba came out of it ok. Had something similar and they all held my hand and talked me through what they were doing. Hugs.

    • Wow Karen, I read this and got such chills at how scary and monumental that moment must have been for you. I’m so glad that you survived that experience and thanks so much for sharing such an incredibly personal story x

    • Johanna says...

      I’m also a HELLP survivor and know that sense of terror you’re describing. I’m now a nurse and sometimes one of those many faces in the OR, and know that I’ll hear your words the next time I’m looking at a scared mama-to-be and I promise I’ll tell her my name. Thank you for sharing.

    • edie says...

      I’m tearing up like this is an episode of Parenthood! What a beautiful moment.

  38. Ali says...

    I’ve had a rough week with a few curve balls thrown my way and now I am listening to The Beetles and it has cheered me up so much ;-)

  39. Liz says...

    I’ve been feeling like I’m going through a life rough patch, and this essay is a wonderful reminder to keep looking for the good as it is always there even if I don’t always see it. Thank you Lisa for seeing the good and sharing your story, and thank you Joanna for providing a space where we can ‘raise our hands’ if we’re going through a tough time that we aren’t ready to talk about just yet. I’m trying to view the challenges as steps on the way to wholeness, an idea I got from you that has stayed with me.

    • Sasha says...

      Yes, this, exactly. ❤️

  40. Julee says...

    Once I was traveling alone with my baby daughter (I still fly alone with my now three children!). I was carrying her as she cried through an unfamiliar airport, desperate to make my flight. She threw her sippy cup on the floor.
    A man wearing traditional middle-eastern garb appeared out of nowhere, picked up my daughter’s cup, and handed it to me. He didn’t say a word, but he looked me right in the eyes as I thanked him.
    I’ll never forget that man and the kindness he showed me.
    Thanks for the awesome reminder to be kind.

    • Sadie says...

      People who are helpful to parents in public make the world seem redeemable, even on my worst days.

  41. Jo says...

    These stories are just what this woman needed at the end of a somber day. Reminds me of our shared desire for good cheer and unbeknown to common media, it’s happening every day.

  42. Jill says...

    What a stunningly beautiful moment. Thank you for sharing this story and for reminding me of all the kindness I have experienced in my life. What a lovely reminder to look for kindness all around and also to be kind to ourselves.

  43. I absolutely loved this charming story. Thank you!

  44. Peggy says...

    I am a blubbering mess. My daughter is an Ob-Gyn in training and I am forwarding this piece to her. Thank you for writing it.

    • Cynthia says...

      This also brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this story!

  45. This is such a sweet essay. I luckily had better music playing when I had to go in for a C-section. I got Aretha Franklin (with George Michael), Prince and Janet Jackson. Whenever I hear those songs think of my baby being born while surgeons with Harley Davidson caps laughed and joked as anyone would in an office. It’s a good reminder that we are all just regular people and that yes small kindnesses are what what all the difference.

  46. Sophia says...

    This made me cry! At work! That is the sweetest act of kindness and really drove home “but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Thank you Maya and thank you Lisa!

  47. Reem says...

    This made me cry from, like, the second paragraph. I guess I needed a cry.

    Beautifully written. Kindness often takes courage, and this is a great reminder that it is always worthwhile.

    • I’m the other Reem!:)

  48. Hilary Tschoepe says...

    I only want to say thank you.

  49. Elizabeth says...

    I read this post while rocking my week old daughter, Frankie. It made this newly post-partum mama cry. Six and half years ago, my first daughter Violet, had open heart surgery at six days old. When it came time to hand her off, the OR nurse offered to carry her to the OR for me instead of making Violet ride in the bassinet. I’m sure it broke hospital protocol, but that small kindness made an heart-wrenching experience just a little more bearable. That nurse’s name was Angie and I will never forget her small kindness. Thank you for sharing this story.

  50. Molly says...

    I have a 6 month old. I’m crying. This is beautiful.

  51. Kristin says...

    So…I saw a man commit suicide this morning. He jumped off a bridge in front of an oncoming car. I so wish he’d had more small kindnesses in his life, and I hope I will remember to do and say kind things myself more often. I know it might not make a difference if there is mental illness involved, but I have to try.

  52. Christina says...

    I saw someone wearing a Calgary Flames jersey today on my train in Queensland, Australia. It was to mark a horrible bus tragedy that happened in Canada earlier this week. I just moved to Australia from London two months ago, and I’ve been bone-achingly homesick for months for my native Canada. I can’t tell you what it did for me seeing this small token of Canadians coming together, all the way down under! I felt closer to my country in one small sight.

    And, I simply loved this story about healthcare staff singing The Beatles to calm this nervous mother. Two wonderful things this Friday morning!

    • Thank you for sharing this Christina. It’s been really tough and has hit so many of us hard here (Canada). It’s endearing to know that our capacity to care and come together stretches worldwide.

    • Keri says...

      Fellow Calgarian in Australia here – I wore my Flames shirt to teach pilates this morning. It was nice to feel close to home during this sad time.

    • Courtney says...

      It’s always a strange feeling seeing someone commenting about where you live. I hope the homesickness becomes less intense for you. I also hope you’re settling in okay and that Queensland is treating you well. If you’re around the Brisbane area and you need any suggestions about things to do or places to go I’m happy to share ( :

    • Sasha says...

      My husband is a huge hockey fan, and he completely broke down when he told me of the tragedy. I came home to his hockey stick propped right in front of our house the other day, a small act of solidarity with our northern neighbors.

  53. Julee says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I’ve been on the receiving end of similar kindnesses so many times and after this I’m inspired to be the giver. I’m crying at work too…but all I want to do is give kindness like a presents to everyone I encounter. What a great reminder of how wonderful it is to be on both sides of it.

  54. this made me tear up, I have to admit to finding not a lot of kindness in my world. My son has autism and I often receive maxims and platitudes if I express a fear or worry. I wish people would be kinder

    • Ellie says...

      I’m so sorry that there isn’t enough kindness in your world, Carla. Keep looking…I just know it’s out there.

    • Thank you x

    • Barbara says...

      Sending you a hug Carla. Autism is so so hard on a family and a mamma who sometimes just wants someone to hear her and allow her to be afraid.

    • Thank you Barbara

    • Ashley says...

      hi :) maybe you follow already but ‘nedintheclouds’ on Instagram is brilliant at writing about her journey as a mum of a child with autism and there is a great little community there that might help you feel a little more supported and understood with your feelings. She runs a fundraiser caller ‘aut:ction’ each year to raise money for the National Autistic Society and it is so great to follow along with. xx

    • Thanks Ashley, I will look her up x

    • karen says...

      Oh, Carla! I can imagine what this must feel like. I’m thinking of you and your son and hope you’ll find the support and understanding you need. Sometimes people just don’t know any better and their own helplessness makes them seem unkind. I wish you all the best and hope there will be lots and lots of kindness in your and your sons future!

    • Thank you Karen, that was a very kind comment

  55. Susan says...

    I am thankful for the woman in the dressing room and the salesladies at Macy’s who hugged me tight as I sobbed and shopped for a dress to wear to my mother’s funeral.

    • Heather says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Wishing you love and light. ❤️

  56. Angela says...

    Crying while I type this.

    My husband was discharged from emergency surgery last night, so the experience in this post is so fresh and raw for us. Could not be more timely. I came to CoJ looking for something to distract me and instead got exactly what I needed. The love from this community is so great.

    My sister, my parents and I all work in the medical field, so the hospital environment and talking with healthcare providers is a comfortable and familiar experience for me – like she said, just another day in the office. But when I’m on the other side to receive care, or a friend or family member is, knowing all of these little details can be such a mixed blessing. We may know more about the routine and we don’t fear the doctor, but we also obsess over the patient monitor or what it means when the doctor enters in new orders.

    Thank you for such a lovely essay, reminding all of us if the power of small kindnesses.

  57. HMS says...

    Loved this. Thank you. And for the indirect reminder that being the giver of small kindnesses is equally uplifting, to carry the hope that you might change the tide of the million small unkindnesses that can weigh a day or a life down. Thank you.

  58. Sarah says...

    Lisa, your story couldn’t have been more timely. My husband is scheduled for surgery next week to remove his kidney. We will anxiously await the results from the pathologist to learn if this grapefruit size tumor is benign or malignant. Your story reassured me that everything is going to be ok, no matter the outcome. Thank you for reminding us that throughout life’s ups and downs, kindness prevails and helps us overcome adversity and fear.

  59. Carolyn says...

    What sweet stories! I can’t stop scrolling. As for my own experience in the OR, I had a C-section to deliver my second baby with a VERY large head. To distract me a bit from all that was happening, my (wonderful) OB/GYN began to make small talk. I shared that I had kind of hoped this baby would have dark hair, like me, as I had always pictured my babies with dark hair. (My older son came out shockingly blonde!) Several long minutes later, my doctor said that he could see the baby…and he had dark hair! And then the whole room cheered—all the doctors and nurses!!! I love to think of that moment and that the very first sounds my baby heard were those happy applause and cheers.

    • Rachel says...

      We should all enter the world to applause and cheers!

    • I practically erupted in to applause just reading this at my office desk!

  60. Becca says...

    What the world needs now is love sweet love. With deep gratitude. Thank you for sharing this.

  61. Sasha says...

    My favorite post. Thank you so much Lisa.
    My kindnesses this week: in a group text, a friend posted this GIF of a little monkey giving an arm tap sign, and a whole troop of monkeys coming to hug her, for me, for some sadness in my life right now. In a class last night, the facilitator noticed my tears and said in such a generous way, “I see many of you struggling right now, I know this material feels very personal”, it was just me, but it felt very kind for her to say that.

    Your story reminds me of a friend’s. She had struggled twice to give birth, vaginally, at home, but having her second C-section after a long labor, she broke down in tears in the OR. Her husband said let’s teach them our song, so we can all sing to the baby. So he taught the bewildered OR crew this song called “there’s a song in my heart” and they joyfully sang as they worked and as her baby was born. It’s the kind of song where you just keep adding things and it goes on forever. She said this kindness somehow saved everything for her.

    • Riley says...

      This just wrecked me. How beautiful.

    • Ning says...

      I love this comment for so many reasons!

  62. Anne says...

    I’m trying to to cry like a baby here with my hair in foil at the salon. ?❤️ I love this so much.

  63. Tish says...

    I needed this reminder today. Thank you!

  64. Wow what a story. We should all be kind to one another. The world would be a much better place. Thanks for sharing.

    x Elise

  65. Many, many tears. Lovely.

  66. Dawn Karrington says...

    OMG this this this! Thank you.

  67. Ashley says...

    This might be my favorite post yet. I love how she tied it all together in the end by saying that we can always be a little kinder to ourselves if others aren’t. Small comforts and kindnesses are always within our reach.

  68. Jessica says...

    This is such a lovely story.

    I also had a couple of surgeries a few years ago. My first experience was tough and the way you described entering the operating room rings *so true*. One difference between my surgery and yours is that I went into the hospital that day anticipating a biopsy – the surgeon told me we had to find out what was in my lump. But on arrival to the hospital I was given hospital clothes, and sat in a quiet room with my other folks about to go into surgery. It wasn’t until I was lieing on the stretcher outside the operating room that the surgeon’s resident informed me that they would be removing the lump (not just using a needle to remove some of it). I was shocked and confused and terrified. I had thought I would be coming in for a quick (yet still terrifying) procedure. But I was in no position to argue with them – they were going to remove the lump, that had to be better didn’t it? The nurse that came by next remarked that my mint green nail polish matched the hospital wall I was lieing next to. This comment somehow still gives me grief. They wheeled me into the operating room and there was no music. No one said anything that put me at ease.

    In the end my lump wasn’t cancerous either. (yay!) But I experienced unexpected results – nerve injury. I lost the use of my radial nerve in my left arm. Buuuut that’s another story.

    It is so, so comforting to hear about your experience! I identify with your worries and discomfort, but I am happiest to hear of such a sweet gesture from the hospital staff. So glad to hear you are well!

    • I’m so sorry about the nerve in your arm, and such a sudden, unexpected surgery. Goodness!!!!

  69. Kira says...

    Such a lovely, much-needed moment. Thank you.
    My own favorite story has nothing to do with hospitals, but everything to do with the kindness of (many) strangers.
    My son and I always liked running together – short distances, of course, and just for fun. But when he was nine, he decided he wanted to run a half marathon. (We checked with his pediatrician.) It was very cold on race day, and then there was the time change (we flew from Southern California to run the race with family in Connecticut), so by mile 11, he was struggling. I kept telling him to walk, to take a break, but he just couldn’t let himself stop. Then another racer ran alongside, asked him his name, and how old he was, told him he was doing great, and then ran on … Ran on to tell what seemed like every person lining the racecourse my boy’s name. We ran the last two miles with hundreds of people yelling encouragement, just for Charlie.
    It was truly one of the best moments of my life.
    And Charlie’s.

    • Teresa says...

      I just love this.

    • Sally says...

      What a neat and driven little boy you must have. Wonderful story:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, kira, that is so, so amazing. and bravo to tough, amazing, i-can-do-it charlie.

    • Shannon says...

      This made me all teary! How special for Charlie! And you!

    • Jessica says...

      Omg this made me cry!

    • Jen says...

      I’ve been reading these comments out loud to my husband and as I read yours my voice broke and I started to cry. What a beautiful story, we all have the potential for such kindness inside us and can spark such happiness, compassion and joy, thank you for sharing this, I’m truly, deeply moved Xx

    • Sarah says...

      Oh my. Crying. I love this so much.

    • amy says...

      Soo heart warming….it’s making me cry! love this story. thanks for sharing, Kira.

    • Debs says...

      Gosh, that truly is wonderful and really makes you remember that there is goodness in all of us humans. Well done Charlie! xx

  70. Jessica says...

    One of the scariest moments of my life so far was waiting, naked and shivering, for the anesthesiologist to arrive so I could deliver my daughter via C-section. I’ll never forget how terrifying it was to see all those white coated people moving around, attaching monitors and tubes and counting scary instruments. I started to cry, this sort of high, fast keening sound that I didn’t know I could make. One of the nurses saw my distress and immediately came over to comfort me, placing gentle hands on my shoulders and pressing her forehead against mine. She stayed like that, face to face with a crying stranger (and a snotty one at that) quietly asking me to match my breathing to hers, and murmuring kind words of encouragement. I’m sure there were a ton of other tasks she could have been doing at that moment, but she decided to comfort me instead, and it was exactly what I needed.

  71. Elizabeth says...

    Lovely. Just lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  72. Katie W says...

    Gah! I love this. It made me tear up. What a wonderful story and reminder.

  73. Nina says...

    What a sweet thing for them to do – and so true about the meaningfulness of small kindnesses, especially from strangers. On the day I left a college I’d hated, for various reasons no family members came to meet me at the station; a fellow passenger saw me struggling with all my stuff and told me to stay put while he walked to the far end of the platform and back to bring me a luggage trolley – a small thing but so appreciated on what was a really crummy, lonely day.

  74. Sarah says...

    THIS is why I love your blog so much. Beautiful, eloquent, so relatable. I happy-cried all the way through this. Thank you for helping shine a lot on the goodness that surrounds us every day, in a world that seems intent on wanting to focus on the opposite. So very appreciative of your work.

  75. Yup just crying reading this (and all the comments) as I sit in my little flower shop taking a lunch break between working on wedding arrangements, hoping a customer doesn’t come in and wonder why I am crying! Haha! But that being said, every time a customer does come in and remark that they think I have the cutest little shop, or tell me they absolutely love my window displays, it is like a tiny pat on the back that really means so much to this small business owner! When days are long and tough and I wonder how I am going to make it those little words of encouragement from total strangers are one of the things that keep me going. Oh and Lisa, I hear you on the Led Zeppelin, I don’t get it either :)

  76. Mimi says...

    This just makes my heart happy. Thank you for stories like these, it adds such love and beauty to the day…to the world.

  77. Kassie says...

    Sobbing. Well written.

  78. janie says...

    Wonderful story……there are so many kind people in this world. It’s so important to let them know how they made you feel…..a handwritten thank you can still be the most loving way to honor them.

  79. Allison Leedie says...

    It’s cool. Just casually crying into my La Croix. Nothing to see over here.

  80. Anna says...

    This is so beautiful – I had a very similar experience when my little girl was ill last year. They’d found a lump on her brain and while we didn’t yet know what it was, we knew it had to come out. As she was so little (two at the time) she was put under a general anaesthetic for every MRI and then finally surgery. When the time came for yet another MRI, the anaesthetist told her how it would feel like she was floating, just like a balloon. She hates balloons, so I quickly jumped in to whisper that it was just like Mary Poppins and her umbrella. I began to sing a wobbly, self-conscious version of fly a kite under my breath and suddenly, from the corner of the room, came a booming “ohh-ohhh-ohhhhhh!” as the anaesthetist joined the final chorus. I still cry everytime I hear that song, or think about that beautiful kindness for a bewildered baby and her scared Mama. Doctors, man. Aren’t they the best?

    • Zoe says...

      I’m a young doctor, and I had a truly terrible, top-10-worst kind of day today, and I just want you to know how much I needed to read this. Thank you.

    • Lady T says...

      Zoe, as someone with a chronic illness I can tell you that if you are as empathetic as you seem that without even ‘doing’ the medicine, you will change lives.

    • Dimity says...

      BAWLING. I hope your daughter was ok. Mamas. Aren’t they the best too?

    • Dee says...

      Sobbing over here… ?

  81. Blanche O Gonzalez says...

    WHY AM I CRYING????? Loved this.

  82. meghan says...

    A beautiful story. As I sit here watching my son swim at the local sports centre, I see dozens of children and adults wearing hockey jerseys. It’s jersey day – a simple gesture to let the families in Humboldt know we’re thinking of them. It’s been a rough week but knowing people come together and offer support in the smallest way makes me hopeful.

  83. siri says...

    Sweet Jesus. Why doesn’t Lisa have a monthly (or weekly?!) on CoJ?

    • Chantelle says...

      I second this! I really enjoy her essays. Please consider having her contribute more often!

  84. Reading this just made me emotional. It brought back memories of the time I was wheeled into OR to get my rib removed.. As a 22 year old I didn’t quite understand it and I still don’t. But I remember how overwhelmed and silent with fear I was when they wheeled me in and started to give me anesthesia.

    But, you couldn’t be more right about remembering the small acts of kindness! Really speaks volumes when all else seems to crumble in life.

  85. Jaime says...

    I have cystic fibrosis and have been hospitalized many times in my 33 years but one moment stands out to me and brings me to the verge of tears every time i think of it. I was finishing the first of two weeks of intense IV antibiotics and discussing with my doctor getting to go home to do the second week. I was still feeling terrible from my lung infection and stressed because my dad’s advanced lung cancer had taken a turn for the worse and i was living 900 miles away. I cried while my doctor sat on my bed and hugged me. My doctor is originally from the same town where my parents lived and she and her husband were going down the following week and offered to drive me with them. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I ended up getting out of the hospital later that day and flew down the next day to say goodbye to my dad. But her kindness was such a sweet moment in the midst of such a terrible time in my life.

    • Oh Jaime this really touched me. I have CF as well, aged 29 and battling cepacia but doing well :) Having CF means we become pretty adept at deciphering the good medical staff from the bad but the good really do shine. Myself and two younger sisters were all born with CF but my middle sister unfortunately had added complications of CF-related liver disease and around 7 years ago we lost her. As I had cepacia I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to her until they were sure she wouldn’t recover (I try to explain cross-infection to non-CFer’s because they think this story is just too crazy) so when I got the phone call to come home I knew it was bad. The CF nurse Valerie, this big woman who had these huge breasts you would get smothered in if she ever hugged you, was the one to tell me that Amy was dying. She pulled me in to a quiet corridor of the hospital, my Mum and Dad were there but were physically unable to say the words to me and she held me in that infamous bosom of hers for as long as I wanted. That woman provided me with a safe place while I was in the worst moment of my life and I will never forget that.

  86. Cindy says...

    That was so lovely. Xoxo

  87. Becky says...

    Welp, here I am, crying into my salad like the meme version of myself.

    • Right?! Why is someone always cutting onions on the internet?!

  88. jac says...

    The movie Wit is very sad and wonderful. The thing that made me lose it and makes me cry every time I think of it, is when the nurse puts lotion on her hands when she’s in a coma. No one saw it. No praise. Just kindness.

    My brother passed away from cancer recently and there were so many thoughtless things that happened in the hospital by the staff, but one nurse went out of her way to heat up his soup for me. And I was and am very thankful.

    • Jac, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. It’s lovely to know that the small gesture from that nurse still resonates!

  89. This story might very well remain with me till the day I die. How beautiful <3 Thanks for sharing!

  90. Claire says...

    I love this more than anything. What a beautiful reminder that we can have incredible impacts even with the tiniest gestures that we may not even remember making. I went through a terrible breakup last year that culminated in me crying on a late-night flight home after a long and awful work trip. The sweetest flight attendant saw me and wordlessly marched right over and handed me a cocktail. I will literally never forget that little bright spot on an otherwise very terrible night. May we all sing the Beatles off-tune and give one another cocktails when the opportunities present themselves!

  91. Julia says...

    Reading this, and all of the other comments and stories, its hard to shake the feeling that the world IS in fact a beautiful place :)

    I will add my story to the others. When I was 20 years old I went to school at an urban college and didn’t own a car (or a cell phone, those were the days!). To get home to visit my family I would take a long bus ride in one direction into the city, and then switch buses to head North for another hour. It was winter, I was poor (and young and not good at planning) and my plan to circumvent the expense of buying a warm winter coat was to layer sweaters. It didn’t work very well, and I was getting truly and probably dangerously cold sitting on a long, marble bench at the bus terminal waiting. On that particular day there was a voluptuous woman sitting at the other end of the bench talking on her cell phone, adequately dressed for the season, who had obviously just gotten out of some fancy desk job. As I sat and shivered I suddenly was scooched over and pinned into the side of bench/shelter where we were sitting – the woman, without ever saying a word, used her own body warmth to shield me from the wind and keep me warm until the bus came. I was so grateful and amazed that I didn’t know how to thank her. When we both got onto the same bus I heard her tell the person on the call that “these young skinny girls just don’t know how to dress right”. Point taken. I have always remembered her!

    • Ker says...

      This is so lovely — and funny!

  92. Rach says...

    This brought me to tears. Thank you so much for posting this. As a doctor who has both given and received medical care, this is such a beautiful tribute to the enormous power of compassion. I hope that staffmember reads this essay, in itself a small kindness.

  93. Debora says...

    Absolutely beautiful. I underwent an unexpected (but very much needed!) surgery early this year in NYC & this essay brings me back to that sensitive time. I was astounded to learn that I had pelvic insufficiency syndrome that left me with debilitating — misdiagnosed!!! — pelvic pain for years. There is so much coming out now (scientific literature, books by journalists, commentaries, etc) on gender bias in medicine; I hope this becomes one of your topics in a piece soon. Any rate, bedside compassion goes a long way; and poignant anecdotes like this remind us all that each of has an opportunity to make a positive impact if we make room for grace and vulnerability. XO

  94. Marilee says...

    Like Sarah, I too am going into surgery on Monday…not looking forward to it and hope I see the same kindness that the nurses showed to Lisa. I have had prior surgeries but it just never gets easy to do.

    I have had some amazing nurses…so love to all of you wonderful nurses out there, you cant ever be thanked enough for all the giving you do each and every day…Thank you!

    • Alice says...

      Good luck for your surgery. I’m hoping the recovery will be easy a d swift. Xx

  95. Elizabeth says...

    This essay made me cry and is such a blessing to read. It was recently discovered that I have a brain aneurysm. At age 40 and with two little guys at home, I was terrified to go to that first appointment with the neurosurgeon. After breaking down when he said he would need to remove my skull to fix it, I recovered my composure but still felt intense fear. At the end of the appointment, he went to open the door for me but stopped and turned around. He stared me in the eyes and said you are going to be completely fine. You have to believe that. It was the greatest gift and has been what I’ve clung to as I anticipate my upcoming surgery. Sometimes tragedies highlight the gifts and small kindnesses that are all around us. Thank you for a beautiful essay and to cupofjo for creating such a wonderful space to come to each day.

    • Liz says...

      You are going to be fine!

    • Elizabeth says...

      Thank you, Liz.

    • Debra says...

      I am living with a brain aneurysm too. It’s scary but have faith and stay positive. You will be absolutely fine. X

    • Sarah says...

      My husband had a tumor cut out from near his eye and they had to reflect his forehead and remove part of the skull to get to it.
      I completely understand how scary it is to get that news, he was a mess.
      But what I can say is that he is fine, the recovery was not as awful as we anticipated, his biggest worry is that he would somehow be different that sonething would happen to his brain.
      He’s 100% back to normal.
      He also has an impossibly smooth forehead thanks to an unintentional facelift.

  96. KB says...

    My first born son was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer at 14 weeks old. So many people asked how they could help etc. But my aunt, who lived near us, would call and say “I know you have an appointment today, I will pick you up and wait for you so you don’t have to worry about parking when you get there.” Or she would say, “While you are out of the house today at the hospital, I am bringing over my cleaning person to clean.” Instead of putting the onus on us to ask, she just DID. It was amazing and I’ll never forget it.
    My milk supply also tanked and women in my mother’s group I was a part of donated THOUSANDS of ounces of breast milk to my son who was going through chemo. And a friend organized pick up and storage of all the milk. I still cry thinking about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, these stories are so beautiful, KB.

    • jen says...

      What a lovely story, and mothers who donate breastmilk are amazing lifesavers. I hadn’t enough for my lil preemie and they saved her life. Love to you and your son xx

    • A Martin says...

      Moved to tears!! So beautiful!!

    • Emma says...

      Wow this is truly AH-MAY-ZING!!!. Thank you for sharing =)

  97. Erica says...

    Thank you. So beautiful

  98. Megan says...

    Such a beautiful, sweet, moving story. Thanks for sharing!

  99. Kris says...

    A few years ago I had a breast biopsy due to a worrisome mammogram. I was worried, scared, and nervous. There was a surgeon and 3 nurses, all woman, in the room with me that day. They surrounded me with their professionalism, their care, and their compassion. One nurse in particular spent the entire time visiting with me…it was as if that was her job that day. She was fun to visit with, she coaxed a smile or two out of me with her charming stories, she engaged me in conversation and made the procedure fly by. I felt so cared for and lucky to be with such strong woman who just got it. They knew the crazy wave of emotions I was riding and embraced this total stranger in their arms. Lisa, your essay brought tears to my eyes as I read about the kindness you encountered and thought of mine.

  100. Rachael says...

    This brought tears to my eyes! What an amazing story. I feel like the Internet makes me lose faith in humanity and stories like this are all too rare these days.

  101. Joy says...

    this is one of the best things i’ve ever read.

    it made me weep.

    printing this and saving it and thinking of ways I can extend kindness today and every day.

    thank you.

  102. Amanda says...

    THis is an incredibly written, touching and immensely dear essay.
    Thank you Lisa for your vulnerability and empathy for our human experience.
    I feel moved to stay more connected to this important thread in others, in myself, in the world, however tenuous and fragile it may sometimes feel to stay truly Alive.

  103. K says...

    You won the internet today, CoJ!

  104. jillian says...

    So beautiful. A perfect read today. Thank you.
    Also, it seems there are a lot of people reading Cup Of Jo at work. ;)

  105. Allyson says...

    This brought tears to my eyes – it’s so true! The small kindness that is staying with me is from this January, when I took my 3 young kids to the Nutcracker ballet for the first time. We were extremely lucky that the show was undersold and so we were moved a couple rows from the stage. My kids were so excited and found it very hard to sit still and keep their voices low. My twin daughters were taking turns shouting, jumping and pulling, right behind a gentleman’s seat. I tried my best to shoosh them and was so worn out by my efforts to keep them quiet. I was also terrified of what would be the gentleman’s reaction – I was sure it wouldn’t be long before he lost his temper. But he never turned around. He continued watching the performance and ignored my girls. As we were exiting our seats, I thanked him with my eyes full of tears for enduring my girls’ exuberance without complaint. He simply smiled and said “your welcome”. I’m so grateful to him.

  106. Aimee says...

    Thank you for writing this. I need this reminder right now as I’m currently undergoing chemotherapy and have two young children. My prognosis is good but it’s so easy to focus on the negative, both personally and out in the world. We need more kindness out there!

    • KB says...

      best wishes to you Mama – rooting for you!

    • Jodie says...

      I’m wishing good things for you Aimee, from one mama to another. xx

    • A Martin says...

      Sending you love, Aimee!!!

    • Brooke says...

      Praying for you, Aimee! <3

    • Lindsay says...

      Sending you love right now. Can’t wait to hear when you’re done and then later watching those 2 little ones leave for prom and walk across the stage someday<3

    • Laura C. says...

      Go on Aimee, everything is going to be OK!

  107. Amanda says...

    I’m currently seeing a doctor for infertility testing, which is a particularly emotional process in addition to being quite invasive. I was in the office a couple of weeks ago for my first transvaginal ultrasound (where they insert a wand and look around for a while), and the doctor just kept kind of patting my foot when she knew she was going at an angle that might be uncomfortable. I was so oddly moved by that friendly little gesture, like she was assuring me that she remembered I was a human going through something hard and scary, and not just one more procedure in her work day. Thankful for those moments in life, and hopeful I’m spreading them to others, as well!

    • Kelly says...

      As someone who has spent the last few years getting those same ultrasounds, I know exactly what you mean! 99% of the doctors or techs know when they’re making you uncomfortable and do their level best to make it go quick. There’s one tech that I loathe getting because she just doesn’t seem to notice or care. Thankfully, I’m able to draw on the kindness of others through this process. Best of luck to you!

  108. Mary says...

    I loved this so much. What sweethearts to sing to you. Emotional support makes all the difference. I remember each and every doctor and nurse that was kind to me in the hospitals I’ve been to.

  109. Thank you thank you for this. ?

  110. I cried while reading this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I need someone who would sing me a Beatle song. I need it right about now. My choice will be Here Comes The Sun.

    What a lovely story.

    • Andrea says...

      “Here comes the sun (da da da da),
      here comes the sun…
      and I say….
      it’s alright (boom boom boom boom boo dee dee doo doo).”

    • Renuka I. says...

      here comes the suuuun.
      here comes the suuuun, and I say
      it’s all riiight.

      :)

    • Jill says...

      Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

    • Jeannie says...

      Annnd cue my tears. <3

    • Heidi says...

      “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!”

    • joe says...

      Little darling, the smiles returning to the face..

  111. Lisa says...

    I had to have an emergency cerclage at 21 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I was so incredibly terrified of so many things. For one, they didn’t know if it wold work, and if it didn’t that meant my baby wouldn’t make it. And I needed a spinal block for the procedure which is one of my biggest fears in life. I hate needles and had to have a spinal tap as a child which was so incredibly traumatizing for me the idea of a needle in my spine made me physically ill. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Smiley, was the most wonderful doctor (for those in nyc he’s at Columbia!). He talked to me about my fears and promised me the spinal would hurt less than my IV! He was right, it did! I had to be in trandelenburg during the cerclage, where you are more or less upside-down. I remember him telling the surgeon “If you tilt her anymore she’s going to fall off.” It felt like he was my protector. The procedure was supposed to take about 30 min but there were complications and I was there for over 2 hours. He kept telling me what the doctors were doing and checking in with them every 15 min or so to update me. And he simply talked to me. About life. About being a parent. About Trump (it was September 2016). About bringing a daughter into the world with a female president (wishful thinking). Towards the end my blood pressure tanked and he had to give me meds to bring it back up. He told the surgeon it was time, if she didn’t get it within the next 10 minutes she would have to stop. Eventually the surgeon finished. I found out later my bag of waters was bulging and they were desperately trying not to break it. The cerclage didn’t end up working, but I stayed pregnant until 29 weeks. Unfortunately during delivery Dr. Smiley was not on call and the anesthesiologist I had didn’t believe me when I said the epidural wasn’t strong enough. Sour I had a basically unmedicated c section. I felt my daughter come out of me before they finally put me under.

    • jen says...

      Oh crumbs you poor thing. I hope you and baba are doing ok xx

    • Maggie says...

      Oof, so sorry to hear that. Hugs.

  112. Diana says...

    One of the most beautiful stories I have ever read.

  113. Liz C says...

    Lisa, you are an incredible writer!! I want more!

  114. Nadine Hughey says...

    Wow, wasn’t expecting this, but loved it! My 14-yo daughter has discovered The Beatles & I was struggling to think of a song I really liked – forgot about Yellow Submarine! I include God-things along with small kindnesses & funny thing is – the more I notice them, the more there are.

  115. Emi says...

    I love this so much! More from Lisa!!

  116. Jen says...

    Thank you for this <3

  117. Kathy says...

    Thank you. Your essay reminded me of my 3 year old granddaughter’s all time request for “gamma” to sing “My favorite things” from Sound of Music. We have made a slight modification, cream color ponies are now rainbow color ponies. It works!! Thanks for sharing!

  118. Anna says...

    Oh my gosh. This story, today, to me, feels like a big kindness. xx

  119. E says...

    I’m sobbing. This is so tender.

  120. Brooke says...

    quick tears at my desk. i was so in need of this today.

  121. Esss says...

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  122. This is so timely as I head into surgery TODAY due to Crohn’s Disease. I’ll be looking for the small kindnesses, starting with this lovely story. ❤️

    • Emma says...

      I had Crohn’s surgery almost 8 years ago to the day. It can be a long road to feeling like yourself again – I hope you experience many small kindnesses along the way! Sending love and healing thoughts <3

    • Denise says...

      I have Crohn’s too. Good luck in surgery. You’re going to be okay!

    • Mary says...

      Bless you. Coming up to a year since my last surgery for the very same condition. I’m sending you a hug and sending a special request to the universe for the very best nurses, doctors, surgeons and above all a swift recovery for you.

  123. Julie says...

    So well written and touching. I had to hold it together at work.
    Thank you.

  124. This was a wonderful reminder and break in my day that I needed. Thank you!

    I also revisited your happiness vs wholeness post and wondered if the Cup of Jo team or any wonderful readers have any recommendations for books or articles about that. I was raised to always be happy – no matter what – and now as an adult, I judge myself for being dissatisfied, sad, or down, which creates a very toxic cycle of anxiety and doesn’t leave much space for self-love. But good news! I finally figured that out and I see it. Now I want to figure out to shift my perspective. Any recommendations appreciated!

    • Allie says...

      i would recommend any of Brene Brown’s books or TEDtalks. i’m currently reading Daring Greatly and have at least 1 light bulb moment per page. the book focuses on vulnerability and shame, to things that are so hard to face head on, but can really change your life once you learn how to look at them in the eye, smile, and politely push them to the side :) it’s such a good tool for reflecting on my childhood and seeing my mother’s life through a new lens, while simultaneously serving a gut check for my own life (i’m 28 now) – am i loving myself well? am i as patient and nonjudgmental and open with myself as i aim to be with other people, or expect from other people?

      hugs!

  125. Alyssa says...

    Aaaaand now I’m crying at work. What a lovely, touching story – thank you for sharing.

  126. Ellie says...

    I wish I had something more profound to add, but I don’t – I’m just crying and smiling and feeling more human just like everyone else here. Thank you for the reminder that people are more important than our jobs, or our opinions, or our routines. Just SEEING each other is what we need.

  127. Kim W says...

    This is so touching. Small kindnesses are the best. With what else, for the LEAST amount of effort or burden, can you so greatly impact someone’s day for the better?

    I have never understood people who are actively mean when it takes so little to be kind.

  128. Oh my gosh, your story made me cry right here at my desk at work…when the surgeons and other surgery room staff started singing Yellow Submarine. What a kindness they did for you. Lovely.

    Bettye
    https://fashionschlub.com

  129. Misha says...

    Weeping not only because of the significance of this post, but also because of these incredibly moving comments. I have two other CoJ posts bookmarked on my phone that I return to read regularly. This will be the third. Thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing so vulnerably and for the beautiful gift of your way with words.

    • Heather G says...

      I was just scrolling through these comments with teary eyes and thinking, “This is an amazingly positive, supportive place in an often harsh (Internet) world.” No shaming, no taunting, no negativity…only kindness and support. This space is always a calming, peaceful place no matter the outside storm…be it emotional, political, personal, whatever…and so often makes me feel better about the state of humanity. Thank you to Joanna and team for creating the space…and this community for filling it in with so much positive energy.

    • Lindsay says...

      I agree. I often think that this is the only space on the internet w positive comments!!

  130. Maywyn says...

    Thank you Lisa
    Tears for such a moving essay

  131. Elise says...

    I received a card of sympathy from the staff at my ob-gyn’s office after my first miscarriage. They had only met me at that first, terribly silent ultrasound. I have never forgotten how kind it was for them to acknowledge the loss of my twins. Thank you for the reminder that small kindnesses can make all the difference.

    • I wish all offices did that! I hope you find peace

      When I had to have chemo unexpectedly, I called my dentist to cancel a dentist appointment. I wistfully explained to the receptionist that I had to undergo chemo the next day.

      The next day I was home and groggy when the receptionist called to see how my chemo went!

      I felt so cared for!

  132. Alex says...

    This is such a beautiful essay. And now I’m crying at my desk at work! I have been deeply touched on so many occasion by the kindness and grace of hospital and medical staff.
    When my grandmother was nearing the end after a decade with alzheimers, one of her nurses learned some Greek phrases so she could talk to my grandmother in her first language to soothe her. And Greek is NOT an easy language to learn let me tell you.
    Or when my then 12 week old daughter went into hospital in Australia two days after 30 straight hours of travel. After 8 hours of tests and monitoring the pediatrician came in to (i found out later) discharge us for home recovery, but took one look at my beyond jet-lagged puffy, red, tear-soaked face and said, “Everything looks great but we’re going to keep her for the night just to keep an eye on her. You can sleep in this bed next to her if you want so you can nurse, but don’t worry if you don’t wake up, we’ll take care of everything.” That over-night in hospital was 100% for me, not my daughter. (This is why we need socialized medicine!)
    Whenever I meet nurses or doctors or techs or anyone who deals with sick patients, I am compelled to thank them. Especially in this country where there is so much red tape and bureaucracy working against these healers.
    They are truly super heroes.

    • Lisa says...

      Yup. I’m in the U.K. (and the lisa from the post below). When my daughter was ill, I was in the antenatal ward. The midwife came to me and said “look, we can discharge you today but we’re not going to. We know you need to be near your baby” (I think they’d seen me ugly cry continuously in the previous 48 hours). So they kept me in for three more days. Also, once she was discharged from the neonatal unit, they didn’t have a bed for her in the lower level of care unit on that floor, but the NNU nurse we had really pushed for her to go into a different section of the antenatal unit with me (called transitional care, so kind of hybrid between special care and antenatal) where I’d have my baby with me, but she could be monitored. Normally they didn’t take babies who had just come off ventilators, but because that nurse really pushed for us to stay, we did. In the end, we stayed 5 nights in Hospital. For me, 3 longer than I should have been but long enough for my baby to get better, and we spent the last two nights together getting to know each other.

  133. Lisa says...

    Such a beautiful article!

    I’ve been trying to do this thing where I note down at least 1 good thing that happens every day (I’ve been trying to do it for years, but always start forgetting to do it around February). It’s lovely to read back on, but one of the things I’ve noticed (apart from food featuring a lot. Haha!) is that these kind of small kindnesses nake it to the list all the time. One that always makes me giggle when I read it back, was that a colleague picked up a coin I had dropped when I was heavily pregnant, and gave it back to me. He probably doesn’t remember it at all, but it meant the world to someone who hadn’t reached their feet in weeks and wanted to get a chocolate from the vending machine

    • Lisa says...

      Even more so than colleagues picking up coins (and I can’t believe I forgot this) – a few years ago, I was hit by a bicycle while crossing a road and my tibia and fibula were broken (I tried to stand up, couldn’t, looked down and saw that my foot was in completely the wrong place). I was on my way to work (as were all the people around me I’m guessing), but so many helped out – they helped move me out of the street and onto the pavement, and stood around me so that I wouldn’t get hit again. The cyclist who hit me stayed the whole time (he was completely mortified). There was a nurse who had heard the commotion and came over, and he checked my vitals, held my hand and helped me stay calm until I was safely taken away. I ended up having to have surgery, which went well, and I remember the day after I was lying in bed recovering. I felt so gross – I hadn’t been able to have a shower since the morning of the accident and my hair was a complete mess. One of the nurses asked me if I needed anything, and I said that I missed having clean hair. She and a second nurse came back ten minutes later and washed it for me.

      Over the last few years I’ve had to have lots of medical treatment, for the broken leg, infertility and then (thank you Hashem!) two wonderful babies (including one who was born very ill), which means I’ve had lots of exposure to medical staff and they have all been so fantastic. Particularly when my daughter was ill, all the medical staff who treated her were so caring and thoughtful and really helped my family through one of the scariest and darkest times in our life. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but I’m in awe.

    • Leah says...

      Jewish commenter here – thank hashem for small miracles <3

  134. FERNANDA IGLESIAS says...

    I’m quietly crying in my cubicle. My 7 year old had her tonsils and adenoids removed last November. I was dying inside as I dove into an internet wormhole of the complications of a tonsillectomy the previous night. Amalia was ok in the prep room until they wheeled her into surgery and she started to cry. To keep the calm I started singing “When I’m 64” . My voice quivered as I was holding back tears. The anesthesiologist and nurse quickly joined me locking arms and kinking they’re legs as we were part of a hospital chorus line. As soon as she was sedated they told me it was time to leave and asked them to please take care of my baby. The nurse came out 5 minutes later to let me know he’s playing his Spotify Beatles Radio for her during the surgery and recovery. BEST staff for going out of their way to make Amalia feel safe and understading the POWER of music. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Anneka says...

      Was already tearing at work from this essay and now crying from your comment. Luckily I have a cold and can pass it off as, ya know, cold symptoms.

    • Jodie says...

      Amazing!

  135. Beautiful essay. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  136. Danielle says...

    I really shouldn’t read these posts at my desk at work! Weeping like a fool. What a beautiful essay. So glad the surgery ended up ok. What a great reminder, in our anxiety-filled lives that there are kind people (strangers, too!).

  137. Celyn says...

    The first song that played in the operating room while they were prepping for my c-section was “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton. The anesthesiologist began to freak out because it was clearly an inappropriate song to be playing, especially because I had just had two fetal distress incidents. He was so kind and thoughtful to think of how I would react in that situation. Though he had trouble with the iPod buttons and kept pressing “play” again and again… I was laughing in the end. (And after 72 hours of drugged labour there was nothing that wasn’t scarily funny).

    But the next song that played was The National’s “Ada”. Ada was one of the two names we had picked for our daughter, and I knew right then and there that we had to pick Ada. That is, if I remembered… turns out, I did!

  138. Jessica O'Malley says...

    Me. Here. Crying at my desk.

  139. Oh Lisa, I cried as I read this. Often times we expect doctors to be the experts, maybe even God-like, and the truth is, they are human, just like the rest of us.

    I also felt such a sense of sisterhood between us as I read this. Eight years ago, I was rushed into emergency surgery and I vividly remember telling the doctors I was a new mom, as if that would somehow raised the stakes for them – like if you screw this up you’ll ruin more than one life. You can read more about my story if you’re interested:
    http://www.lakehouseeffect.com/2018/02/eight-years.html

    But I really just want you to know that your essay touched my heart. Thank you.

  140. Elizabeth says...

    At the end of February, I found out I have breast cancer. I’m so lucky because the tumor was small and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes. The outlook is very positive. My husband and I haven’t told many people, but when a fellow foodie he works with asked where he’d been after my surgery, he told her. “She’s really concerned!” he told me, and a couple of weeks ago I came home to a huge bag of baklava that she’d baked. (I’ve gained two pounds but it was worth it). I’ve met her maybe twice and she went to all that trouble — it means a lot when someone does something so caring.

  141. Georgie says...

    I have never commented on any blog before, despite being a long-time reader of many, but this touched something very profound inside my cold English heart (!). What a generous, thoughtful and, most of all, grateful essay to have written. So often we register the everyday kindnesses that people display to us, and either don’t remember them, or forget to pass them on. The power in retelling reminds us all how significant those smiles, songs, hand-squeezes, reassuring words, signs of comfort and concern are in what can otherwise seem a hard, anonymous and uncaring world. A reminder that that the vast majority of people out there are not unkind or ill-intentioned, but care like we do, think like we do, and love like we do. At a time when global events can feel overwhelming and terrifying, I think that is everything. Humanity. Thank you for reminding us all not only to notice and appreciate these gestures, but to share and pass them on. Only through such demonstrations of our shared humanity can we continue to move beyond geopolitics and macroeconomics and continue to carry out those small acts of kindness that in the eventual sum total of one’s life, amount to everything.

  142. Meagan says...

    I love this piece and all the great stories everyone shared. We are blessed when we have received those moments of kindness from people and may we all be the conduit for them for others.

  143. Emily says...

    This is so beautiful. I have tears.

    I, too, have felt the kindness of people in hospitals. When my son and I came home from the hospital, a visiting nurse came by my home to check on us. My blood pressure was so high she was concerned I had a blood clot (I had just had a c section). I was sent to the emergency room and had to have a ct scan. Because of that, I was told I couldn’t nurse until the dye was out of my system. I was post-partum and just a mess and nursing was the only thing that was going well. I started crying and wailing and literally could not pull myself together. The emergency room physician went up to the labor and delivery floor and found my mid-wife. She came down to the ER and climbed into the little bed with me and held me while I cried. She held me for at least 15 minutes (my husband was just completely out of sorts and didn’t know how to comfort me) and told me it would be ok but to let it out. It is hands down the gentlest, kindest, most patient thing anyone has ever done for me and I will never forget it.

  144. Tiffany says...

    Had a good little cry reading this. I’m a nurse on a high acuity unit, and this is such a beautiful reminder of those “little things” during a shift that can make a big difference on someone’s experience. I’ll be carrying this with me into my shift this evening. Thank you.

    • Meghan says...

      Tiffany – My husband and I walked in to the L&D hospital room where i was to be induced. We were just standing in the middle of the room silent and bewildered wearing out jackets and holding our bags, when a nurse walked in to greet us. She asked me how I was feeling, and my chin started to quiver and tears started to roll. I told her I was scared. She immediately stopped what she was doing, crossed the room and sat on the couch. She totally relaxed and looked at me and asked me what I was scared of. It was so calming and kind for her pause in that moment to comfort me. I’ve never met anyone with that kind of calming presence. I still get emotional when I think of how that made me feel. Her name was Patty and she had a blue (really!) hair. Nurses are heroes!

  145. This is a flat-out beautiful piece of writing and some beautiful advice. Thank you, Lisa.

  146. Saz says...

    This story reminded me of my own surgery 6 years ago. It was nothing major, just to correct a squint, but I needed to go under, and I was super-nervous.
    I remember waiting in a side room, in my hospital gown and weird compression socks, waiting to be called through, when suddenly my surgeon stuck his head around the door. He was all dressed in his surgeon greens and hat, and instead of saying something dry and serious, befitting his station, HE BURST INTO SONG. He started chanting ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’ by Napoleon XIV, swapping the word “me” for “you”.
    “They’re coming to take you away! HA HA! They’re coming to take you away!”
    It was so deliciously stupid and morbid, that I had to laugh, and all my tension was gone. 6 years later, I only remember two things of that surgeon: What a good job he did on my eye, and that dumb song.
    Kindness always wins.

    • Mary says...

      I love your anecdote so much! What a great guy. That was a hilarious move.

  147. Julia says...

    Just sitting here weeping at my desk at work now. Beautiful.

    • Katherine says...

      Make that two!

  148. jill c. says...

    this brought tears to my eyes….so touching. thank you for this.

  149. Jenn says...

    oh man, hopefully no one walks by my desk right now, lol. i love this story, and for the record, i wouldn’t mind at all if the last sound i hear is Zeppelin.

  150. joy says...

    This made me cry at my desk. The anesthesiologist when I had a C-section to deliver my baby was also so very kind. I was so terrified, even though usually I don’t mind hospitals or surgery. But in that OR, I couldn’t stop shaking. I asked the anesthesiologist to please tell me it would be okay. I said that he was a doctor and a professional and would tell me the truth, whereas my husband couldn’t be trusted to know it would be okay, and so please tell me it will be okay. And so, my husband held my right hand and the anesthesiologist patted my left shoulder, and he told me, as a medical professional, that it would be okay, that all mothers shake before a C-section, and that it wouldn’t affect the doctors’ work at all, and that it would be okay. And I was able to calm down a little bit. And he was right, and it was okay.

    • Kimberley says...

      Already on the verge of tears from the essay, your comment Joy really brought them on! So sweet x

    • Jen says...

      I asked the anesthesiologist to hold my hand during my emergency C-section, and he did – so warmly and tenderly, bless him. That kindness is the only thing I remember 10 years later.

    • Laura C. says...

      The anesthesiologist held my hand during my second C-section for over forty-five minutes while the gynecologists were trying to fix the cut they made to my bladder. I didn’t know what was happening, but this young doctor was holding my hand and talking to me so tenderly that I will be thankful to him for my life.