Kindness, the Daily Grace by Pat Cirrincione

It was the summer of 1954, and my family had just moved into the top floor of my paternal grandparents' two flat. I decided to take a break from all the unpacking going on inside and went outside to sit on the front porch steps. I must have looked the way I felt inside—sad and a bit lost in the new neighborhood— because a girl, who looked my age, came over from where she had been sitting and introduced herself to me. Her name was Marlene. The first thing Marlene did was introduce me to her grandmother, who drank beer for breakfast every morning and told us tales of “auld Ireland” when she was just a wee child before coming to America. I thought she was delightful.

Through my new friend, I discovered that my new neighborhood consisted of people from the Appalachians, Irish immigrants who had come from Canada, a few Italian families as well as Jewish and African-American families. We were a mixed and diverse group of people that made growing up fun and interesting.

We children either went to St. Mel Grade School on Washington Boulevard, or Tilton Grade School on West End. However, the one constant I remember the most was that everyone was kind to one another. Differences were respected. No one made fun of anyone, which was nice for me, because today, I would be considered the class nerd, a name that wasn’t even heard of back then.

Back then, and even today, my nose was always in a book. I was fairly quiet and basically a homebody. I had curly hair, wore glasses and was very tiny. The combination of all these things typically meant that I always got picked last for anything. Funny thing, though, I never felt bad because not one child I attended school with ever made fun of me. I was invited to every birthday party the other girls were invited to, and was never left out of things going on with the other children. I truly believe that because most of our neighborhood consisted of families who had just been through World War II, they were glad to just be alive. Nothing was taken for granted. Every person had value. Friendships were special and lasted a lifetime.

When did all this change? I don’t know, but when I think about it, I think it was a gradual process of people becoming more self-absorbed, mean-spirited and unkind to anyone who might get in the way of their goals, their ambitions and progress in life. When did we forget that kindness brings comfort, and builds up God’s people? When did our love change from self-giving to self-serving? If our highest purpose was to worship God, then how could we not be kind and love our neighbors? But I am getting ahead of myself.

I realize now how fortunate I was growing up in a neighborhood where kindness comforted and built up God’s people. Where no act of kindness was wasted, but treasured by the one receiving it from a friend or neighbor.

I read this post about kindness on Facebook (of all places):

Always be kind.
If you see someone falling
behind, walk beside them.
If someone is being ignored,
find a way to include them.
If someone has been
knocked down, lift them up.
Always remind people
of their worth.
Be who you needed
when you were going
through hard times.
Just one small act of
kindness could mean the
world to someone.

All around you, people are hungering for even a touch of kindness. As Rosaria Butterfield says in her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, “it begins with recognizing people as your kin…and it can be a violent form of neglect for another’s soul.”

Kindness is a daily grace shown to another. I realize now how blessed my family and I were that summer of 1954 to have been placed in our new neighborhood by a kind and loving Father. A neighborhood where the standard was self-giving love, given freely with no strings attached. I’m not saying that living in a community is always pleasant, but in the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, it could definitely be life changing.

I leave you with this thought from Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV) After all, how else would you meet a friend’s grandmother who drinks beer for breakfast?