Posted by: Beverly Davidson, LMSW | December 24, 2014

3,830 Acts of Kindness

My work can often be frustrating, exasperating and exhausting. My early intervention team and I see some devastating things happen to infants and toddlers and their families. Some of our kids have profound disabilities, are exposed to drugs and violence, are put into foster care, and grow up poverty-stricken homes and neighborhoods. Some of our kids have amazing parents and caregivers, but struggle daily meeting basic needs because of economic inequality, lack of education, and quite simply, bad luck. Sometimes it is hard to see the positives, especially after working with a family for so long and the same problems keep happening over and over again. In my work, I look for what I call the “moments of hope,” because there are days that is all there is. These moments can be as simple yet as profound as a depressed mom, who after six months of working with her and her infant, can finally see her baby and experience reciprocal joy with him. The moment might only last a few minutes, but it is there, and we hold on to the belief that if it happens once, it can happen again. Another moment is the knowing that at least during my visits, the young toddler will at least have someone who sees him, plays with him, and can speak for what he needs. I can hope that he will come to know that some adults are safe, and there is goodness in the world. Or, in spite of being homeless and living couch to couch and having very little money, a parent continually brings her child to the playgroup, because “I know she needs this help and I want to do right by her.” After days of witnessing abject poverty, broken parent-child relationships, and a system that does not provide safety nets, these mini-moments of hope are all I can focus on so that I can keep doing my job with an open heart.

Recently, though, 3,830 acts of kindness happened that filled my heart and soul for weeks and months to come. After a particularly hard day at work, where I sat with families sorrowful about how to provide for their kids over the holidays, I sent out a desperate plea on Facebook asking my friends and family to donate gift cards that I could give to my families. I even quipped that I would provide a festive party for all if they donated. What happened in the coming weeks was inspiring. In one month, 40 individuals/families donated $3,830 dollars worth of gift cards so that families could purchase food, winter clothes, gifts for their kids, and gas to get to necessary appointments. One donor generously paid for a family’s heat bill for a month so they would have extra money for the holidays. So far, 23 families have been helped, and we have enough now to create an emergency fund for our families who are experiencing a crisis in meeting basic needs. I am in awe of all of my friends and family and their generosity. To let people know how much their kindness mattered, let me tell you what my team and I witnessed, so that you know how much your help was appreciated and honored.

A young mom with her baby responded with “You have no idea what this means to me. No one has ever treated me this nicely before.” And, all I (you, actually) did was give her Kroger cards to buy Thanksgiving dinner. Another mom cried with gratitude because “I had no idea how I was going to get gifts for my kids this year. We never have even had a Christmas tree. Now we can. Thank you.” A young family who is homeless can now continue to save money for an apartment and be able to provide a holiday meal and gifts to their kids – she said “Thank you, this will help us so much, and we are trying so hard, thank you.” Another young mom who has worked harder than any mom I know to stay healthy and sober just sat with me and cried, telling me there was probably someone else who could use the help more than her, and she didn’t need these. I made her take them, because she needed to know she deserved kindness. A mom who grew up in foster care, who really had no role models on how to parent, is doing an exceptional job of caring for and loving her children. She can now purchase the developmentally necessary toys for her premature baby and said, “I don’t know what to say, so I guess just thank you. The system never has been this good to me before you guys, ‘ya know. Growing up in foster care wasn’t easy, and I’m making sure my kids won’t ever know that life.” And, I’m sure they won’t, because of her fierce love she has for them.

I could go on and on about the depth of gratitude that our families have, but for now just know what an impact all of you, my dear friends, have made on the families I work with as well as my co-workers and me. I am forever grateful for the kindness because not only was I able to help our families, you provided me with magical moments of hope that inspired me to continue the work that I love. After a particularly difficult year in the infant mental health field and in the world at-large, I was thankfully reminded that random acts of kindness matter, that people are inherently good, and that by simply asking for help, you might just get it.

Blessings to all, and let’s hope for a gentler and kinder world in 2015.

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