When my brother’s life was taken away from him on that crisp fall night, I was in the 6th grade. I still remember my mom, my oldest sister, Kristin, and her fiance, Joe, coming home from the hospital to tell us that Adam was gone. “We lost him.” That is how my mother told us.
“We lost him.”
I remember my mom motioning for Joe to hide Adam’s wrestling gear that was piled on the floor…. As if that would be the thing to put us over the edge. His wrestling uniform was there on the floor because that year, I decided to dress up as my brother for Halloween. Afterall, he was my real, live superhero. I wore his wrestling singlet, his warm-ups, shoes and had his headgear hanging from the waist of the warm-ups… just like the real wrestlers. I remember that moment so vividly. My mom, in the deepest grief of her life, still trying to protect us. Trying to eliminate any factor that might make our pain more acute. That was probably the first act of kindness that was done in response to Adam’s death.
After Adam died, my friendships changed a lot. I had a really hard time opening up and talking to my friends about everything I was feeling. I find this amusing and ironic now, considering the fact that this week alone I have opened up to about 10,000 people about my feelings. But, it was harder then. My friends were children. They did not know how to comfort me. They didn’t understand grief. Only last year did I learn from one friend how Adam’s death impacted the rest of her childhood. She was traumatized. Her family was very close with ours, and they were all traumatized. Adam’s death changed how people parented their kids, it changed how late their kids could stay out, and whether or not they could go places. His death shaped our community, in ways I did not realize at the time.
Even though so many peripheral people were impacted, I still felt alone in my grief. I felt small and lost and alone. We lost him, my mother had said, but I think what really happened was that we all got lost. But there were moments of connection. When my friend Sarah Doane sat and played Mall Madness with me for hours while my mom wept with my aunts and uncles. She let me shut it all out and pretend to still be a kid. That was an act of kindness. Sarah’s mom, Michal, let us sleep over at each other’s houses on school nights sometimes when I was really sad. That wasn’t something she would normally allow, but making an exception was an act of kindness.
At the funeral home, one of Adam’s classmates, Tom Streng, sat next to me for so long watching old videos of Adam. The video just kept looping and looping. He sat with me the whole time, as an act of kindness.
That same night, I remember someone coming over to me and saying that a bouquet of flowers had been delivered for me. ME. I was in 6th grade. I had never been given a flower before, let alone had a bouquet delivered especially for me. Sure enough, there was a simple vase filled with yellow roses. They were from a boy in my class, Bobby Packer, who had confessed his undying love to me on the regular for about 3 years straight leading up to this. I still remember my mom telling me that red roses mean love, but yellow roses mean friendship. On one of the hardest days of my life, Bobby extended what I needed most - a sign of friendship, and act of kindness.
This is why we do acts of kindness in October. Because small, generous, thoughtful acts of care and concern are healing, buoying and uplifting. They are meaningful, they are memorable. They help tether lost people to the hope of being found again. From the moment that Adam died, the people around me have been performing small, but meaningful acts of kindness and that has made some very tragic times just a bit more survivable. God has placed people in my life to love me and support me and to walk through this process with me long before they were adults, long before they knew how to support someone in their grief.
In his kindness, God has sweetly and gently brought me through the darkest times in my life, and he has done so by bringing me friends and strangers who weren’t afraid to be there, even when it was uncomfortable. Friends like Chrisann Hanson, who called me La and wrote AP17 on her shoes with me. Friends, coaches, teachers, neighbors… people who stepped outside of themselves and extended kindness to our family when we were just re-learning how to put one foot in front of the other.
So. That’s why. For every person who has asked why we are all out there blabbing about what kindnesses we do. This is why. Because kindness can make a real, lasting impact on people’s lives. And I think that is worth sharing and celebrating.
My beautiful friend, Sue Delgatti, has continually showered my family with kindness over the past few years. She has been one of the most active participants in October and Sue is no stranger to loss and heartache. She has overcome a world of challenges… and here’s what she sent me today, completely unsolicited:
I love participating in this movement because I believe in kindness! I believe it can make a difference. I believe it helps me be a better person. I believe that God wants us to use great sadness and brokenness for good and I believe it helps us heal. Participating brings me this odd sense of joy and takes my eyes off me. I’m encouraging you all to try it because I’m pretty sure you’ll like the way it makes you feel. Kindness IS contagious and I think you will be surprised at how it becomes part of your life and the joy that it brings. So.... jump on into #AdamsActs and #catchthekindness! Make someone smile, be an encourager!!! As is often said- “be the change you want to see in world”
Sue basically sent me a commercial for #AdamsActs. Just a little plug out of the blue in case someone needed it. This is kindness people. When you are so in tune with the needs of the people around you that you meet those needs before they even realize they had the need. Because what Sue doesn’t know, is that today I was fielding a little bit of criticism about publicizing kindness. This happens every year, but more and more as the blog gets bigger. Tomorrow I will address some of this - and probably the state of the nation as a whole - but mama needed to cool off first. What I needed was a reminder that what we are doing matters, that it pleases God because we are loving his children. In the same way that so many of you loved on that lost little child after her brother was taken away so suddenly. Kindness gives birth to more kindness. That is as noble a goal to pursue as any, and definitely one worth sharing.