First a confession! I haven’t read Fiona Robyn’s book “Small Kindnesses” yet! I am grateful to her, though, for inviting me to her blogsplash to write a blog post about small kindnesses.
When I look back I feel gratitude for many things towards many people, though their acts of kindness feel huge to me. Are we, perhaps, belittling an act of kindness by calling it small? On the other hand, wasn’t the offer of a lift a small kindness? Carrying a heavy shopping bag for someone? The present of a smile?
Trying to choose one such act to write about, I went through various options, letting my thoughts run this way and that, but they always led me to my childhood home and to my grandparents. Finally, I settled on the following:
My grandparents, originally refugees from Izmir (the earlier Smyrni), in Asia Minor, lived in one of the refugee quarters of Athens, in a house with an inner courtyard full of plants, fruit, and flowers. They never wasted an olive oil tin – they used these tins as pots for basil, hydrangeas, carnations, geraniums… Crammed in a small space, they had rooms for renting out, a stable with a couple of horses, and hens – all in what was then just outskirts of Athens, but is now very near its center. Though the set-up sounds idyllic, they had a hard time making ends meet, finding the resources to make a living in a city and country that had not been welcoming to the refugees from Asia Minor.
The eggs they had were produced by their hens, the grapes by their vines, the figs came from a huge fig tree. Everything they ate, drank, wore had to be looked after, grown or mended, cost them energy and all of the hours of their day. They wanted me to have a better life. Even though my granny couldn’t read, she wanted me to be able to read and write. She encouraged me and gave me the space to do my own thing – even when I went round the house pulling out her precious plants to ‘make’ my own garden, took the eggs for my dolls; or spent hours under the vines reading my books and daydreaming instead of helping out with the chores.
Was this kindness? It was love, for sure. Kindness too. She could have demanded my help in the household. Each single time she didn’t, each time she didn’t complain, but let me be, let me do my own thing without pressure, or guilt, she acted with kindness towards me. All these ‘small’ gestures, moments, day in, day out, amount to a huge act of kindness and generosity on her part.
An act of kindness doesn’t have to come from a stranger. We tend to forget the acts of kindness we receive and offer in our everyday lives and relationships, as if love allows us to take those we love for granted.
So there you have it. I spoke about my grandparents’ garden and their kind presence in my post about small kindnesses, the title of Fiona Robyn’s book, “Small Kindnesses,” which is also the background to my own book, “In the Garden of Absence.” I hope Fiona will take kindly to this dual path. I know I will be reading her book “’Small Kindnesses‘ – a gentle mystery story with gardener Leonard, dog Pickles & a dash of Johnny Cash” over Christmas.
You can read it too! In fact, it is free to download from Kindle UK and US all day today. See Fiona’s blog with more information about it here