52: Kindness Begins with Me
As we all adjust our routines in an effort to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus there is still so much good we can see and do in the world. KaRyn shares a story of a time when her already terrible driving record hit an all-time low (pun intended) and the undeserved kindness of a stranger changed everything.
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KaRyn Lay 0:00
Hey friends, maybe you're like us. You're trying to socially distance right now so you can help keep the novel coronavirus at bay in your community. And if that's what's happening for you, Well done, well done. But we wanted to make sure you know that if you get lonely or you get bored, or you're just looking for something uplifting, we're still here. We're here with you virtually. And you can come find us on Instagram and Facebook @thisisthegospel_podcast. You'll find a community of story lovers there just like you. And we're always thinking about fun ways that we can stay connected during the week and especially during this interesting time. We want to help you use stories to keep your home-centered church-supported efforts engaged so come find us on Instagram and Facebook where we can uplift each other.
Welcome to THIS IS THE GOSPEL, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.
Well, this has been a wild week in our little corner of the U.S. You're probably feeling it too, with temple closures, the suspension of church services for the next few weeks and other adjustments to our lives and routines in all of our efforts to practice social distancing. I know. I know. My friends in Asia and parts of Europe have been at this much longer than we have. And believe me, I've been watching and learning from you. All the events of the last few weeks have me thinking pretty acutely about the ways that we take care of one another in our moments of deep vulnerability. I mean, I'm not sick right now and, and I still stand six feet away from everyone and wash my hands like a maniac while I'm singing my ABCs because I know that I could inadvertently be the cause of someone else's suffering. And if I unknowingly pass something off to an elderly neighbor or a friend with a compromised immune system, it will make me feel terrible. And I'm also really aware of the privilege that I have that allows me to work from home and to have more time Toilet paper than I currently need. I promise, I promise I am not hoarding it. But I did go to Costco a week before things got nuts. So, I'm well stocked. Come on over if you need a roll, I'm serious.
After I got over the shock of going to the grocery store and finding nothing on my list, I started to wonder just how the best parts of us as a community, a global community are going to shine during these uncertain times. And I felt a deep twinge of hope run through me. I've been following the Instagram account tiny kindnesses for weeks now and every day I read the stories, small, little stories about the way that we show up for one another in those critical moments when isolation or desperation could make us feel separated. We know how to do this. We have been preparing for this moment spiritually, much longer than most of us have physically. Well, at least me and that's the conclusion I have to draw from the swarming on grocery stores over the last two days. So today in celebration of all that is good in us. I'm sharing a tiny story of my own when I experienced a kindness from an absolute stranger in an unexpected way.
Now, I don't want you to think terribly less of me, but I've never been a particularly awesome driver. I mean, I'm fine. It's fine. In fact, it's been almost 10 years with no incidents. But when I'm overly stressed about something or someone, I really should probably take an Uber. I once made a timeline of my many accidents for a friend who needed to know that she wasn't the only one with a marred driving record, and I was surprised at the amount of collisions that I remembered. There was the time I backed into a melon truck at the U-pick-it farm, or the time I forgot the car was behind me in the driveway, or that embarrassing time that I rear ended someone because of a spider on my dashboard. And then I had to go to court to tell a judge and an entire courtroom the story. They laughed, and I still had to pay the court fees. Luckily, most of the accidents I've been involved in have not hurt anyone. But that wasn't true the day that I turned a corner without really looking.
When I was 28, I did something totally terrifying. I fell in love and I flew to Australia to see if marriage was in the cards for me with my internet boyfriend. I came back to the United States three weeks later, knowing that it wasn't going to happen. The breakup was devastating. I struggled for weeks to get my head back in the game, I was having a really hard time at work. I was having a really hard time at Church. I was having just a really hard time period. And it was like everything in my life was underwater, and I could never come up for air. Nothing felt easy, or even doable, to be honest. So it really shouldn't have surprised me when about a week after I got home, I got a flat tire on my way to work. It was the last straw...I'm telling you. It was the final proof that I needed that life was going to be nothing but sorrow and difficulty from here on out. I was out of money because it turns out that flying to a foreign country to see your internet boyfriend is not cheap, and I was out of hope. And just to put salt in my wounds, when I got to the tire shop to get that tire replaced, they told me that I would have to have all four tires replaced, not just the one with the flat. I don't even remember how I made that work financially, but by the time I left, Les Schwab Tires with four gleaming new wheels..I, I was spent and I was worried and I didn't have any room in my brain for driving. And that's when everything got worse.
Just as I turned the right corner onto the main street from the tire shop, a kid on a bike flew into crosswalk from seemingly nowhere, and I hit him. With my car. I hit a child with my car. He fell off his bike and I screeched to a stop and immediately ran out to see if he was okay. And of course I apologized 400 times. It seemed like he was in his early teens, maybe he was like 12 or 13. And he said he was fine, and he could walk. His bike was clearly damaged, but I didn't know what to do. Honestly, I was so distraught, and I'm sure that I probably should have called the paramedics or the police or someone, but I didn't. I couldn't really think clearly in that moment. So, I just gave him my cell phone number on a crumpled piece of paper from my glove compartment and told him to call me when he got home, or have his mother call me when he got home. I very carefully drove back to my office. I mean, I was devastated. What a horrible thing to have happen.
Well, a little bit later, his mom called me and told me that he was totally okay physically, and they weren't taking him to the urgent care anything and they weren't even planning to make an insurance claim. But they did think that it was only fair that I pay for the damages to his bike - to get his bike fixed. So, I agreed that I would meet them at the bike shop so that I could pay the bill. And when I walked into that shop, I took one look at his mom, and it hit me. It hit me really hard. I could have killed her child. I could have killed him. And that's when I lost it. The tears started and they would not stop. I I think she probably thought I was a maniac - like what is wrong with this woman? - but I'd like to say that the tears were for the accident and all the trouble that I'd cause for her family. But in reality, my tears were for everything I'd lost for that hope that hope of a future that was never going to happen. And for the present that seemed so difficult, so painful, and unbearably hard. I was broken. And as much as I wanted to hide it, my heart was just bare,laid out bare and exploding right there, right there in front of these people in a stupid bike shop.
So I awkwardly paid for the fixes to his bike, it actually looked like it was brand new, which was really great. And I thought to myself, "I have bought a lot of tires today, like a lot of tires." And then I headed back to my office. About an hour after I got back, the front desk receptionist called my office and told me that I had a visitor. But you can only imagine my shock when I got downstairs to the front desk and I saw the boy that I'd hit with my car, standing in the lobby. He had his new fixed bike with him and a helmet, which was a new accessory that I suspect was the result of ... me. And he kind of looked at me weirdly and sheepishly held something out to me. And as I held my hand out to receive it, he said, "This is from my mom. She just wanted you to know that she doesn't hate you. And she thought you might like this." It was a $25 gift card to Subway, you know, to get a couple of footlong sandwiches. We still joke about that, that I might seriously be the only person to have ever been rewarded in sandwiches for nearly maiming a child with my car. But in all seriousness, the lesson of that subway gift card wasn't lost on me. And something in me shifted in that moment. I didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve that stranger's kindness. I was just some lady who could have ruined her life, like, in a really big way. I didn't deserve her mercy or her empathy, or her willingness to show forgiveness. But she gave me those gifts with a generous heart and a gift card. And because of that, I believe that I was healed a little bit more than I had been at the start of the day. There was a lot more to get whole again. And I would actually spend the next two years in Korea working on that. But that's simple kindness marked the twist in the dark tunnel. And I could finally see some light - just a little pinprick - just a little pinprick of light shining through. I don't remember that woman's name. That was literally the last time I ever saw her or her bike riding son. But her kindness at a time when I should have been the one giving, not receiving has stuck with me. It's made me a more aware driver. And it has continued to be an invitation throughout my life to see people instead of circumstances and to reach out even if it's awkward. And isn't that the blessing of ministering? That opportunity to show up for one another with the Subway gift card, or the phone call, or the text message, even when we don't know the right thing to say. To give compassion, even when we're not so sure that the person receiving it really fully deserves it.
You know, right now we're all watching as things fan out across the globe, wildfires, viruses, hateful rhetoric, divisiveness, fear. All of these things, whether natural or manmade, start small and work their way through our communities. glomming on to whatever is most vulnerable in their path. They grow and they grow and whatever is not fortified will fall. This feels devastating to our hearts sometimes, especially when we feel powerless to protect the weak and the weakest among us. If you watch the news at all lately, you can't avoid the word, "pandemic." It's defined as an outbreak of a disease that affects large geographic areas. But maybe you didn't know that the word "pandemic" comes from the Greek "pan-", meaning, "all" and, "-demos" meaning, "people." And that up until the 19th century, which is the 1800s. It wasn't really used as a noun by itself at all. It was used as an adjective to describe things that affect all people everywhere. And what that means to me is that there are other things that can be pandemic, like compassion, empathy, love, service, forgiveness, hope in Christ, and kindness. These things also start small and they also have exponential impact. And when we combine these acts of discipleship with the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they can radiate beyond borders and generations and time, a pandemic goodness. So, over the next few weeks, as we all lean into our civic duty to protect our communities, I hope we'll also watch for opportunities to lean into our Christian duty to spread the Good News and the good works, to bring light where there's darkness - to minister. We can start small, tiny even. And I know that our efforts will be magnified.
That's it for this episode of THIS IS THE GOSPEL. Thank you for all the goodness that you're already bringing into the world and for sharing it far and wide. We'll have a transcript of this episode in our show notes at LDS living.com/this is the gospel. If you're sequestered and looking for a meaningful activity to pass the time... Well, I've got an idea for you. How about practicing your personal or family storytelling? Pick a theme and ask your friends or family members to take turns telling their own stories around that theme. You can even do this virtually back and forth on Google Hangouts or through text messages. You might be surprised at what you learn about one another and your faith.
We love to hear all the ways that this type of storytelling strengthens your faith in God and love for His children. If you have just a minute to leave us a review and a rating on iTunes, that's another way that you can share the good stuff. Every review that you leave helps us to show up in the search for more people who are looking for something to brighten their day.
If you have a story to share about living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please call our pitch line. We find so many of our stories from this pitch line. And as we prepare for season three, we would love to hear how the gospel has blessed your life. Call 515-519-6179 and pitch your story in three minutes or less.
This episode was produced by me KaRyn Lay. It was scored, mixed, and mastered by mix at six studios. Our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast to keep you busy while you're at home, and other LDS living podcast at LDSliving.com/podcasts. Stay healthy, stay calm and wash your hands!