If you don’t know what to say to console a friend, a hug works wonders. Hugs say things that are impossible to put into words. They say you care; they say you’re there; they say it will get better—simultaneously.
I’ve found that during the toughest times in my life — like dealing with cancer, the death of a parent, or a tragic event — it’s the little things people do for you that make all the difference. They don’t cost a lot, and in fact, most of them don’t cost a cent. But small actions can move mountains. I call them “Tiny Kindnesses.”
I think Tiny Kindnesses should be a thing. Really! Me, a woman who revels in making snarky comments. Me, a woman who has the short fuse of a flea with a bad temper. I’m a firm believer that Tiny Kindnesses can change the world, one sweet, loving gesture at a time.
Give someone something … anything! Recently, a little girl handed me a bright orange aster at an outdoor concert as part of Kind’s Flower Wall. At events across seven US cities, the company provided thousands of beautiful flowers with the stipulation that you “pass it on.” For some reason, that cute little angel chose me. It made my day!
Give of yourself. I am the wife of a New York City firefighter whose husband by some miracle came home safe on 9/11. We felt blessed but we were also devastated. We never thought we’d recover. But then people from around the country and around the world reached out to us. School children sent us peace cranes. New Jersey boat owners treated us to a lovely day on Barnegat Bay. B&Bs on Capes Cod and May opened up their places to us. Slowly but surely, we healed. Courtesy of Tiny Kindnesses.
Give a meal. To someone with an Italian heritage like me, food = love. Especially homemade food. Nothing can brighten someone’s mood like lovin’ from the oven: a batch of still-warm chocolate chip cookies; a huge, glistening, golden vat of chicken soup; or your kick-ass meatloaf with all the trimmings. Everyone has a specialty. Share yours with a buddy who needs a lift.
Give a note. Write a letter or postcard by hand, or send an email or text that says you’re thinking of someone who’s going through a rough patch. Even better, include a photo from better times to make them laugh. Having a human connection tells people they’re not alone, even in cyberspace.
Give a break. Maybe their partner is having surgery. Maybe their dad is suffering from dementia. Maybe they’re just a hard-working single mom who needs some “me time.” Take their kids for the afternoon or for a sleepover even. Look in on their cat or offer to walk their dog for a day. You’d be amazed at what removing just one small thing from their plate will do.
Give an ear. A license to kvetch is a powerful thing. Just letting someone talk out their problems or cry on your shoulder can be unbelievably cathartic — for them and for you. Being told it’s OK to let it all out takes a weight off their head and can help them cope.
Give a hug. If you don’t know what to say to console a friend, a hug works wonders. Hugs say things that are impossible to put into words. They say you care, they say you’re there, they say it will get better — all at the same time.
Give a smile. Even to a stranger. If someone looks downhearted, or even if they look really happy and make you smile. Pass it on! Tiny Kindnesses are infectious. In a good way!