Acts of kindness: why I want to ‘pay it forward’
One of the big questions in the philosophy of religion is this: ‘If the Almighty is all good, then why is there evil in the world?’ There are many possible answers, but one view states that terrible situations produce good deeds and actions. I have debated this many times over the years but my experiences since June 2006 have enabled me to better understand this answer. I have been on the receiving end of immense kindness and true altruism, which have allowed me to emerge from the shock of Steve’s stroke and the blinding grief of my sister’s passing. There are so many remarkable people who offered help and support without looking for credit or seeking thanks.
I sat with Steve for most of the first 48 hours after his stroke. No one could tell me if he would survive. On the third evening I began to collapse. I had only seen my children for a few hours and I knew that I needed help. I phoned one of Steve’s most senior karate students. A few minutes later he was in his car driving from Galway to Dublin; he stayed with Steve all night and drove back to Galway to start work at 9am the next morning.
Neighbours in a Dublin Estate
We live in a small road on a large estate in Dublin. Within days of Steve’s stroke many of my neighbours began arriving at our door, even those I hardly knew. One young mum, pregnant with her second child, looked after both Gina and Tanya while I went to visit my sister in the hospice at night. Another neighbour performed Taoist rituals to bring us health while others lit candles and offered prayers. Local women just popped in to make a cup of tea and offer a comforting shoulder. A few months later, when Steve was allowed to have home visits, some of the men on the estate would keep an eye out so that they could help me to push his 17 stone up the steep ramp into our home. Almost a year later I had problems getting planning permission to adapt the house for Steve’s needs. The neighbours rallied once more and finally we could move Steve’s bed out of the living room and he could have a shower instead of the dignity-destroying blanket baths at the kitchen sink. The list goes on of former strangers performing quiet, selfless acts, each one giving us strength and support, no one asking for thanks or recognition.
A school in a million
When our six year old daughter Gina started first class in primary school I told her teacher and a few of the mums what was happening. A few days after that I heard the doorbell ring: one of the mothers from her school was standing there with a roster in her hand. The parents and teachers of Griffeen Valley Educate Together had planned out every day: they would do the school run, bring Gina back to their houses, give her lunch, dinner, warmth and support. This went on for months. One of the mothers took Gina to sleep over once a week; another came over, cleaned my house and left with black sacks full of ironing; yet another drove the children to the hospital one evening a week to cut down my endless driving time and so it went on. I remember bringing Gina to school one day and wondering why I had not received the usual note telling me that there was a sale of work. I headed on to the hospital without giving it a second thought. A little while later I understood; the school had the sale of work to raise money for us.
It is so easy to give in to despair, and from time to time I have; but these acts of kindness have always brought me back into the world. This has been part of my motivation for creating Neuro Hero and the Research & Hope website. There are so many truly good deeds that I cannot list them all here. There is no way for me to find a way to properly thank each individual. All I can do is to take inspiration from the Catherine Ryan Hyde book and ‘pay it forward’.
By Dr. Aviva Cohen, PhD
Neuro Hero Neuro Hero Blog Research and Hope