Monday, April 25, 2011

Kindness Counts: Reaching out


This week's story comes in the form of his debut post on The Fisch Tank - Max, Penny and Cici's dad and my husband, Matt himself! (He is present on the rest of the blog as he is usually the photographer - except for the bad photos, those are probably me taken on my camera-phone). How refreshing to have a dad's point of view here!

Two and half years have passed since Cici’s accident and I have rarely spoken of it to anyone except Jenny and have never written about it. It would be easy for me to say that it has been a cold and lonely two years, but it’s really not true. There have been friends that have distanced themselves from the tragedy, people who have made well intentioned but hurtful comments, and even a few outright insults, but I’ve spent the last few years surrounded by my wonderful family and people who don’t let sadness get in the way of friendship. My family and I have been the recipient of some astounding acts of kindness.

The truth is these acts of kindness began the very day of the accident. I’ve been known to say that even on the unluckiest day of my life, I was very lucky in the sense that Cici survived. And on the loneliest day of my life, a day on which I thought only Jenny understood what I was feeling, some people reached out in extraordinary ways. I can remember clearly standing just outside the room in which a large number of people were working on Cici, stunned and bewildered by what I had just seen, an emotion I had never before felt creeping through every part of me when a heavy hand landed on my shoulder. It was one of the paramedics that had gotten Cici to the hospital alive, someone I’ve come to know a little better over the last couple of years and someone who has remained a part of Cici’s life. There was something he wanted me to tell Jenny, but I’m sure I never delivered that message. Though I know exactly how that hand felt on my shoulder and could point out to you exactly where we were standing at that moment, I can’t remember what he said. I’m not sure the message was the point anyway.

As Jenny wrote on our blog a couple of weeks ago, I’m standing outside that room a lot. Even two and a half years later, I’m standing outside that room at least a couple of times a day. I don’t like it, but even all this time later, I can still feel that hand on my shoulder and it gives me a small amount of comfort. I know now that he was having one of the worst days of his professional career, that we was surely running his own gauntlet of emotions, and he took a moment to reach out to me.

I’ve come to know that compassion is common among these paramedics and firefighters. Many months after Cici’s accident, the fire crew that had responded that day was returning from a call and saw Max and Penny and me playing in the yard. They stopped to say hello even though they had been told that Cici hadn’t made it and they were probably in for an awkward and depressing conversation. (I’ll also never forget the looks on their faces when I told them that Cici was inside and asked if they’d like to come in and see her.) They’ve stopped on the street after seeing me walking with the girls to the library. They’ve had us over to the station. It means a lot that they’ve continued to care about Cici and her family. I’ve learned not to let those acts of kindness be lost in a terrible day, to carry them with me just as I carry the painful memories. I’ve also learned how important it can be to take a moment to offer kindness to another.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Kindness Counts: K like in Kindness, K like in Karen


This week's story comes from Maria, Jacob's mom

This week I am a guest blogger for my dear friend Jenny.
She is starting Ben’s Bells in Colorado. It is a really neat organization with a big cause and lots of kindness. Check them out!

Being kind is something truly simple, it doesn’t cost money, and it doesn’t take time. When I think about the word kind, it is often the small gestures happening in my day-to-day life. Our family friend standing outside my door with tonight’s dinner, our nurse fitting in a bath for Jacob so we have more family time at night, my husband taking an extra night shift in Jacob’s room so I can catch up on sleep, my daughter taking her friend’s hand to run to the playground, a message from a dear friend far away reminding me that she is still thinking of us every day as Jacob is battling yet another virus. They are all acts of kindness, those little things that makes a difference in all of our lives.

When I think about kindness, my friend Karen comes to mind.

Two years ago, Karen offered to have Sarah over for a play date. I didn’t really know her that well, but our kids got along really well. It was time to pick up Sarah from her play date. The second I put Jacob in the car, he had an oculogyrical crisis. It looks exactly like a seizure, but it is not. It does mean that Jacob needs medical care, and a stay at the intensive care unit in order to stop them. They build over time, so I made the decision to still pick up Sarah and then drive down to The Children’s Hospital.

Jacob had a few more crises on the way over to Karen. I took Jacob out of the car, and wondered how I could quickly get Sarah in the car without being rude to our new friends. I had a medical emergency on my hand, but also a pickup to do! Two worlds clash. I didn’t have to say much before Karen got it. She took charge immediately, and pushed me back to the car, and said she would keep Sarah for as long as we needed. If necessary, she would simply bring Sarah to school the next day. Sarah’s face was beaming. She was happy for an extending play date!

I quickly got back in the car with Jacob, wondering what Karen truly thought about me and my little boy. I never made it down to The Children’s Hospital that night. The oculogyrical crises worsen quickly, so I had to call 911 from my car, and have them meet us at the house.

Joakim called me that evening as he had picked up Sarah from Karen’s house. We had all their phone numbers, and were told to call them any time we needed them. Sarah would spend afternoons at their house until Jacob was home again. It might not sound like a lot, but to manage Sarah’s school schedule with Jacob being in the PICU is not easy. I knew that Sarah was going to be picked up from school each day, and be with a friend each afternoon. I knew she was happy in the middle of a medical emergency. I knew that not only Sarah had found a friend, I had found one too.

Karen probably still doesn’t know exactly what an oculogyrical crisis it, but it doesn’t matter. Her heart is full of kindness, and she will do anything for our family. It doesn’t matter what plans or obstacles they have, there is always a spot for us.

Karen has a big heart. Karen is fair. Karen has turned her own hardships into compassion for others. Karen has empathy. She will stand up for her friends. No bull shit. No hidden agendas. Karen is fun. Karen is outspoken. Karen is straight-forward. Karen enjoys life. Karen is kind.

To my dear kind friend Karen.

Maria Hopfgarten
Mom of Jacob Hallberg with Mitochondrial Disease


Monday, April 11, 2011

Kindness Counts: Speaking from the heart


This week's story comes from Deana at Monster Max.


My friend Jenny has asked me to guest blog about a time that someone's kindness has affected me. You can go over and read the other entries on the Be Kind Colorado page.

Through the years, so many moments stick out. People have helped in so many ways, but one story popped in my head right away when I was asked. I think because it was such a simple act of kindness, and it took me so by surprise it has stuck with me.

This story happened five years ago, at my sister's graduation at the University of Denver. We were running late, and had a difficult time finding handicap parking and seating. We ended up in the balcony's lobby watching the graduation from afar. It really worked out just fine because we had the place to ourselves to feed Max. In fact, the only other person up there was a guy who was sitting over in the corner.

He was wearing shorts and a slouchy Hawaiian shirt. Not exactly fancy dress for a graduation. But, living in Colorado, I've learned to not judge a person's standing in society by their attire. This guy definitely looked like he was less than thrilled to be at a graduate school graduation, but there he sat with the rest of us listening to the pomp and circumstance.

As I sat feeding my huge toddler a bottle, I caught the man watching me several times. As it was quite a sight watching me feed Max, I didn't think too much of it. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man start walking our way.

He leaned over one of the chairs and said,

"My pity of you has turned into admiration of you in a matter of minutes. The love you show to your son is admirable. I have three sons, and have wondered over the years what it would be like if one of them had turned out.......not normal. I see you would just love them anyway. It was an honorable choice you made...but what other choice did you have really? It is so appropriate in this academic've taught me the true love for a child."

I sat dumbstruck, willing a smile on my face, while tears ran down my cheeks. I choked out a "thank you", before he walked off.

In the years since, I've thought of this man, and his simple act of kindness. He listened to the thoughts in his head, and took a moment to speak them out loud. And sometimes, that's all it takes to change a person's life.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Kindness Counts: When no one is watching


This week's story comes from Heather at Samantha's Mom.


We have been the recipients of many, many acts of kindness. As soon as we became a family with a medically fragile child, the kindness came pouring in....meals, notes, prayers, thoughts, the world was with us.

And when we lost Samantha, the world mourned with us.

Today, many continue to help us and we are still overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of humankind.

But sometimes the little things make an impact.

I have immersed myself back into the corporate world. Not knowing quite what do to with myself and not wanting to be at home, I am back into a high-pressure, travel filled job. It is quite a change.

And I search for specks of kindness in the world of business travelers.

A couple weeks a ago, I was scheduled to fly to Albany via Chicago and I was late.

I was late to leave the office, the highway was peppered with speed traps and the only place to park was 3 bizillion miles away from the airport and I was wearing 4-inch heels.

I cursed my luck and ran (as best I could) to the airport.

I got stuck in security behind a group of 50 students on a Spring Break trip.

I pleaded my case to an unhelpful TSA agent.

I cursed the clock.

Was it arms and legs? No.

Was it life and death? No. But it was still stressful.

I had 30 minutes to make my flight.

I was taken aside for random screening.

I bit my lip.

When I ran down to catch my train, the doors closed before I could get on.

I cursed my luck.

But then the doors opened and I got on the train. And the doors closed.....

And they opened again.... And closed again....

The train was stuck. I would miss my plane.

And I hummed my mantra "It is not life and is only a plane. It is only a plane."

The man standing next to me said, "the airport is in slow motion today isn't it?"

"Oh my goodness!!!" I said and unloaded my story. "I am so afraid I will miss my flight to Chicago."

"Ah, Chicago. That's where I'm going. We'll miss it together."

As the train moved forward, my luck started to change, I might just make this flight. Me and my new friend ran for the plane where we were the last two to board.

He went onto first class and I went onto battle the gate agents as to why I shouldn't have to check my small, quite compact bag to Albany.

As my new friend left to first class, I said sarcastically, "think of us poor schmucks in 28C."

I took my 'check baggage' tag and headed down towards the airplane. I had made it. But my hair was plastered to my head in sweat, my feet hurt and I questioned the ability to do the smallest of catch a plane.

As I went to hand my bag to the gate agent, the flight attendant poked her head out of the plane, "Ma'am? I think we can fit that in first class."

Oh thank goodness. I stowed my bag and passed my manager...who was also in first class....humph.

"I barely made this flight." I said, pushed my sweat-coated bangs out of my eyes and made it back to 28C....right next to the lavatory.


But I had made it.

30 minutes into the flight my manager came back to the hovel of 28C. "You haven't eaten have you?"

Food? Oh yeah. It was 2:00 and I hadn't eaten all day. "I think I forgot." I said.

"I'm not going to eat my lunch, would you like it?"

I nodded and my stomach grumbled.

So five minutes later, a disgruntled flight attendant came back to 28C with a full first-class chicken salad, complete with a cloth napkin and real silver ware. I munched on Italian bread sticks with vigor.

A couple minutes later, an even more disgruntled flight attendant came back with a glass of Chardonnay. Apparently, the new friend who I met on the train felt sorry for me and asked to have a glass of wine be brought back to 28C.

Contentment was a meal next to the lavatory.

And that's kindness is isn't it?

It's easy to be kind when we know our neighbor is in crisis. But what about when we don't know? Who is our neighbor on the flight to Chicago? Are they going to a funeral? To visit a sick friend? Are they a business person trying to put her life together after the death of her child? Or are they just trying to get to Chicago?

Doesn't matter.... Kindness counts.