Teaching Kindness

This week’s guest post is by featured contributor Tanya Pritt. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts from Tanya.

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I have always been intrigued by other people’s stories. In the treatment centers I work in, Milestones Women’s Program (for women and children) and YES House (for adolescents), one of the first questions I ask is “what happened to you?” Sometimes the question alone evokes a tearful and very sad response.

I listen to stories of pain and loss and of people just trying to survive in what is often an unkind world.

As a mom I always felt honor-bound to teach my boys kindness for others, no matter their presentation or circumstance. As we were driving we would see people holding signs at freeway entrances or grocery parking lots. Most of these signs said “Homeless…need help” or “I am hungry, please help me.” Because of my life experience I could often identify the Viet Nam veteran, the mother or father simply trying to do the best they could.

I carry dollar bills in my car and I give what can when I encounter people needing help. It’s not much; I don’t have that much extra, but I always can spare a dollar, or two, or five. I have taught my sons to do the same thing. Holding a sign asking for help in the rain or in the hot sun is hard work. I have heard others say “Why don’t they get a job,” as though that could be the answer. These people are faced with barriers that we don’t truly know or may not be able to understand. It is not mine to judge. And, thank God, my children don’t judge either.

One of the proudest days I remember is when my youngest was about twelve years old. He and a friend of mine were in the Albertson’s parking lot in Albany when they encountered a woman in a wheel chair. She was holding a sign that read “Please help”. My son read the sign and after passing her turned around and approached the women. “Here, I want to help,” he said, and handed her a ten-dollar bill. She smiled and thanked him for his generosity. They apparently spoke for about five minutes, and he asked her about her wheelchair.

I didn’t witness this act of kindness: my friend told me about it. I talked to my son later that evening and told him I knew that he had given his money away. I asked why he didn’t tell me. He laughed and then said, “I didn’t think I had to.” We spoke more and he shared that he saw she didn’t have legs and wanted to help in any way he could. He repeated the lesson I had taught him, that “she was working as hard as she could.”

Everybody has a story. We generally land where we do in life because of the help we receive or the help we don’t. There are many ways to give. Teaching children to give, to share, and to serve brings rewards we can’t count.

Tanya has been the Director of Milestones for the past 21 years.  She has been working in the field of addictions for over 30 years. 

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