Thursday, July 30, 2009



Randy, a kindergartner, came to the school library one afternoon after class. "See," he said, tugging timidly at my sleeve while extending a carefully bandaged hand, :I hurt myself." A careful examination revealed no evidence of injury – perhaps a small cut or bruise. "This bandage is getting soiled," I told him. "Would you like to have a clean one?"

"Oh, no," he protested, hiding his arm behind him. "I’ve got to keep this one. My teacher put it on for me."

There was such love and pride in his voice that I had to blink back with tears. It’s a beautiful bandage, Randy," I said. "If your teacher put it on you, then we won’t change it."

Randy’s parents are divorced, and his mother works long hours. An older brother and sister are seldom home. I suspect he cherished that soiled bandage because it eased the pain – not of a hurting hand but a hurting heart. Each time he looked at it, there must have been an assurance that someone in his small world cared.

Ours is a troubled, rapidly changing society. Yet one basic reality doesn’t change: we humans are caring creatures. From birth to death we must care and be cared for. Too often we think of caring in terms of impersonal gestures, involving large sums of money. These have their place, but money alone can never release a person from the prison of loneliness. More important are countless small acts of kindness – bandages for the heart.

There are many ways to say, "I care" – the letter when it isn’t our turn to write; a sincere "I’m sorry" when we’re not sure who was wrong; a warm smile; a friendly word to a stranger. Trifles, costing little or nothing but coming from the heart, they say, "To me you are a special person."

Psychologists agree that older people often become senile because they no longer feel useful. We discovered this when grandfather came to say after grandmother died. In deference to his grief, I insisted that Tom, our seven year old son, not bother him. And, under pressure of daily chores, I tended to push him aside. One day he was cleaning the garden. "Someone else can do that," I said, steering him towards a lawn chair. "Just sit and enjoy the sun. It will do you good."

But nothing seemed to do him good. Daily he grew more despondent. Then, returning from an errand one afternoon, I found him digging and Tom breaking up clods of mud with a small rake. "Grandfather and I are making a garden, "Tom announced joyously. He’s made lots of them. He’s showing me how!"

I was about to protest, when I noticed that grandfather’s eyes were alert and shining, and the old familiar smile was back. "Great" I said, "You two make a list of the seeds you need, and we’ll get them tomorrow."

The garden was a source of considerable pride to both Tom and his grandfather. From then on grandfather has his full share of responsibility. He weeded the flower border, filled the bird-bath, even washed dishes. And he remained active and cheerful well into his nineties.

Today many homes are too small to have room for elderly relatives; and with divorce rampant and commitments seemingly made to be broken, the number of people who feel that no one cares has reached epidemic proportions. Never has there been a greater need for us to show that we care.

A widow in our church had devoted her life almost exclusively to her two children. When they married and moved away, she told her pastor: "My life is over. The children don’t need me anymore."

"Your children may no longer need you," he said, "but there are many who do. Now is the time to find them." He sent her to a hospital ward where there were toddlers who would enjoy stories she had once shared with her own youngsters. There children were precious too. She discovered that when we reach out, the world becomes as wide as we choose to make it.

"We all carry bandages in our hearts for the world’s wrongs. There’s not a single problem that can’t be solved by caring". Each of us can develop a capacity for caring if we make an honest effort. Habits of self-centredness and indifference are hard to overcome. But if we daily make a promise to ourselves to reach out to just one person, we’ve taken the first step.

(by Aletha Jane Lindstorm)