October 22, 2021

Love’s Litmus / Natalie Hoefer

Acts of kindness offer hope in sorrow

Natalie HoeferIn 1 Cor 13:4, we read that love is kind. It seems rather obvious, a fact that goes without saying. But it does need to be said—and celebrated. In a world of road rage, polarity and factionalism, couldn’t we all use a little more kindness?

There was a time in my life where several acts of kindness proved to be links in a chain of hope that helped see me to the other side of heavy sorrow—the miscarriage of a child at 10 weeks.

The first act came from a woman in my parish who, aside from us knowing each other’s names, was otherwise a stranger. Nevertheless, she approached me in the narthex of our church after Mass just four days after the miscarriage.

“I heard about your loss, and I am so, so sorry,” she said, taking my hand and squeezing it with heartfelt sincerity.

It was kind enough of her to take the time to express her sympathy. But she took her kindness a step further.

“Did you know that you will now always be a mother?” she asked. “Once a woman carries a child, she and the baby exchange cells, and those cells remain in your body forever. You will always have your child with you. You will always be a mother.”

To this day, that tender message sends tears down my cheeks. And it came from someone I only barely knew, someone who loved enough to seek out another in pain and offer kind words of hope.

The second act of kindness also came from a stranger in my parish. It was about a month after the miscarriage, and a family happened to sit in the pew in front of my husband and me. Two parents, three beautiful children and one tiny baby.

The tears just came—I couldn’t stop them. I shook with silent sobs.

Suddenly through my tears, I saw a hand offering me a tissue. I looked at the woman and mouthed a thank you, and she responded with a look of sympathy and a pat on my shoulder.

Such a small gesture. Yet it reminded me that the world had kindness and love to offer, that I was not alone.

The months passed, and with the flip of a calendar page, there was the baby’s due date—Oct. 1.

I coordinate the My Journey to God poetry section of The Criterion. Somehow it came about that I shared with one of our poetry submitters about my miscarriage and that the baby’s due date was Oct. 1, the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Around that date, I received a surprise through the mail at work—a beautiful, small glass cross. With it was a message from this poet saying she was praying for me.

Every year since, on the feast of St. Thérèse, I receive an e-mail from her: “Just letting you know that I am thinking of you today and praying for you.” Her annual act of kindness warms my heart.

As with any death, there are the “firsts” to struggle through. Christmas was hard for me that year—no “Baby’s First Christmas” outfits, no little packages to wrap, no little bundle to hold while pondering Mary’s pondering so many years before.

Fortunately, I am blessed with a wise and sensitive sister-in-law who anticipated my heartache. After the chaos of opening gifts was over, she pulled me aside.

“I thought this Christmas might be difficult for you,” she said. “So I wanted to get you something special.”

It was a necklace with small symbols of hope and remembrance made specifically for women who lost a child in the womb.

No words can do justice to my appreciation for her thoughtfulness and act of kindness.

So reader, I invite you to consider the following: when you see someone hurting, crying, alone, suffering—be they family, friend or stranger—take the time to offer words of hope, to pat their shoulder or squeeze their hand, to offer a token of kindness. Love is kind, after all, and you never know what a difference your small act of kindness might make.

(Send your stories of people you know who live out agape as described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:4-7 to Natalie Hoefer at nhoefer@archindy.org, or call 317-236-1486 or 800-932-9836, ext. 1486. Include your parish and a daytime phone number where you may be reached.)

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