Last Tuesday I took my 3 year old son to our local park. Having rode his bike from the car park to the cafe, he was well in need of an ice lolly (as was I). As we approached the cafe, I noticed an elderly gentleman (maybe in his 70s) walking towards the same destination, with a pram. For some reason he stood out to me, maybe it was his age and the fact that he was pushing a pram alone, it made me think about how much we (I) rely on family and ageing relatives to look after our children so that we can return to work. Maybe subliminally I felt sorry for him, as looking after a young baby is no easy thing.
He followed me into the cafe whilst deliberating wether to leave the pram outside whilst he ordered, I could see he had asked a lady sat outside to mind the pram whilst he came inside. Whilst I was waiting for the ice lollies, he had enquired how much a cup of tea was, he had got enough thankfully. The lady serving asked if he wanted anything to eat, he asked how much the Twix on the counter was, ‘a pound’ she replied. He didn’t have enough, so I offered him the remainder, to which he thanked me and declined.
The gentleman went to rejoin the pram outside with his cup of tea. I added a Twix onto my order and dropped it at his table as we walked to the boating area where we sat and ate our ice lollies. The man had said thank you and looked really surprised by what I had done.
About 10 minutes later he walked over to where we were sat, and said ‘I’m really touched by what you have done, it was such a kind thing to do’. He went on to tell me he had been unwell recently, that a good friend had also recently passed away, and that he was not so happy at the moment. He then said ‘I’d started to lose my faith in good things and good times, but what you did has really restored my faith in the future, and good people’, ‘there are many bad things happening in the world currently, its easy to lose faith’.
We then, chatted for about 20 minutes, the baby was his daughters, and he had left his wallet at his home with his wife, hence the shortage of money. We talked about how quick life goes by and how quickly children grow up, he instilled years of experience upon me that day about the things which matter in life (not all what you would expect) and insights I could not imagine due to lack of years and life experience. As we said goodbye I felt really peaceful, the small thing that seemed a normal thing to do (buy him a Twix) had actually helped him in more than one way and me in return.
Being a reflector at times, I thought about how kindness is possibly one of the greatest things you can offer someone, with love being the first. Also that some people don’t get a lot of kindness in their lives, or that life is so busy that its easy to forget the importance of the basic and simple things, such as kindness, compassion and sometimes just an ear to listen.
I was recently speaking with someone about missing clinical practice and how sometimes its hard to know if what I currently do, makes a difference for people. As a nurse I could see instantly the difference I made. There is something hugely warm and fulfilling (like a giant bear hug with a huge marshmallow) that you get from sharing a moment with another person, knowing that they rely on your kindness and compassion in their most needed hours. That simple touch of human kindness, physically or psychologically can sometimes be more needed and wanted than any technology or medicine the NHS has to offer.
During my 16 years working in the NHS I have met some of the kindest, most compassionate people who amaze me and inspire me. But I have also met some people who are not so kind, who for whatever reason in their lives are not able to show these qualities. Many of these people have sadly been clinical staff, maybe tired, burnt out nurses who themselves don’t receive kindness from their managers and leaders within their organisations and therefore don’t demonstrate and pass on this feeling of value and being cared for to their patients. People, nurses are not robots, we’re not born or programmed to systematically and routinely be kind and compassionate, we’re human, and sometimes we get hurt and broken too and need the care and attention we give to our patients. So maybe by caring for staff is a way that I pass on that difference to patient care, maybe my role now is to care for the carers?
The human touch is a funny thing, it can make the world of difference, the NHS is made of people, we care for people, we work alongside people. I believe we are born to love, that of all the advancements in todays society, the thing people value, want and need most, is something which costs no money (or maybe £1 to start the ball rolling) its love and kindness, and with kindness comes respect, trust and a shared connection. Something all the money in the world cant buy.
My original summer plans for restoration included an old bench and table, however my new plans are to restore kindness in the little things I do and hope its enough to make a difference.