Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Kindness is as Kindness Does

Tuesday was garbage day. Since I have been on my own for over a week, there was not much to take to the curb. I thought to myself, “Why bother? It can wait till next Tuesday.” Then, after I remembered my advice about loving kindness and doing the chores that need doing, I prodded myself into action.

Picture this:

There I am, standing at the curb holding a bag half-filled with trash. I think, Hm. Hardly seems right to make the trash man stop for this puny bag, now does it? I know, let’s put it with North’s garbage.

Oh, his isn’t out yet.
No problem. Plan B: Neighbour South?
Uh-oh, did I miss the garbage altogether? No, appears not, for further along mounds of trash bags await collection. But I don’t want to walk half a block in my grubby clothing carrying a green plastic garbage bag. What will the neighbours think?


Once again, no problem! I am determined to make sure that
a.) I take the garbage to the curb and
b.) I don’t make the garbage man stop for one silly half-filled bag

I dash across the road and leave the bag with East’s pile and scuttle back home.

This is me, folks. This is how I do kindness. In dribs and drabs. No Pulitzer Prize pay-it-forward stuff for this gal. I’m not wired that way.

This is difficult for me to disclose, but since we are on the subject of taking out the trash, here goes:

I would not call myself “kind” as in being generous with material possessions or money. I rarely offer to help with my physical presence. I am not a joiner. I rarely donate to charity. I fall short of calling myself greedy, then again, I identify strongly with Ebenezer Scrooge.

When I worked at Bell Canada, for example, a co-worker was severely injured in a car accident. J was in a coma for months. Other people from the office found the time to see her. One gal visited once a week until J died. I felt compelled to visit her, but never got over the resistance, my discomfort and distaste for all things hospital.

When I was married to The One, we worked together in our mom and pop sewing machine store. He repaired machines and we sold several lines of new models. He made arrangements to take part in the Fall Home and Garden Show and asked if I would help him out in the booth. I suggested that he work the show and I would stay at the store. I explained that the trade show noise, the crowds, and the bombardment of sights and sounds overwhelm and exhaust me.

Apparently “no” was not an option. He played the shaming card, the “you are a lousy partner for putting your needs before “our” needs” card. He threatened me physically, but did not follow through. Instead I received the silent treatment for a few days.

You know what? Yes, he was totally out of line to attack me emotionally, but he had a good point. The fact remains that in a relationship, with community,  friends, family, husbands, it behooves me to think beyond myself and my needs only.

I do manage to go beyond myself from time to time. I’ve been burned so badly by the episode with The One that in my current marriage, I am almost pathological in my diligence.

Anything you need while I’m out?
Can I help you with that?
Let me know if I can help in any way.
You sure?
Last call… 

See what I mean? Almost to the point of harassment.

It’s a work in progress, this helping out/kindness thing. Here are some more examples of what I have done by way of extending kindness to others:

• Mount a mailbox close to the street so the delivery folk don’t have to walk up the hill and a steep flight of stairs.
• As I walk to my car in a full parking lot, I notice that someone is looking for a place to park. I tell ‘em, “Follow me! I’m on my way out!” and I escort them to the spot.
• When I’m grocery shopping, I offer to take someone’s cart back to the store. Granted, we all know that has its pitfalls, don’t we?
• Bake an extra pie and leave it on my friend’s front step.
• Neighbours’ back porches have seen bags of string beans, zucchini and tomatoes
• Read a manuscript when invited. Provide feedback afterward.
• Read and respond to posts and comments: carefully and thoughtfully. My motto: we are all connected, so play nice.

The common denominator in the list above is that they are all easy things to do. There’s an enjoyment factor, something is in it for me.

This issue bears more examination. I like to think that I am aware of my surroundings, that I am in tune with what other’s might be feeling or experiencing. I like to help. I want to help. In part, I suspect that the nasty feedback I received from a Girl Guide leader is responsible for part of my hesitation. I’m doing better. Trade shows are doable, as are hospitals.

Mother Teresa I am not. But I could afford to move away from Scrooge and closer to center on the kindness spectrum. But sometimes, I’m stuck, holding a garbage bag filled with laziness and a default tendency to take the efficient way, the easy way, the least painful way.

 Inspired by the Daily Post Honey vs. Vinegar

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~Aesop

 This wee Aesop quote makes me feel better.


Categories: Personal Growth

Tags: ,

49 replies

  1. My post today is kind of connected in that I talk about getting roped into doing things for friends that I may not want to do. I think all of us are guilty of this to some extent (or Mother Teresa wouldn’t stick out so much). If I can do something kind easily, yep, I’m on it. If it takes work, it takes some thought and analysis. Sounds scroogey but I think that’s just how we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, I think you may be a little harsh with yourself. The measure of kindness isn’t how much it inconveniences you, but how it affects the recipient. And many small kindnesses can equal a great deal of positive energy you’ve unleashed on the world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there – thanks so much for reading and commenting. Your words are surely welcome and put me at ease about this whole generosity/kindness issue.

      I can do little stuff. I can do LOTS of little stuff.

      Bless you. Your words have helped a great deal.


  3. You offered up some very good examples of small kindnesses that would bring a smile to many people. Thanks


  4. I like that you’ve listed some small acts of kindness that we all could follow, quite frankly. I try to employ some type of kindness when I can. You should not let anyone shame you into what they think is “being kind.” Your ex should not have done that. I know my daughter can’t deal with crowds, noise, or any kind of excitement either. You don’t have to feel bad while being kind. It’s almost counterproductive. What matters is doing something from the heart and making someone else’s situation a little better.

    Oh, and I really love the picture of the little cardboard people at the end of your post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Belle! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Thanks, too, for the follow.

      I’ve never considered that: the counterproductive nature of doing something when your heart is elsewhere. Or when you are feeling obligated or coerced. Thanks for that, too.

      Isn’t the cardboard dude sweet? I thought it was perfect given the “garbage” theme and cardboard boxes are often found at the curb on recycling day.


  5. You sound perfectly human to me, Maggie.


  6. Oh Maggie. That could be me writing that post (except for the horror with The One). Each of us gives within our own capacity and smalls matter just as much as grands when someone needs something.Try not to judge yourself by what others are “giving”. It’s not a contest or a measure of worth.

    I like Zucchini bread. just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You can only do what you can do. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And every small action counts to the person who receives it.


  8. There’s a theory that says nothing is truly altruistic – there’s always something in it for the doer, mostly the feel-good factor. I bet deep down we all stick to those things we find relatively easy, but with human nature being so diverse, there’s always someone who finds your hard things their easy ones. And people who give away more than they have, emotionally or physically, end up needing help themselves. Sounds selfish when you put it crudely, but it’s no kindness to those around you if you collapse from giving yourself away until there’s nothing left. Sound to me as if you’ve worked out a very healthy balance.


    • Thank you Helen. I tend to agree, that is, until I balk at the negative connotation of selfish. Strict church upbringing does that.

      I came across a blog post by Seth Godin a short while ago, and he said very much the same thing:

      It’s easy to imagine that the giver is focused on the recipient at all times. But, more often than not, the way the gift makes us feel to give is at least as important as how it makes the other person… feel to receive it.


      • I do so know what you mean about selfishness! Anglican boarding school – ‘Love they neighbour’, but ‘as thyself’ was too sinfully self-indulgent to even contemplate. But I’ve come to wonder whether loving thy neighbour to the detriment of thyself isn’t an equally selr-indulgent wallow in glorious martyrdom. I’m sure you’ve seen as many examples as I have.


        • Yes, I have seen people, in the name of “good deeds” control and take over, interfere; I’ve also seen an obsessive quality to someone’s good “deediness”… a doing for others so that they can ignore the things that need attention in their own world.


  9. I’ve often been caught thinking, after the fact, I should have done this or that. In the moment, for some reason, I don’t think of offering to get someone a coffee or opening doors or fetching a pillow. If someone asked me to do something for them I would be at in a flash – but think of it all on my own. I more often than not fall flat. I wonder about people who are always so naturally considerate – they don’t even seem to have to think about it. Knowing this about myself, I try to be conscious of people around me and pay attention but it is just never going to come natural to me.


    • Thanks for your observations, Francis. Awareness is more than half the battle, yes?

      I think my hyper-awareness comes from living in a household with an authoritarian father. I quickly cultivated an ability to “sniff” out the mood and to adjust my actions accordingly. That, plus I paid attention in school and church and was a “good girl”. I grew up as a child of a 50’s mother who subscribed to Red Book and Family Circle. She was exposed to the ads that encouraged her to dress and cook and “do for” her man and her family. I copied all of this without a question.

      We, you and I, have good intentions, and that counts for a great deal.


  10. I so enjoyed reading this, Maggie. I think I’ll buy you a bag of jelly donuts on the way home tonight 😉


  11. Did you make the carboard dudes? (so appropriate for your garbage theme). I hope the neighbours over the road understood your kindness to the garbage collector!! 😀


    • Hi Barbara – I found the cardboard characters doing a Google search for the Aesop quote.

      You know, I wondered the same thing about neighbour East. Here, there is a limit to the number of garbage bags that can be picked up at the curb. I didn’t want them to think I was compromising their quota!


  12. Maggie, methinks ye have a first draft of a poem with the lines:

    “Picture this:

    There I am, standing at the curb holding a bag half-filled with trash. I think, Hm. Hardly seems right to make the trash man stop for this puny bag, now does it? I know, let’s put it with North’s garbage.

    Oh, his isn’t out yet.
    No problem. Plan B: Neighbour South?
    Uh-oh, did I miss the garbage altogether? No, appears not, for further along mounds of trash bags await collection. But I don’t want to walk half a block in my grubby clothing carrying a green plastic garbage bag. What will the neighbours think?


    Once again, no problem! I am determined to make sure that
    a.) I take the garbage to the curb and
    b.) I don’t make the garbage man stop for one silly half-filled bag

    I dash across the road and leave the bag with East’s pile and scuttle back home.”

    It needs work but I think you could turn it into something quite stunning. Just thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I too think you have been too hard on yourself. The simple fact that you think about whether or not you measure up implies you have a kind streak. People who aren’t kind, don’t worry themselves about it for a minute!!

    Which now makes me wonder if I’m NOT a kind person because it’s never occurred to me that too little garbage is a waste of the garbage man’s time. Hmmm.


    • This thing, this guilt thing is deeply ingrained. I think part of it is that I take my cue from outside. What are other people doing? If they are doing ABC, then perhaps so should I. But if I’m not doing ABC for whatever reason, I somehow see it as a personal flaw. It’s a long time habit, one that only lately I’ve learned to question.

      I like that about the kind streak. So, there you go, you have it too, because you are wondering about the garbage man, as well!


  14. I left my garbageman cupcakes one day. I made sure I put them in a nice box with a liner since I put them on top of the garbage can with a big sign that says ‘A gift for our Garbage Collector’ or something like that (I posted about it somewhere on my blog when I did it).

    I hid inside the house and peered through the blinds when he came by, because I was too shy to actually go out to the road and offer them in person, but he did stop his truck and get out, and put them inside the cab of his truck. Whether he actually ate them or tossed them, I don’t know, and don’t really care either, because I was just doing something nice for someone that no one really thinks much about, unless they do something wrong.

    I left my neighbor a homemade welcome cake when she moved in. I left it on the hood of her car with a note, and peeked outside every hour or so to see if she got it (and to make sure the stray cats didn’t demolish it, lol).

    I like doing kind things for people, but I don’t like doing them face to face. It’s okay if they know it was me, and usually I want them to know, because it’s the only way they can know I’m actually a nice person, not some stuck up snob that doesn’t want anything to do with them.

    However, I also consider myself extremely selfish, too.

    We all have multiple sides to ourselves, things we are okay with and things we’re not. Things we like to share and things we like to keep for ourselves.

    Never feel bad about a kindness you do, even if it seems insignificant to YOU, it could mean the world to someone else. Even something as simple as a smile or a kind word can mean the difference between life and death to another person, even if you never know.

    Although you might want to find out from your neighbors if it’s okay to use their bins when you have an insignificant amount of garbage on collection day, lol… people can be touchy about things like that. 😉


    • This was a lovely comment, thank you!

      I so appreciate you sharing your stories about kindness when you feel like it, and holding back when you are not.

      Appreciate the word of caution about the garbage bins, too.


  15. I’m not really kind, I’m considerate, but in a weird standoffish way. Like a cat. Yeah, I can live with that. But your examples are all good. That makes you kind.


    • I suppose the definition of “kindness” is broad… I think generosity when I think kind… I’m that… but only in certain areas. I also think considerate falls into the kindness basket, or if not, it is a prerequisite of kindness. It’s a big ol’ ball o’ wax, this one.


  16. Once again great minds think alike. I am not good at the grand generous gesture at all, but I believe in doing what little, even minute, things I have the courage and the will to do, and hope that their cumulative strength will enable me to dare bigger and better things over time. I loved this post.


  17. I look for ways to be kind, but I prefer the quiet kindnesses, much like yourself. People know they can rely on me, and I’m glad. In my younger years, I think I had the tendency to be too self-sacrificing, and I’m grateful I’m no longer inclined.
    I used to have a 90yr old neighbor. Mildred. She was this tiny little white-haired lady who lived such a sweet, meager life. She would put her orange rinds in her empty pints of milk, and her empty pints of milk in cracker boxes, and her trash was literally one wastebasket bag of very carefully composed refuse. Bread bags with tissues and paper. It was charming.
    She worked in her yard, digging out dandelions, picking up leaves and debris, and growing rosebushes one could walk through. I loved Mildred. We moved away and wrote letters now and again. She never returned my Christmas card in 2007, so I do not know if she passed, lost abilities or went to live elsewhere, but when we came home to visit in 2009, no one answered her door.
    But trust me, someone would find your tiny trash absolutely adorable.


    • LOVED this comment, thank you!

      “Composed refuse”

      You painted the picture so perfectly. I want to be Mildred. It sounds that perhaps I am on my way to being exactly that.

      Sorry that you and she have lost touch. It happens, but it’s still a loss.



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