No act of kindness is ever wasted

Elizabeth Swaringen, who writes our Family House Diaries stories, shares additional insights about the woman who is featured in the latest installment.

No act of kindness is ever wasted click to enlarge Virginia Hays, at right, with her daughter, Vaylene Klassen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Virginia Hays matter-of-factly said, “I’m bad with names, but I do remember their situations,” and I knew she had just spoken volumes from her heart.  Even as she was spending nearly every waking minute with her daughter Vaylene and making sure her needs were met, Virginia was reaching out to other mothers of sick children with the simplest of powerful gifts – a welcoming smile, a gentle hug, listening ears.  

One of the mothers Virginia specifically told me about spoke no English.  She had come to Chapel Hill to support her own 21-year-old daughter, a medical student in their native Bogota, Colombia, who is being treated at UNC Hospitals for an extremely rare enzyme disorder. The patient has a command of the English language and understands a lot about her condition. She translates for her mother at every interaction beyond the two of them.

But little translation was needed when the two mothers and their daughters reunited over a recent dinner at SECU Family House.  I witnessed the smiles, the hugs, their laughter that said it all. They could have been four dear friends picking up where they left off before time and distance got in the way.  The dining room was crowded that evening, but it was as if no one else was in the room when that quartet reconnected.

Virginia said the outreach to others “helps me be able to back away a bit from what is a mind-numbing course for most,” referring to the helpless feeling that comes when a loved one is seriously sick or injured. Listening to Virginia share her story and watching her in action reinforced for me the power of even the tiniest acts of kindness.  I think it was Aesop who wrote, “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”  Clearly, Virginia has that life lesson down pat.

(Editor's note: This blog post is a companion piece to this story.)

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