“Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is facing some sort of challenge.” –J.M. Barrie
This quote has been part of my moral, intellectual, and spiritual values for a long time. When I was first working as a Junior Therapist in a 30-day residential treatment program, I happened to be in the local library and saw a woman in the stacks who was in one of those sobs that was silent yet the pain of whatever the source of her tears was highly evident. She was dressed untraditionally, quite thin, and a bit unkempt, and my perhaps implicit bias at the time assumed homelessness or mental illness, and I was frightened and slipped away. Her face has never left my thought library.
About 20 years later, I found myself the person in the silent pain that belied words. It took me weeks of intellectual and emotional ping-pong to finally crawl from my illnesses, homelessness, and despair. I had been rejected at a local hospital when I went into emergency to ask for help, and after being whispered about and avoided by some, was given a phone number and sent away at 2 a.m. In the frozen state of pain, rejection, and shame, suicide came to the forefront of my mind. These thoughts and I were well acquainted. I am a survivor of my brother’s suicide and that tragedy had infected my family deeply. I couldn’t put them through that again, yet I had no other option to get help (so I thought).
I made a very calculated attempt on my life, suicide with no wish to die and went back to that hospital where then I knew that legally they had to take me in. That began the recovery journey I still walk today. I share this because we may see people every day and can sometimes wonder (and judge), why they are doing what they are doing, dressing the way they dress, perhaps moving in the world with assumed disregard, just sitting, in silence, almost removed from the world. I encourage (daresay instruct?) us to be kinder than necessary at all times. It is free and non-straining and may be the single thread of light someone we encounter has been painfully waiting for.
The smallest of kindnesses saves a life every day.
Terrence Smithers came to RI International through Community Building as a resident and Student of the Recovery Education Center. Within a year he was hired and is now in his 16th year with RI. He is in co-occurring recovery and has worked in Behavioral Heath as a Tech, Counselor, Therapist and Healthcare curriculum developer and facilitator for 35 Years.