A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook yesterday: “What would you tell your fifth grade self?”
Whoa. That brought up some tears!
Fifth grade was pretty hard for me. That was the year my parents finally broke up, after having spent the previous few years steadily unravelling into alcoholic chaos.
That was the year I was in a car accident with Dad while he was driving drunk. We crashed into a snowbank on the side of the road in country Ontario, Canada. Dad had passed out. Before or after the crash, I’m not sure. Thanks to the snow cushioning the impact I wasn’t badly hurt. In shock, but okay. So I crunched through the freezing darkness to a farmer’s house to ask him to come pull us out with his tractor.
When the farmer put me into the tractor cabin, he shut the door on my thumb. The door got got stuck, and it took him awhile to get the door open again. By then my thumb was mangled and bleeding heavily. The farmer’s wife was able to stem the bleeding, and she bandaged my thumb up in a thick gauze dressing.
Her kitchen was warm. She was kind and soothing as she dressed my wound. Her husband went out by himself and dealt with my drunk father and the car. I don’t remember the rest, but I do remember this: every kindness matters.
Later, when I couldn’t write in my fifth grade class for a math quiz because it was my writing hand that was injured, my teacher put me on his lap and wrote my answers down for me. He joked with me and made me laugh. And then after the test he got out his guitar and played Beatles songs for the class. As we sat gathered on the carpet floor and sang along, I had some moments of pure joy and happiness. And of feeling safe.
Every kindness matters.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the dressing on my thumb was now very dirty and the whole thing stank. Underneath, the wound was festering and it hurt a lot. My parents (both medically trained) had never even looked at my wound, let alone changed the dressing. One of my friends noticed and asked if it would be okay by me if she got her mother, who was the district nurse, to visit me at school and take a look?
Her mother came and gently unwrapped the dirty gauze, cleaned the wound and changed the dressing. She gave me some supplies and showed me what needed to be done next time. Maybe my sister could help, she asked? I don’t remember if I ever did ask my sister to help, but I do remember this: my thumb got better… and every kindness matters.
My family was respectable from the outside. My father was a surgeon, my mother a willowy brunette beauty. We lived in a big beautiful house on a lake and everyone in our town thought we had it all. No one knew the drama and tragedy that what was unfolding behind the facade.
For me, fifth grade did not mark the end of the trouble. There was much more to come. But somehow there was always just enough kindness in the world to get me through. To keep me going, to bring me moments of joy and laughter, and to help me heal.
That’s what I would tell my fifth grade self.
As always, let me know in the comments if this post has helped you in any way.
To Your Abundance,
Julie Ann Cairns