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In this month’s These Ozarks Hills, Marideth Sisco reflects on the kindness of others and how important their kindness is when you’re going through difficult circumstances.
This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Ever since I first went in the hospital back in March, I have been telling people that I had a bad spring. Some of them thought I said I had a bad sprain, so I've had to explain that my ankles are fine, and so is the rest of me, mostly. But after my bout with cancer, followed by a nasty abdominal abscess, fine is maybe bragging a bit, but I'll probably keep doing it. I'm still a little weak, suffering, according to my doctor, from deconditioning, from those weeks in the hospital. So no arm wrestling or triathlons for me just yet. But still, going in for surgery just two days after the vernal equinox and still in physical therapy when the solstice arrived, I pretty well missed the springtime altogether. For a gardener, that's hard to take. I already whined in public about needing help to plant my potatoes. Then, between the "plant a row for the hungry" folks and those inspired by the flagging economy to plant their own garden for the first time – by the time I got to the nurseries, the plants were mostly picked over or gone, and almost no one had seeds. So this gardener has done a fair amount of muttering, grousing and generally saying unkind words over the potato patch, the collection of large pots and the straw bales that comprise this year's very late garden.But I finally had to fess up to the obvious fact that it was not unkindness that got me to this place. Au Contraire. It was the essence of kindness that I found at every turn in this difficult and extraordinary journey. Kindness that found people willing to find room for some of my potatoes in their gardens. Kindness that brought a neighbor to till the potato patch at the farm so I could plant the rest. The kindness of a friend who drove me to the hospital and sat with me in the ER while the fever and pain were translated into a diagnosis. And the never failing kindness of all the nurses, doctors and aides who offered me care and encouragement as I made the long and arduous journey back to health. And it went on. There were friends and strangers who donated time and other resources to make my days at home but still on IV antibiotics less of a struggle, and one who cooked a freezer full of meals for me, just because she wanted to help. I owe thanks to so many people that I don't even know where to start. So many went out of their way for me, not because I deserve it or have earned it in any way, but simply from the kindness of their hearts. It is a debt I can never repay, although I've thought long and hard about how that might be done. One thing I can do is make sure their kindness bears fruit by putting away my petty complaints and tending my garden with thanks, taking in the peace that it offers, and recognizing the sanctity of my mother earth on whose belly I have once again begun to thrive. I can start my days by giving thanks for friends and for the grace and goodness of strangers who offered up their skills to bring me back to health, just because that's what they do. It doesn't seem like much, in exchange for having my life back. So maybe I need to look a little harder at kindness, and try to remember that kindness is a practice, not a condition, and it acts to open the heart, for the practitioner as well as the receiver. It takes no special tools. It's just one of the things that makes us sentient beings, along with a bundle of other traits that it seems we're always having to clean up after. Kindness, too, leaves its mark on the world. Gardener Ruth Stout once said that she had more faith in plants than in people, because when you plant a tomato, a tomato is what you get, not a bean. Kindness, too, when planted in the heart, bears reliable fruit. This spring, I've discovered that my garden is far bigger than I thought. And the fruits it has offered up have healed far more than my body. I wonder if Ruth knows about the tomatoes of human kindness. I expect she's grown a few. Providence willing, before the summer is out I'll have plenty to share. This is Marideth Sisco, out watering my garden in These Ozarks Hills.