One of the most painful and common consequences of experiencing violence and trauma is periodically – or more frequently, perhaps even permanently – feeling like the world is not a good place for humans.
If you need to be reminded that there is kindness in the world, surf over to “Kind World,” a periodic series of podcasts by WBUR, Boston’s NPR station: http://www.wbur.org/series/kindworld
The tagline of Kind World is: ‘Stories of kindness and the profound effect that one act can have on our lives.” The two dozen podcasts there (plus several articles that have no podcast associated with them) run the gamut. Several are about lives of service: Sister Sue, the nun at the county jail (#15); Shelagh Gordon, who taught someone who met her only after her death “a different way of living” (#6); Karim, who used his gas pumping job to offer “little acts of kindness 7 days a week for 25 years” (#3); and Max Evans, a homeless man who touched many more people than anyone imagined (#17).
Some of the acts that changed people’s lives were small, or took very little time. In “Reddit Sends Its Love” (#4), thousands of strangers from around the world write letters to a dying man. In #15, about a lovers’ quarrel, a man breaks down taboos to pass along a life-changing lesson. In a “Small Act of Grace,” (#7) a small purchase results in the gift of a lifetime. In “A Second Mother to Me,” (#9), a couple hours’ investment was all it took to fill a teenager’s gaping hole. News of a beloved father’s suicide is at the heart of “Imprint,” (#24), but what the narrator remembers is what strangers gave her in the moments after she was crushed by the news.
Other Kind World podcasts document the sort of life-threatening moves that few of us would be willing to take. “A Stranger Asks, ‘Why Not Me?” (#10) documents a living donor gift. “When the Parachute Failed” (#1) may need a trigger warning, as it is the story of a tremendous sacrifice. In “She Remembers It All,” (#19) a physician goes above and beyond for many years, caring for a family who had a child dying of cancer. Ron Jones took a badly traumatized homeless couple into his home, and is structuring their life on a path to success (#5, “A Place That’s Safe.”) “Off the List,” (#18), is a story where lives literally lie in the balance.
Some of the stories might confirm suspicions that guardian angels do exist. In “That Way Madness Lies,” (#20) a grieving widow reaches out to a stranger, who reaches back. “Strangers at the Airport,” (#8) is about a family who steps forward to care for strangers stranded in an airport. “Take Me Back to Venice,” (#13) tells the story of a long line of anonymous helpers, each showing up just when they were needed.
Two of the stories may be particularly helpful to anyone struggling to come to terms with a country that currently seems enthralled with xenophobia and fear. A community fulfills a dying man’s wish by raising $15,000 to send his body back to his wife and children in Lebanon (“Remembering Karim,” #3). Another town takes strangers home when they are rained off the trail (#14, “Town Rallies for Hikers in Need”).
My favorite podcast, though, is #22, “So Chocolate Bar.” What can a 6-year-old possibly do when his best friend has a potentially fatal rare disease? You might be surprised. Make sure you listen to the very end, when the pair shares their mutual goal.