Since I began working at my school 2 1/2 years ago, I’ve made it a point to try to be friendly to most everyone, from my colleagues to my supervisors to the paraprofessionals to the school aides and custodians. No one is unworthy of my kindness, even if it’s as perfunctory as a ‘Hello.’ It doesn’t take much to touch a life.
I write this at the conclusion of an exhausting span of 36 hours that began with the news my grandmother passed away and ends with me riding home in the backseat of my parents’ car after spending the night with my mother and grandfather.
My grandparents, who enjoyed their 63rd anniversary just three days ago, moved from Florida to New York last spring so she could receive better medical care and be closer to the family. Four months ago, they took an apartment in a senior residence.
I was hopeful that they’d make a smooth transition, while also understanding that it was a concrete sign that their trademark vitality was not what it once was. Still, they moved in, settled in, and began what would ultimately be the final stage of their lives together.
The family came together at their apartment yesterday after we received news of my grandmother’s passing. While I was comforted to be with family, remembering funny stories between the tears, I was truly stunned by the reaction from the staff and other residents.
To a man or woman, everyone has told us how nice my grandmother was to them, the way she treated everyone kindly, the way she spoke to them with respect. Aides who cared for her only once or twice in her final days cried openly. The waiter for my grandparents’ table came to their apartment, asked to see my grandfather, and immediately started bawling talking about how kind they both have been to him and how unique it made them.
She was only there four months, but she made impressions on these people that touched them in a way I never realized. It doesn’t take much to touch a life.
When I return to work next week, the first person I’ll see will be the school safety officer. I’ll greet her the same way I do everyday, with some playful banter as I grab a newspaper. Then maybe I’ll see the school nurse or a secretary and I’ll send them a ‘good morning’ and a smile. I’ll continue to do this throughout the day and for my entire career.
And when I do, I’ll think to myself, if I’m doing this half as well as she did, I’ll be able to make a lot of people happy.
It doesn’t take much.