of course you can come ~mark nepo

The life of care and kindness often has the life of a seed. It might be planted by someone we never know or someone we learn of long after the kindness has been received. This is a story about such a kindness.

When a friend’s brother-in-law passed away, her sister had a call while preparing for the funeral. It was a Jewish woman living 300 miles away who asked if she could attend the funeral. Her sister was taken aback, not by the request, but by the surprise of how far her husband’s life had reached. She said, “Of course you can come, but please, tell me, how did you know Sam?”

The Jewish woman spoke with a tremble through a thick German-Yiddish accent. “I read in his obituary that he was one of the first three soldiers to liberate Dachau at the end of the war.” There was a pause, “I was a little girl then, weighing only 28 pounds, naked and limping. I was shot in the foot for taking some water.”

There was another pause. “When those three soldiers entered the camp, we were stunned. And seeing us children, naked and starving, they took off their shirts and covered us.”

They both fell into a deep silence. The Jewish woman continued. “I always wanted to thank them, but never knew who they were.” And so the little girl from Dachau drove 300 miles to stand at the dead soldier’s grave and embraced his widow.

How are we to understand a story like this? Does it tell us that acts of kindness and the gratitude they engender outlast decades and oceans and continents? Does it tell us that kindness, like the song of a red bird, will be answered long after the bird has died? Does it tell us that the smallest effort to restore dignity can save a soul from degradation? Yes. Yes. Yes. Like the one bead of light, after weeks of light, that causes a flower to finally open, the bead of kindness that is compelled from us, against all reservation, will open more things than we may ever know.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a kindness you learned of long after it was given.

~Mark Nepo – Huffington Post, 11/28/2012


7 thoughts on “of course you can come ~mark nepo

  1. My mother was a wonderful woman and loved us very much…and as children we went to a Pediatrician …no less..A specialist.

    My oldest sister told me many years after that our dear Dr. S. who was the head of a prominent hospital….never sent my mother a bill for services rendered…This was before our government assisted medical service that we have now…. He knew of my mother’s circumstances and was just a kind man…Diane

    • What a wonderful story, Diane. Dr. S. was clearly a very kind and compassionate man.

      I have a similar story…

      I was 16 when my dad died, and my mom had four children and her mother to care for. She had been a stay-at-home mom since early in the marriage, and my dad had always taken care of all the finances and taxes and legal stuff. In our church, there were a father and son who had a law practice in town, and, according to Mom, they had decided to make it a mission of theirs to offer assistance to women in the church who were widowed. As a result, my mom received a great deal of legal advice and services at no (or low) cost. …Viki

  2. Thank you for sharing. I have posted to my Facebook page. Pastors often say that we don’t know whose lives we touch and how. Your article is a poignant reminder to consider the individuals whose lives are saved by othe people (like soldiers) who are “doing their jobs.” Those survivors often have a deep desire and need to express gratitude. For those of us in care-giving roles related to the emotional and spiritual well-being of others, perhaps this is an area of opportunity as we work with the people we serve.

  3. It’s so true that we don’t know whose lives we may touch or how. The kind word you share with the grocery clerk could have a ripple effect that goes round the world. I’ve been blessed to learn of a few instances in which something I did had a positive impact on someone, and I was touched—and deeply humbled—because my words or actions in those cases had not been done with any particular positive intention on my part. Learning about these instances has made me very aware of the possible effects of my interactions with those I encounter each day.

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