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A Seed of Kindness Can Grow in the Harshest Conditions

Spread kindness everywhere, even in places where it seems unlikely to grow

By Jill (Conquering Cognitions)Published about a year ago 4 min read
A Seed of Kindness Can Grow in the Harshest Conditions
Photo by Jill Heyer on Unsplash

Kindness grows in the most unexpected places.

Years ago, while working in a behavioral health clinic, I was assigned a patient that I will call Sam. He was a challenging guy who didn’t want to attend therapy, so in the beginning, he often canceled or no-showed our appointments.

When Sam did show up, he would intentionally try to provoke me with rude comments, and his behavior made it difficult to establish rapport. Nonetheless, his therapy was mandated, and Sam needed help, so we continued to work together.

Slowly, Sam and I established a working relationship.

He stopped no-showing and only rarely canceled our appointments. With lots of prompting and encouragement, Sam began to acknowledge that his interpersonal and anger management skills needed work.

I tried to supplement our individual sessions with group therapy, but Sam was usually asked to leave the group because he was too disruptive. He lacked a verbal filter and rarely apologized for hurtful comments, and this behavior was damaging to most of his relationships. I think he prided himself on rubbing people the wrong way.

Sam expected that people wouldn’t like him, so he pushed them away first.

I tried to model kindness to him while pointing out unhelpful behaviors. When Sam spoke rudely to me, I addressed it and then moved on with our work. I knew under the tough exterior was a guy who was hurting, so I never gave up on him.

He and I worked together off and on for a few years, and although he never fully let his guard down with me, he did make progress.

When Sam met his treatment goals, and it was time to end therapy, he said he wasn’t sure if he had gotten anything out of our work together. It is hard not to take that personally, but I knew I had given our treatment my best effort, and I suspected he had too.

If Sam had benefited from our time together, he probably would not have told me anyway.

Several years after our last session, I saw Sam again.

I arrived at the clinic early and could hear my phone ringing as I walked towards my office. The clinic was closed, and I suspected it was an emergency call.

The caller was Sam's friend, and he told me that Sam had experienced a tremendous loss the previous night. A loved one had died in a traumatic accident, and Sam fled the hospital after hearing the news.

No one had been able to reach him.

I hadn’t spoken to Sam in years, but I was worried about him. Despite his tough-guy attitude, he loved his family deeply and would be devastated by this loss.

After instructing his friend to contact the authorities and tell them his concerns, I called Sam’s cell phone, hoping he might pick up. There was no answer, so I left a message.

The only thing I could do was wait for him to call me back.

An hour later, when the clinic doors opened, Sam walked in and asked to see me. We walked silently to my office, and when the door closed, he allowed his grief to flow.

It was the first time I had seen an emotion other than anger from him.

Later, Sam told me that he had been sitting in the clinic parking lot when I arrived in the pre-dawn hours. He saw me but wasn’t sure if he was ready to talk.

Although Sam did not answer my call, he listened to the voicemail — several times. When he was ready for help, he came to me.

Years ago, I didn’t give up on Sam, and he didn’t give up on me. There was little visible growth during our sessions, but kindness took hold and established roots.

Many of us plant seeds of kindness that we may never see grow — teachers, social workers, judges, nurses, and volunteers to name a few. A hot meal, clean socks, and a kind word can make a difference in someone’s life.

Sam taught me that every act of kindness makes a difference whether we see it or not.

Now, I spread kindness where I can, knowing I might not see the seeds grow, but that does not mean they have not taken root. An act of kindness is as simple as letting someone merge into traffic, offering an encouraging word to a stressed employee, or sharing a smile with a stranger.

Every seed of kindness, no matter how small, has the potential to grow. My dream is that we work together to spread these seeds.

This story was previously published on Medium.


About the Creator

Jill (Conquering Cognitions)

Outdoor Enthusiast | Animal Lover | Mom to Five | Psychologist Turned Writer

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