The Smallest Act of Kindness

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    In "The Smallest Act of Kindness..." our author, Kevin Mollenhauer discovers how even the smallest act of kindness done for one patient can become something larger than itself and affect lives of others whom one may never know.

    Recently, while rounding on one of my patients, I noticed she seemed quieter than usual, so I sat down beside her and began not with a traditional physical exam but with the simple question "What are you thinking about this morning?"

    She began to tell me about how she was physically feeling- I interrupted her, "we'll get to that in a few minutes, tell me, 'What are you thinking about this morning'?"

    "Why?", she replied.
    "Because", I replied.
    "Because why?", she replied. "Because I'm quiet and not smiling?"
    "Maybe", said I.
    "I don't feel myself this morning...I feel disorganized and out of sorts", said she.

    And the doors opened.... "I don't feel like I'm in control like when I'm home. I miss my coffee and paper, I miss reading my Bible, I miss writing in my journal...I know God wouldn't give me more than I can handle, and I hate to whine..."
    "Is this what you do every morning?", said I.
    "Yes", said she.
    "Hold those thoughts", said I.

    I quickly found her assigned nurse and asked her to get our friend a cup of coffee and a newspaper and to see if she could find a Bible. While she did this I walked down to the Gift Shop and explained what I needed to the sales associate who told me she had the perfect journal and proceeded to take me over to a bin with various journals. She reached in, moved a couple around, then selected one and said "This is perfect". And she was right. For printed on the cover was the poem "Footprints". It was perfect.

    As I paid for the journal, another associate, having heard my story, walked up to me with a nice ink pen and asked if she could buy it for my could I refuse.
    When I went back up to the floor I handed the journal and pen to her nurse and told her after I have left the patient take the journal and pen in and tell her someone had overheard her story and had dropped off a gift.

    I went back to check on my patient and she was sitting up, sipping coffee, reading her Bible and sweetly smiling...

    "Does that help?", I asked.
    "Very much", said she.
    "Well I'm so glad, I'll come by later. I've asked the staff to see if they can find some paper and a pen so you can write later", said I.
    "That's not necessary", said she.

    I left.

    Later in the day I returned to find her writing in her new journal with her new pen.

    "Wow, that's some fancy paper and pen they found for you", said I.
    "The nurses told me someone heard how I like to write in my journal and dropped this off for me, and look at the's perfect" said she.

    "It is perfect", said I.

    This would be a great story but it doesn't end here...for you see in her few days with us she had become friends with another patient and they would visit each other as they walked with physical therapists and staff.

    Later on the night of the journal arrival, the other patient found out she was going to need emergency surgery and broke down in my patient's room. My patient listened to her fears and shared her own story, ending the conversation by sharing her journal entries and reading the "Footprints" poem from the front cover.

    And does the story end there? We may never know....


    "Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it's passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away." Dean Koontz
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 4, '12 : Reason: formatting for easier reading
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  2. Visit kayakrn7 profile page

    About kayakrn7

    Kevin Mollenhauer BS RN CNOR ONC is the Orthopedic Programs Liaison for Sycamore Medical Center.

    Joined: Dec '06; Posts: 8; Likes: 74
    Currently Program Liaison Joint and Spine Program, Program Liaison Fracture Program, DMAT OH-5 Member; from US
    Specialty: 10 year(s) of experience in Periop and Ortho

    Read My Articles


  3. by   GitanoRN
    a truly remarkable story of someone extending their hand to assist another human being, we should all learn from this example, thank you for sharing this article.
  4. by   kayakrn7
    Thanks for taking the time to read my article!
  5. by   Cr8zyamy
    You are so very right. Thank you for sharing.
  6. by   nerdtonurse?
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    Well done, Kevin! Your story raised goosebumps.......this is a wonderful piece of writing. Thank you.
  8. by   Aurora77
    That made me tear up. Very inspirational and an excellent reminder.
  9. by   Epic_RN
    Love this article, and I LOVE that book by Dean Koontz, From the Corner of His Eye. Just what I needed this morning!
  10. by   susn3990
    Having been a nurse for >20 years and also having been a cancer patient, I can appreciate this story on both ends. We don't always understand what our patients feel because we are so busy trying to complete our duties such as dressings meds etc etc that we have so little time to actually talk with our patients. But I remember well everyone who went above and beyond during my hospital stays. It means more than many of us will ever realize. Thanks for sharing.
  11. by   tsalagirn06
    What a great post! Kudos to you for seeing your patient as a person first, and then a patient!

    I think many members of the healthcare team forget that when patients are in the hospital, they loose a lot of control over their daily life - as this patient mentioned in the posting felt that she had. I always try to give my patients control over the things they can control - even if it's a simple as when they want help with a shower or what flavor soda or juice they want with a snack. As evidenced by this posting - the smallest things can make such a wonderful impact!

    As nurses working in a healthcare environment, who are on the outside of the bedrail, we are comfortable being in a hospital setting because we work there. It's so easy to forget how it feels to be on the otherside of the bedrail as a patient - especially for those who never have been a patient. Whether one has been a patient before or not, it's ALWAYS good to put yourself in the patient's shoes when you care for them.

    Bravo again to you for caring for this patient beyond her physical needs. What a fine example you are to your collegues! Keep up the great work!
  12. by   Lincey
    Absolutely heart-warming, a good lesson for any one in the caring profession. Regards Andy RN. UK.
  13. by   nurse5753
    What a beautiful thing to do and how fortunate that you could watch the little ripples start from your act of kindness.
  14. by   merlee
    A very sweet story and well-written article. Thank you for sharing this.

    Years ago, I had a wall-hanging that said 'If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours'. And I have tried to keep this philosophy in my heart. I have tried to keep an up-beat facade even in times of deep depression, because the reflected smiles and pleasant remarks often lighten my own load.

    And when I did home health, I tried to find inexpensive ways to brighten my truly shut-ins' lives. A few pieces of fresh fruit off of the local produce truck went a long way to cheer up some people. Clear plastic shoeboxes to hold their medications served multiple purposes, especially in homes that had multi-legged uninvited company. Some bright hair ties cheered up some women. It is fun to find ways to bring some small happinesses to others!

    The other side of this is that entire 'control' issue. When I was hospitalized last year, I wore my own clothes except during certain procedures. T-shirts and pj bottoms sure confused a lot of people! But I was very comfortable and able to sleep much better. We need to allow patients as much control as possible in their out-of control times!

    Again, thanks for this article.
    Last edit by merlee on Apr 13, '12 : Reason: pnctuation