Photo: Jessica Zerby
"There is so much hate in the world. If I can show some kindness, I feel like I am spreading love"
Have you ever gone to the grocery store for a few things, and had to make the decision between: a whole mango ($3) or the conveniently precut mango ($6.59/lb)?
Depending on your day, you might gravitate towards one or the other.
(this may, or may not, be me speaking from experience...)
“Who needs someone else to cut their fruit for them, I have two capable hands right here!”
“Don't mind me, life feels hard today, and now I am crying because I dropped my cheese sample on the ground. I am choosing to ignore the fact that I am paying 30% more for 30% less fruit, because having someone else cut my mango helps the day feel less difficult”
Regardless of what this “hypothetical” person decides to do, have you ever wondered how that fruit gets cut up so perfectly and packaged fresh and ready to go home with you?
I didn’t either, until I met Charlene.
Meet Charlene G.
If you visit the Cub Foods in Lakeville, you have Charlene to thank for the conveniently precut, perfectly portioned, and carefully packaged fruit that you have the option of picking up on your grocery run. She gets there around 5am, and starts her day making sure that you have the freshest precut fruit possible. That, alone, makes her an “unsung hero”.
Charlene's story was brought to my attention by her neighbor, Megan.
Megan messaged me, shortly after I posted a request stories of "quiet kindness":
Megan helped me figure out a time that would coincide with Charlene’s work schedule, and then I reached out with a letter explaining the details around my project, and that her kindness has impacted others. I was thrilled when she accepted my request to have her be a part of Steller Kindness!
When Charlene walked through the doors of my salon, I couldn't help but love her immediately. Her personality and spunk shine through her eyes, and her energy is contagious. We sat and chatted about her day, and about what she wanted to do with her hair. We decided to give her an overall fresh, new look (cut, foil and color!). I then told Charlene a little about my project, but mostly about why she was nominated. I shared with her Megan’s letter that conveyed the impact that she has had on Megan’s life, as a neighbor and as a friend.
“She is one of the most selfless people I know. She has a genuine care for those around her. I am lucky enough to call her not only my neighbor, but my friend. We have now been friends going on three years. She has shown me that regardless of the curve balls life throws at you, you can always be kind. You can always do something better. You can always spread cheer. Any time I have found myself in a pinch she is always there to lend her hand. She has babysat all four kids at a moments notice. She can read my face when I smile and say I'm good but she knows some days I'm lying. So I've just learned to tell her about the bad days. She will text me and ask if we need anything from the store some days on her way home. Other days she shows knocking with a bag of treats she went out and bought for the children. She's even taken her day off to surprise me with free sitting so I can have a little me time. She's shown me the smallest gestures can create a ripple effect. Her kindness has helped me extend a helping hand when I can see it is needed. She's shown me to work hard and never let the bumps in the road tear you down. To keep pushing and keep being kind. Her selfless acts have helped my family in ways I'm not sure she will ever know. Sometimes telling her 'thank you' just doesn't seem like enough. But thank you, Charlene. We love you!”
I WON'T ever get over the AUTHENTIC JOY reflected in A PERSON'S face WHEN they hear about the positive impact they have HAD on SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE.
Charlene then went on to tell me about her life. She told me about growing up, and some of the hardships she had overcome. Hearing her story was a valuable lesson:
having hard things happen to you does not take away from the kindness and love you are able to give.
If anything, difficult life situations enable you to have empathy and compassion toward another person who is struggling (in a way that you wouldn't be able to, if you hadn't struggled yourself).
When I asked Charlene about her relationship with Megan, it was clear that these two have mutually impacted each other. She told me that, when Megan and her family (she has 4 adorable children) moved in next door, she was a little apprehensive. That quickly changed after she met them and experienced having them as neighbors.
Charlene shared a vulnerable part of her story with me: she has two sons of her own. Due to painful and personal circumstances, they went to live elsewhere, and she was unable to be a part of their lives. She has barely had any contact with them for many years. Charlene shared that she has parts of her life that she is not happy with or proud of (as do we all), and she has felt the pain and loss from those experiences. When I asked her about Megan’s family, she told me that “spending time with Megan’s boys gives me another chance. A chance to heal. I miss my boys, and I am thankful to help Megan take care of hers”.
Kindness can heal. It doesn't only impact the person you are being kind to, but it is an avenue that can help comfort you in your own pain.
“Megan brought the inner side of me out. I am someone that likes to help people, and try to make people laugh. I like to be there when someone needs to talk. There is so much hate in the world, if I can show some kindness I feel like I am spreading love. Megan has also been there for me whenever I felt depressed about my boys.” -Charlene G.
Not only does Charlene show up for her human neighbors with kindness and generosity, she also has taken it upon herself to feed the neighborhoods stray cats. Her level of compassion comes from such a genuine place: if only we all could be so lucky as to have her for our neighbor!
I had one more gift for Charlene. Megan had told me that she loved Caribou Coffee, but hardly ever bought it for herself. I sent her home with hair product, a new style, and gift cards to Caribou and Petsmart (to help feed all the kitties!).