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One Small Gesture Of Kindness

A mother, 70, has a son with cerebral palsy.  He is now 40 years old.  The mother is small and the son is not.  For years the mother has lifted her son from his wheelchair to the toilet, and back again.  I ask her to show me how she lifts her son up. The mother moves well. She has to.

I notice an almost invisible gesture she makes just before she begins the trying task of picking up her son. She quickly strokes the right side of her head, moving her thick, gray streaked hair back behind her ear.  I ask her to pause for a moment.  I ask her if she felt the movement she just made.  The mother says, “No, I didn’t do anything yet.”  I said, “Yes you did.” I tell her what she did. I ask her to do it again, very slowly, consciously.  She does.  I ask her to do it again, and then again.  I ask her to continue, but to do it now as if her mother were brushing her hair.  She continues. Soon the mother begins to cry.

I say, “Okay, go and lift up your son.” She stops. She doesn’t move, doesn’t speak. I can wait. Then the mother says, “I am too old to do this by myself.  I need help.”  She turns to her younger son, who is in the room, and asks him if he wouldn’t mind helping her.  He is happy to do it for his mom, and for his brother.

The mother stands there watching her two boys.

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