A Bubble of Kindness

For the past few weeks, I’ve been a daily visitor to Women and Infants’ Hospital in Providence, helping to take care of my mom. She’s on the mend again, and I would definitely recommend W&I as a first choice when and if you do need hospital help.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Instead I’d like to try to explain the bubble of kindness that surrounds that building. Inside, of course, the doctors and nurses have universally sunny attitudes, and visitors smile at each other in silent understanding. The surprise is that this supportive atmosphere carries outside the doors as well.

The best example is driving. Within a few blocks of the hospital, other drivers habitually slowed down to let me out of a parking lot, or even flashed their lights to let me turn left at a busy traffic signal. (This is not typical Rhode Island behavior.) And what could’ve been a serious confrontation at a poorly marked intersection turned into a non-issue, because we both stopped and then waved each other on. Instead of the usual me-first approach to urban driving, we’d given each other a break.

I figure the root cause of such impersonal friendliness is this: hospital visitors and staff have more important things to worry about than whether or not we make it to the next traffic light ahead of another car. After absorbing the change in perspective that comes from nursing, we all carried our new patience back outside with us, onto the streets.

My theory is, of course, impossible to prove, but that hardly matters. I didn’t hear a single car horn in this attitude-free zone, and the only vehicles exceeding the posted speed limits were the ambulances. The rest of us waved each other on, smiling in support and silently wishing each other well, hoping the reasons we were there would get well soon.

Which makes me wonder: how could we extend this kindness bubble to encompass all of Providence, all of Rhode Island, the entire east coast, or even the entire world? Imagine if we all treated each other with just a little bit more respect and patience, even when meeting on the highway safe within the insulated isolation of our cars? What if we defaulted to giving each other a break, knowing we can’t really understand how distracted another human might be, or what might be going on behind the scenes?

Mom’s back on Cape Cod now, so I will no longer be experiencing the Women & Infants kindness bubble every day. And nice as it was, I’m not going to miss it. Back to the normal chaos of Rhode Island driving is back to normal. And in this case, that’s a very good thing.

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