Lessons from the Reading Room with Hazel McGuiness: Kindness.

Oh this feels nice. It’s quiet, warm, bright, and peaceful. I am back in The Reading Room with Hazel McGuiness, and over the course of just a few short minutes, all of the noise going on in the world has stopped, as I am grounded and ready to learn.

“Wow” she says. “We’ve had quite a go of it this year haven’t we?” While the entire world has had a difficult time, both Hazel and I have, like many, suffered some manner of tremendous loss. Hazel lost her wonderful husband of 36 years, Mars, just after COVID struck. He had battled with dementia, and was taken from her much too soon. Wading through grief in a time where all of your support has been “quarantined” away from you is an incredibly painful journey, and your coping skills can get scattered and often quite messy. So, it was no surprise that Hazel and I were both thinking about the same subject as we began our interview…


We are facing a moment in time where almost everything is out of our control. Our ability to live as we normally had been, is all but gone. Our “new normal” has not yet been decided, so we are sitting in a kind of holding pattern, with our hands and hearts tied. We seem stuck, yet there are many things we still have control over, and how we respond to this new set of circumstances is one of them. How we respond to others is not only self-controlled, it can be the difference between “sinking” or “sailing”. So, let’s sail shall we?

Hazel begins, “There seems to be a loss of respect amongst us all, an almost ‘fend for myself’ attitude, regardless of its impact on others. It’s somewhat understandable because we’re all sitting in fear of the unknown, so our natural instinct of basic survival will take over. But what if instead we choose to approach survival as a group, a group of human beings, all in the same boat at the same time, striving to achieve the same goals? We need to get back to some of the basics of humanity. Respect, common sense and courtesy, honour, and integrity, just to name a few. We need to take ourselves out of our own heads, and begin communicating with each other. We need to be listening and seeking to understand what we’re all going through, accepting differing opinions without attacking one another. We are divided in a world that now more than ever needs to come together in love and support. We have become so wrapped up in our online world that we’ve forgotten the basics of human decency. We NEED each other right now. We need the very best of each other. Letting our guard down, being vulnerable, asking for help, and simply being kind, is what will truly change things for all of us. So, what if you see someone in the grocery store not wearing their mask correctly? Walk on by. They might have a health condition, they might not have enough money to buy a good fitting, well-made mask, they might not believe in the virus. It’s not your place to get involved, so just keep your social distance and walk on by. It will feel much better than having a confrontation.”

Hazel continues, “We are all suffering from stress and frustration, which is one of the major contributors to our physical and mental health, and not in a good way. We need to slow down, take a breath, and be patient. Look to your family and friends as outlets, share your feelings, get curious, and find new ways of enjoying the hand we’ve been dealt.”

“We all need to pause for a moment and consider all of the things that have occurred in a very short time throughout the entire world. We need to find the blessings amongst the pain and fear. We need to take the opportunity to reconnect to ourselves, and identify who we want to be in this world going forward. We need to be hopeful in a situation that can often feel quite hopeless.”

A great lesson I’ve learned from Hazel is to “unplug from the negativity”. We are constantly being barraged with negativity on many platforms; social media, television, the news. So unplug, think for yourself, and understand that not everyone will agree with, or like your opinions and values, and you were not put on this earth to change that. Don’t let yourself get pulled into the dark side of life. When Hazel suggests that we unplug, that suggestion can, and perhaps should, be taken both figuratively and literally.

I always gain so much when my time is spent sitting across from this beautiful lady. I am inspired by just seeing her move forward through some of the deepest grief and pain one can suffer, while continuing to embrace positivity, although I know she doesn’t always want to be strong. I can only imagine how she might feel wandering lost inside the hardware store, looking for a special tool, a task Mars would have typically had no trouble with. Now it is Hazel alone, shopping without him and trying to adjust to her new normal, in a world so very abnormal at the moment. In times like these, we can only imagine how more often than not, all you would want to do is pull the covers over your head and disappear.

A new normal it may be, but in reality, like all of us, she still needs her rock, her companion, the love of her life.

So maybe you’re standing next to her in that hardware store, seeing her struggle while trying to find the right tool, and you choose to simply ask if she needs any help, facing her with a gentle smile and kindness in your eyes. A special moment in time, where that simple, small gesture of kindness takes on enormous meaning, and can often make a lasting impression.

Choose to be that person.

Written by: Kelli M. Maddocks | Resources: The Hazel Tree

Author: LivingSpaces

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