The opposite of violence is kindness — to everyone

Thursday , March 01, 2018 - 4:00 AM

D. LOUISE BROWN, special to the Standard-Examiner

In the midst of all this angry news crashing around right now, I offer a quiet story. It doesn’t address man’s inhumanity to man, and all the wretched aftermath of argument, accusation, demand and dissonance — not directly anyway. I’m writing a thank-you today to a stranger I’ve never met, and who may or may not see this. But A) he needs to be thanked, and B) a reminder that kindness can overcome dejection might be what we need to hear right now.

My 84-year-old mother still lives alone. She takes care of her needs, cleans her own house, and drives herself to the grocery stor, to doctor appointments, and to her ritual of checking on the deer population near her home each evening to make sure they’re faring well. Her independent mobility is crucial to her. Without it, she’s certain she would shrivel up.

So when she received a notice that it was time for her to report to the Driver’s License Division for two tests — a written test followed by a driving test — she was mortified. She was certain she’d lose her license. But determined to not go down without a fight, she obtained a copy of the driver’s manual and with the help of her kids, studied hard. The day came, she reported at the DLD, and there learned not only that the test was open book (therefore harder than she anticipated), but also online. The unfamiliarity of all that doomed her. Two hours later her test score was less than the required 80 percent to pass. Consequently, her license was suspended.

Mom would have been completely devastated were it not for the interest and encouragement of “Bryan,” a DLD employee less than half her age who sensed Mom’s distress and chose to be her champion. “Hey, a lot of people don’t pass on the first try,” he cheerfully told her. “You just study over the weekend and come back. You can take that test as many times as you want until you pass it. I know you can do it.”

Those last six words meant everything to Mom. She lifted her head, said, “Alright. I’ll be back,” and went home to study. Her kids showed her how to practice with the online tests, and she took several. She also staved off discouragement by recalling to us several times that Bryan at the DLD said he knew she could pass it. Monday she returned to the DLD. No one was happier to see her than Bryan, who remembered not only her situation, but also her name. She said he gave her a pep talk, telling her among other things, “You’ll get this. I know you can do it.” And so she did. That second time around she missed only three questions. Just for the record, I took one of the practice tests and missed seven. Basically, 84-year-old Mom rocked it.

Again, no one was prouder of her than Bryan, who invited Mom to schedule her driving test. Suddenly she was back in Panic City. “Do I have to parallel park?” she asked. Well, yes she did, he said, adding, “You can do that. I know you can.” Actually, she couldn’t. Mom avoids parallel parking altogether. But now undaunted, she told Bryan she’d be back later, and off she went to practice in her church parking lot where there was lots of room and nothing to damage. Her kids rode along to help and encourage. One son even installed extension mirrors on her rear view mirrors to help her see better. Eventually she figured it out. She was dreadfully slow, but she managed to drop the car into the spot, and that’s all she needed.

Bryan nearly hugged Mom when she showed up at the DLD nearly two weeks later. “I knew you’d be back,” he told her. He signed her up for the test, then introduced her to the coach. “She’s a special lady,” he told him. “You take good care of her.” Mom and the coach drove off. Later, when they returned, Bryan sprinted out to her car and pulled the door open to ask Mom how she did. The grin on her face said everything.

So Mom has her license, limited to daytime driving on roads of 40 miles per hour or less. She’s fine with that. Mom also has a new friend named Bryan who endeared himself to her and her family for the selfless way he read the fear in an elderly woman’s face and went way beyond his duty to make sure she knew he believed in her.

Today’s news chatter includes scrutiny of the perpetrators of violent, cowardly acts. A common characteristic is their inaccurate view of their personal worth. Actually, we can help resolve that. So little is required to speak a cheerful word, lift a spirit, or just pass along a smile. If we’re too busy to do that, we’re too busy. No one was harmed or inconvenienced because of Bryan’s compassion. But my mom’s life was lifted from hopeless to hopeful because of his kindness.

We should be Bryans. Because we never know whom we lift, nor what it is we lift her from.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton

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