Simple kindness and love

Originally Appeared in : 9805-3/1/18

Our college student Elliott helped his dad coach the junior varsity basketball team at our school this year. I loved watching my boy sit on the bench next to my husband, the two of them coaching the team, which included our son Augie.


During one particularly intense home game, I was sitting a few rows up behind the bench. Elliott turned to me at the beginning of the second quarter and asked if I could get Augie something to eat.


“Sure,” I said a little confused, “maybe during half-time?”


“No mom,” said Elliott, “he needs something now. He’s fading.” 


Elliott recommended I get Augie a peanut-packed candy bar, so I hurried to the concession stand and came right back. Elliott gave Augie the candy at the next time-out and sure enough, a few minutes later Augie had a little more spring in his step. Apparently Augie had not eaten since lunch, despite trying to squeeze in a skills and weight-lifting workout before the game.


What was most striking about that whole interaction to me was not necessarily that Elliott had perceived the need of his brother, but how much it meant to me to witness it all. I reflected that night on the care this older boy had for his younger brother, and how moved I was to watch him recognize a need and find help.


Now that I’ve got these older children, these are the moments that surprise me the most. As moms, we focus so much on “preparation.” We are preparing our children for the future; we are moving them towards independence. We worry (we try not to but we do) about college and careers and are they getting the skills they need to be who God can help them become?


And then, a moment like this. Brother caring for brother in such a simple, sweet moment, and it just makes my heart at peace. 


I don’t know that I ever trained Elliott for a moment like that, but somehow in the midst of growing up and family life and stepping into who he is, this skill, this ability to care and love, well it was formed and nurtured or maybe God just used our best to create something even better.


This is all less about me and more about a God who loves us so much that he gives us even more than we need and ask for. As a young mom with young children, I would take my boys up to the altar to pray after Mass each Sunday. I remember asking God that if I could have anything out of this mothering gig it would be to have a holy family.


“Help us love one another, help us to be a light.”


That concept for me seemed so far fetched because a pack of sons are not necessarily the first thing you think of when the terms “nurturing” and “care” come to mind. Also, if you have sons you realize the sometimes painful reality of what “brotherly love” really means, and it generally involves a wrestling match or exchanging words in the driveway basketball court.


But maybe they will, just a little, outgrow that form of love. Maybe they really will learn to grow and expand, and their ability to care for those around them, starting with those right in front of their faces, will begin.


“Love begins at home,” said Saint Mother Teresa, “and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.”


We want to change the world. We want to be a light. Within the family, the best thing we can do is remind our children to love each other. 


“Do small things with great love,” Mother Teresa said, “the smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”


Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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