Small Acts of Kindness

Arlington Poet Laureate Jean Flanagan had an idea: let’s get the whole community contributing to a collaborative poem that celebrates the small acts of kindness that create moments of grace in our lives. Jean was inspired by a poem by Danusha Lameris — a California poet who was born in Cambridge MA — and a poetry prompt from a blog called “Two Sylvias’ Weekly Muse” that challenged readers to compose lines that center around the theme of small kindnesses. Jean proposed developing the collaborative Kindness Poem and organizing a showcase featuring local poets.
Poems were solicited from all over the Arlington community, and the results were assembled into a poem that made its debut at the Arlington Heights Spring Fling Festival on June 10, 2023.
“I wove our poem into verse from the entries I received. I asked our community to write about the acts of kindness they witnessed or performed. It was open to all. It was an honor to read your words. After I finished the final draft, I found myself moved by the words on the page. I could hear your voices.”

Kindness and Generosity Live On

Written by A Community of Voices


Beneath my neighbor’s apple tree, a bowl of ripe red apples.
“Take one” the sign reads.
A stressful day behind the register at Trader Joe’s. A woman buys
peanut butter cups, gifts me the package.
Walking out of Stop and Shop with my screaming baby, a woman yells:
“You’re a great Mom.” I needed that!
You saw Jim on the curb eating a can of cold beans. You
brought him warm food from your dinner table.
Exhausted from climbing a hill in the Heights, a passerby hands me an
energy bar. “Here,” she says, “You need this.”
Chris sobs, post-flu-jab. A customer at CVS hands her a bottle of cold
water says, “I had to do something.”
A thoughtful man returns my shopping cart at Whole Foods.
At Roasted Granola and forgot my wallet. Bob paid, flashed a smile,
said, “Pay it forward.”


Every day I speak to strangers, “Love your outfit,” “You look great” I
say with a smile. Kindness makes the world a better place.
While trying to cross Mass Ave on an icy sidewalk,
a man behind me asks, “Can I help you cross?”
Many mornings I see trash while I meander down Park Ave. I pick-up
the strewn litter, throw it in the trash barrel near the traffic lights.


I fell and broke my hand. Dmitri, a stranger, stopped, and sat with me
while we waited for help. Sam brought my lost dog to the front door.
Nancy can’t afford hearing aids; unasked, her friend gifted her $500 for
the co-pay. Kevin and Rachel leave their house ten minutes early so we
can go to church together. Margaret picks lilacs from her yard, leaves
them in a vase on my kitchen table. Elena counsels me with care instead
of castigation. Steve invites the neighborhood to welcome the Flower
moon, shares his astronomy knowledge at Robbins Farm Park. Kathleen
walks a lost woman to her waiting friends at a Menotomy Grill. Len D
thanks his team for holding signs early Saturday mornings on Mass Ave.
before the town election.
“I’m in awe of the kindnesses I see, people jump in to help me,” James
says. Kindness grows with each good deed.
Contributors: Jean Flanagan, Amy Cohen, Joseph A. Curo, Sierra Curro, Thomas DeFreitas, Gene Diaz, Lenard Diggins, Anne Ellinger, Kathleen Fink, G.M. Hakim, Janice Hayes-Cha, Therese Henderson Christa Kelleher, Joanne Klys, Beth Kress, Jennifer Mansfield, Allison Norton, Andy Oram, Jane Spickett, Jonathan Spiller, Cheryl Vossmer


“ ‘Small Kindnesses’,” by Danusha Laméris, feels utterly necessary for our time — a poem celebrating minor, automatic graciousness within a community, which can shine a penetrating light” (NYTimes)” says Flanagan. “I hope our poem ‘Kindness and Generosity Live On’ will encourage you to perform a small act of kindness. I would like to thank the contributors whose names appear under the poem and Poet Shirley Brewer (for her help and kindness with reading several versions of this poem.”

Small Kindnesses

By Danusha Laméris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”– The New York Times (9/19/2019), Bonfire Opera