This morning I received an email with the subject line, “Sudden Death of Fabienne Haldimann.” It was startling to see that line. And my heart jumped a little.
Some people might say I didn’t know Fabienne. She isn’t a personal friend, family member, or colleague. I didn’t go to school with her or ever meet her in person.
But I think that is what makes this story so profound.
Fabienne was a woman who participated in my 53-53-53 Kindness Project last year. Every year for my birthday, I write letters to strangers — as many letters as how old I will be. Fabienne responded to my request and asked me to write a letter to her aunt, who was going through a difficult time.
Fabienne’s generous heart and loving spirit jumped off the page in her email notes to me. She was effusive in her love for her aunt and also sweetly lavish in her appreciation of the work I do.
What I want to say, what feels so important to me, is this: even though I only “met” Fabienne through a few email exchanges in September of last year, she leaves a legacy with me. Even though I have no idea what Fabienne did for work or what she accomplished in her life or how much money she made or how successful she was, she left a legacy with me. Even though I never met her, she left a legacy with me.
Her legacy is kindness, enthusiasm, gratitude, and love.
I just went back and re-read my emails from Fabienne and all I can think is, “What a beautiful person. I’m glad I got the chance to connect with her, even briefly, in some small way.”
Fabienne made me feel good about myself.
Fabienne made me glad to be human.
Fabienne touched my life.
Fabienne was full of love.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Have you had this experience with someone?
So many people are focused on doing more things or making more money or getting more gold stars or accomplishing big things or making things happen. People want to leave big important legacies. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
(Maybe you are one of those people?!)
But I just want us all to pause a moment and think about the legacy we can leave in every moment: the legacy of love and kindness.
Can you see what a profound legacy that can be?
Fabienne’s daughter, Chiara, was kind enough to email me to let me know her mum had passed away unexpectedly. (She must have sent an email to everyone in her mom’s email address book —which was so thoughtful.) When I asked Chiara if I could use her mother’s name and story in an email to all of you, she said, “Yes. I think my mother would want me to give you permission because this is a message which brings light, peace, and love into the world.”
In honor of Fabienne’s beautiful, loving, enthusiastic spirit, would you go out of your way to do something kind for someone today? It doesn’t have to be a big thing. (Because we all know, small things are not so small!)
Perhaps offer a smile to someone who looks low. Maybe start up a cheerful conversation in line at the market. Maybe help someone carry their bags to their car or let someone cut in front of you on the freeway. Perhaps offer a sincere compliment or a warm hug.
When you are offering your act of kindness, remember please, that these kinds of gifts can change someone’s day. These kinds of gifts are worth every bit as much as material gifts. These kinds of gifts are truly legacy making.
Oh, and while you are at it, could you also thank yourself for being the sort of person who offers kindness? Could you give yourself some appreciation for your own beautiful legacy of sweet joy?
I’m so grateful to you and for you! And you know, I bet Fabienne would be, too…
Seek celebration — even in the dark corners,