Random acts of kindness can come in different forms, but sometimes a meaningful act can also be one of the simplest.
Few people likely know the “power of listening and being listened to” as well as Doreen Bruce.
Bruce, who doesn’t share her age, has volunteered for the Peace Arch Hospice Society since 1997. Last September, the society named her a Lifetime Member.
A petite lady with a big heart, Bruce is the keeper of secrets.
Through her volunteer work at hospice, people at the end of their life tend to say things to Bruce that they refuse to say to their own family or counsellor.
In a conversation with Peace Arch News last week, Bruce shared her insight on how lending an ear can be a profound experience for both people involved.
Bruce recalled a hospice patient who expressed resentment because she’d paused her life to care for her mother.
“So she told me about all of those years of frustrations, but really, it was love. But she didn’t have a life of her own and she fell madly in love when she was 60 years old when her mother passed away. And what a life she had with this man,” Bruce said.
“She was getting weaker and weaker. She said, ‘I’m going to sing to you in Japanese,’ and she did. What a compliment. What a gift, to meet someone like that in their last moments of their life and to have those moments, those sacred moments.”
In another instance, Bruce said, a counsellor called and requested her help because a patient wasn’t speaking.
“I went in at quarter to one and I left at 5:30,” Bruce recalled. “She leaned back and said, ‘Now why am I telling you all of these things?’”
The conversation fostered a relationship, and the woman phoned Bruce in the middle of the night, during a “terrible storm,” and asked for a ride to the hospital.
“I got her to the hospital. You know, you’re not supposed to do those things, but I did a lot I wasn’t supposed to. They didn’t give me heck for it because they knew it was from the right place,” Bruce said. “And then, I was with her before she passed away.”
Bruce, Anne Hartnell and Debbie Riopel, who are all part of the Oneness Gogos, visited PAN last week to raise awareness about Random Acts of Kindness Day Feb. 17.
Hartnell, who volunteers at the Peace Arch Hospice Society Thrift Store, shared her own experience of how listening can help someone get through the day.
“I had (a customer) in front of me, suddenly, open up about their life. And then they’ll say, ‘I didn’t mean to talk about that,’ But because there is somebody there, ready to listen… I’m thinking, wow, that’s heavy that they’re dealing with that,” Hartnell said.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Random Acts of Kindness and Riopel says there seems to be a greater need for the event than there has ever been.
“I think we’re a little bit more disconnected probably because of our phones,” Riopel said.
“And we’re a bit more isolated,” Hartnell added.
For their part, the Gogos will be bringing heart-shaped cookies, gift bags and baked goods for staff, patients and volunteers at the hospice next week.
The group will also receive a tour of the new facility, located across the street from the Peace Arch Hospital.
The trio encourages everyone to participate in an act of kindness, whether big or small, throughout the week.