Monday, July 10, 2006

A Small Kindness

I was playing for a funeral at a mortuary chapel last Saturday when I saw this. I hesitate to mention it here as it seems such a small and insignificant thing. Yet, I found it very affecting at the time and I am, obviously, still thinking about it. So I shall just tell you what I saw and you can make of it what you will.

I played Amazing Grace just outside the front door as the service began. As I finished, a sheriff's car drove into the parking lot. Three deputies got out and led a muscular prisoner with a shaved head and wearing an orange jumpsuit into the chapel. One deputy led the way, followed by the prisoner in shackles, followed by another deputy, followed by the third who carried a shotgun. I assumed we were not dealing with a jay-walking violation here. They led him to the rear pew where he sat alone, with two deputies including the one with the shotgun standing behind him. The other one stood at the door.

The service continued with no reference to the prisoner. I imagine few, if any, even knew he was present. The funeral was for an old woman, born in 1914 in England. She was a war-bride who married an American soldier. She had children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Judging by the prisoner's age, I would guess the old woman was probably his grandmother. There were eulogies from family members and the young prisoner started to weep quietly. One of the deputies standing behind him then moved away and went into the mortuary office and rummaged around for a minute or two. He came back with a box of kleenex which he placed next to the young man who could then wipe his eyes and clean his face.

That's all. Just a simple, unexpected kindness: a box of kleenex for a prisoner who was crying. At the end, he was led away and the other mourners went to the reception. Western civilisation did not hang in the balance. So far as I know, no one saw it but me and the other deputy. But I was very glad to see it.