French Word for pine tree
billingual video of Jean-Marc + un pointu

26 actes de gentillesse

Thank you very much for the warm holiday greetings. Wishing everyone much joy, surrounded by the things you love this time of year: family, friends, cats, dogs, birds... or solitude. Whatever brings you peace! See you in several days for the next edition. (Photo taken at Domaine Rouge-Bleu, our home from June 2007-Sept 2012. We now live near Bandol. No snow in either city, at this time!)

26 actes de gentillesse

: 26 acts of kindness

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

En mémoire des victimes de la tuerie de Newtown, certaines personnes ont décidé de faire 26 actes de gentillesse. In memory of the victims of the Newtown massacre, certain people have decided to do 26 acts of kindness.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

26 actes de gentillesse

I first heard about it on my friend Ann's blog. Then Gwyn referred to the same idea. Responding to my Christmas tree story, she wrote: trying to resolve the tragic events of last week, i saw the following story. people all over the world are doing 26 random acts of kindness--one for each of the people who lost their lives at the school...

I had just finished reading Gwyn's words when, there, in my box-springed refuge, I stirred. I got up and left my bed.

My boots flew on so quickly and, next I knew, keys in hand, I was headed out of the house. Flying down the dirt road in my little car, I felt as high as a super hero fueled by desire... le désir d'aider quelqu'un. But who? How? And would it require superhuman strength?

One look at my hands, which gripped the steering wheel as I sped out of our driveway, reminded me of my weaknesses. My fingers were beginning to be covered with itchy red patches. The neighbor's mimosa was blooming and with each new bud my skin reacted with yet another swelling plaque. Et qu'est-ce que ça gratte!

I forgot about my itchy, mere mortal status the moment I arrived in town, and saw a man struggling with his wheelchair. How quickly the chance to practice an act of kindness had arrived! I parked my car and hurried towards the man, when a pang of doubt slowed my steps: "What if your compassionate gesture is taken as an insult?" Come to think of it... just how did another's dignity factor into things? 

The doubt was fleeting and I rushed up to the man-on-wheels. "Je peux vous aider?"

"Non," he grumbled, looking past me. "I need somebody stronger!" I watched him point to the guy behind me, who intervened. With his attention focused on the other, I disappeared into the crowd at the farmers' market.
And then, on my way home from town, I spotted a woman struggling with her market purchases. The heavy bags were slowing her down, so much so that she had to stop to rest.

I pulled my car over to the curb and lowered the driver's window: "Bonjour Madame! Je vous amène chez vous?"

I saw an ever-so-slight scowl, which I took to be a look of discomfort. The women shook her head non, she didn't need my help! Worse, my would-be kind gesture seemed to interrupt her momentum, as she pushed off, resuming her encombered journey.  

I put-putted home. Gone was the superhuman energy I'd felt on beginning this kindness journey.

Only that's when I spotted the granny in the gumball-size car! It was one of those voitures sans permis, the itty-bitty cars you see here in France, the ones that anyone can drive, without a license.  Granny's gumball was stalled by the side of the road. As chance would have it, it was stalled 10 meters from my mailbox!

I stopped my car at the end of our driveway and unhooked my seatbelt. Finally, the chance to help someone in need! I looked over at the unfortunate one and saw how her jaw quivered as she tried again and again to start the engine of her voiturette. What a horrible feeling that must be, to be stuck on the side of the road. But never fear! Help is near!!

I bounded out of my car, only, as I reached the end of the driveway, Granny sped off! I guessed the gumball unstalled....

Dragging my feet into the house, I almost tripped over Braise. Dégage! I shouted. My dog ran off, sensing my sour, defeated mood.

In the kitchen, I went to get a glass of water when I noticed a sinkfull of dishes... and breakfast plates that were still out on the table! Why doesn't anybody help around here?!

When my husband unwittingly arrived into the kitchen, a smile on his lip-puckered face, a kiss was the last thing on my mind.  And oh, I had a mind! A mind to let out all my frustrations, and who better to let it all out on than my family!

And there it hit me. It is so easy to set out to be kind to a stranger. What is more difficult is to practice la gentillesse on a close one. How motivated I am when it comes to practicing patience on a stranger. But I have so little tolerance for any slackness on the part of my immediate family. 

And there I'd set out to participate in 26 actes de gentillesse! But with three failed attempts at helping a stranger, I was slacking as much as my family with their breakfast plates. 

My fingers began to itch and the sore state of my body infiltrated my mind where a battle raged: I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm itchy! This is not a convenient time for me to be kind! 

Finally a little whisper could be heard above the protests... Sinon maintenant, quand? If not now, when? 
And who better to practice kindness on... than a husband, a teenager, a dog? From there, such acts can be extended outward, like the best helping hand.


Comments welcome here. It is such a pleasure to read your words, after struggling to write my own!

 Ann Curry came up with the idea for "26 Acts of Kindness". Some are making it "27 Acts", keeping in mind the shooter's mother. To comment, click here.


le désir d'aider quelqu'un = the desire to help someone

et qu'est-ce que ça gratte! = and boy does it itch!

je peux vous aider? = Can I help you?

non = no

bonjour madame = hello, Mrs.

je vous amène chez vous? = Can I bring you to your house?

la voiture sans permis = a special car that can be driven without a driver's license

la voiturette = mini car

dégage! = beat it!

la gentillesse = kindness

sinon maintenant, quand? = If not now, when?



  Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse

Kristi and Jean-Marc (it is my husband's voice you hear in most of the sound recordings at French Word-A-Day :-)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety