Peyton Armstrong during cancer treatment with, Thank You, written out in front of him in Legos

Twenty-two. My favorite number! There are 22 people whose names I do not know, but I always think about them at Thanksgiving time when I make my mental list of what I am grateful for in my life. Let me introduce you to them in the only way I know them.

Each time a bag of irradiated blood was placed on an IV pole and a nurse connected the line from the bag to Peyton’s port in his chest, gratitude filled the entire space of the hospital room. Peyton can tell you that I would often cry while he received blood transfusions. Blood transfusions were not just merely part of the cancer treatment protocol when Peyton’s red blood cells or platelets dipped below the acceptable numbers. Blood transfusions were lifelines. They were the only thing that stood in the way of death. And for Peyton, those transfusions stood in the way of death 22 times. 

gratitude and kindness

When I think of the things I am grateful for, a large percentage are the kindnesses that have been shown to me and my family. One of the truths about kindness is it cannot be measured. We can count our blessings and these kindnesses, literally to the number, such as 22, but it’s really not possible to quantify the effects of a kind act. There is a saying, “There’s no small act of kindness.” It is so true because with kindness, there is no act that is better or more valuable than another. Whether it’s donating blood or offering a Duchenne smile with your eyes (since we can’t see a whole face while wearing a mask) or expressing loving words or shoveling snow from your neighbors driveway or folding a paper crane to give to a child who has cancer, it’s not possible to know all the ways that a single act of kindness affected someone and could continue to overtime. 

As I have thought about these 22 people over the years, whose kindness has extended to every single day Peyton has lived and continues to, it has given me a better understanding of kindness. It has helped me to see how gratefulness is a key motivator for kindness. I imagine that before they went to donate blood, those 22 strangers had to have thought about their own lives, had to have felt grateful for their health and that motivated them to do a kind act to help others have better health, too.

This makes me not just think of what I am grateful for but makes me ask myself the question -- How do I show the gratitude I feel? I love that gratitude is so intricately linked to kindness and that it can cause us to do things for people we may never meet or see the fruits of what we did. While I think we would all love to know those things, we can be certain of the most important thing about kindness -- kindness will always be life-giving in some way.

Jessica ArmstrongJess is Peyton’s mom and co-founder of Peyton’s Potion. She is a Life Story journal writer and storyteller. Jess has been keeping journals since she first learned to write. Her journal entries throughout Peyton’s cancer treatment were also posted regularly on caringbridge.org
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