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  • Sue Robins

The Day Kindness Went Viral

By Sue Robins

I’ve been on social media for over a decade, and I finally went viral on Twitter.

It was not from a clever or controversial post. It was instead because of a thread I wrote on Twitter about kindness.

In Canada, there is a small minority of loud anti-vaxxers. They have organized public demonstrations and this summer they decided to protest at hospitals.

This new locale garnered a lot of attention, which is what I expect they wanted. Any PR (public relations) is good PR, right?

Unfortunately, the side effect to these angry protests was that staff and patients had to bear witness to them. As the mother of a pediatric RN and a former cancer patient, I was distraught that this vocal minority was harassing people in hospitals while they worked – and in patients’ cases, as they tried to heal.

One night as I lay in bed, trying to compose a Tweet in response to these demonstrators. I could denounce the anti-vaxxers, as many had already done. Then I thought to myself: What is the world I want to see? What do I want people who work in health care to know?

I continued, sharing anecdotes about friendly cafeteria worker, a gentleman from environmental services who said hello to me in the hall, the pediatrician who told me that I had a beautiful baby boy and any nurse who has ever brought me a warm blanket. I ended with this:

I posted my little stories early one evening and my phone started pinging with notifications.

Why did this thread take off? My theory it is because we are collectively hungry for kindness. But not the bland ‘be kind’ mantra that the public health officials preach. The most powerful part of the thread were the replies. A few minutes after I posted, other people started posting their own stories about real acts of compassion that happened to them in health care settings.

By the time it was done, people had retweeted it over 1,000 times and 6,000 people liked it. I’d never had such a viral response.

The nurses, diabetic educator, and dietician who put together an impromptu birthday party for my 15-year-old.
The RRT who made me laugh and laughed with me in the midst of pre-op pulmonary function tests.
To the resident who “translated” everything the surgeon said by drawing a diagram of my gallbladder on the white board.
The nurse who wiped my tears after waking from a hysterectomy.

Health care professionals saw themselves reflected in the Tweets and responded by expressing their own gratitude:

Thank you. I needed to read this today.

As a patient and a caregiver, I can tell you that the hellos in the hall, the warm blankets, the pat on the arm – all of this means a lot. These simple acts mean the world to patients when they are feeling scared and vulnerable.

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