The best cuppa ever

I have been reflecting on the importance of kindness recently. What strikes me is that acts of kindness can be random or intentional, big or small, but even the small ones can make a huge difference.

One stands out for me many years after it occurred.

When I was a junior doctor working at a large tertiary hospital, a number of the rotations required us to do overnight ward cover. These could be gruelling, particularly covering medical specialities where you would be the only doctor in the hospital looking after some seriously unwell people with very complex conditions on a number of different wards all over the site. You can’t plan the work to any great degree as the job is to respond to things that come up and need urgent attention. Weekend nights could be especially tough as the usual medical teams often hadn’t been in to review their patients during the day.

Sometimes I have nightmares that I am on overnight ward cover again, well over two decades later.

It was working one of these shifts on a Sunday night that I had a list of tasks longer than anything I had ever imagined. I was dashing up and down stairs (the lifts being archaically slow) trying to get at least the most urgent jobs taken care of before the next calls came in. Around 4am I headed back the Renal ward to review a patient with kidney failure who had developed a high fever and needed assessment, blood tests and treatment started asap.

I had a number of other equally unwell patients and didn’t know if I could physically get to do all the things I had been called to do over the remaining four hours of my shift. Despite being a hard worker and relatively efficient, I felt ill with the sheer pressure of the workload.

Having seen the patient, I only had moments to sit down to complete the paperwork. As I sat down, one of the ward nurses appeared with a mug of tea in her hand. I think my eyes may have become teary as she put it down in front of me and said, ‘You look like you need this.’

Mug and medical equipment 3

It cost her only a few minutes of her time but it made all the difference. Even though it was ordinary hospital tea it tasted incredible. It did recharge me, not just from the sustenance, but from the fact that someone cared enough to both notice that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and to do something to try to alleviate how I was feeling. Even in the healthcare industry, we could do more to look out for each other.

I can still see her face but I can’t remember her name. I don’t know if she has any idea how much her kindness helped me that night.

This humbling act of thoughtfulness stems from the deeper well of kindness that, when demonstrated, helps individuals and communities. Kindness helps bring out the best in us, be it in family or friends, a co-worker or co-creative, an acquaintance in person or online, or someone you don’t know. We won’t always know that our kindness has been appreciated but it is worth doing anyway.

How has an act of kindness made a difference to you?

How can you make a difference to someone else by being kind?

Do you have a good “cuppa” story?


Looking after others should be core for health professionals but we don’t always look after our patients, our colleagues or ourselves as well as we could. We don’t have to be health professionals to make changes to improve health. Anyone and everyone can to something (or many things) to help the health and wellbeing of others.

I see a lot of kindness in the creative community as well as in the health industry. I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.


P.S. Although I am confident I can attribute the benefit to the kindness rather than the chemical effects of the tea, here’s an interesting article by Jeremy Dean on Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain.

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© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith

15 thoughts on “The best cuppa ever

  1. Great post, Jacquie. Not only did it make me reflect on my own wonderful “cuppa” stories but it also stirred the memory of witnessing a remarkable act of kindness by an estranged family member. A letter has to be written and reconciliation is hoped for.

  2. I remember those sort of nights … It’s amazing how one small act of kindness can stay with us forever.

  3. I remember when, aged 18, I had been made to leave Switzerland (with money borrowed from the Aus embassy for the train ticket!) as I was unable to access my bank account there, & couldn’t get in contact with relatives who were travelling (pre mobile ph days!) .. I had had a night’s ‘rough sleep’ & had been ‘arrested’ along with a young Swiss guy who was known to the police as a ‘protestor’ at a recent social protest, so had been kept at the police station & grilled as to my possible links to an anti- Gov protest group (non-existent!) Anyway, on this train trip, a young fellow traveller, having heard my story, gave me 20 Deutschmarks (quite a lot then!) as we arrived in Hamburg, saying ‘I think you could use this’. Never forget the kindness (& empathy) shown to a young exhausted stranger, esp. as he was on a tight travel budget himself.

    • What a scary situation that must have been Angela! It is even more special that your fellow traveller was on a tight budget too, but could see you needed it more. I’m guessing that was thanks enough for him but I do hope that kindness was repaid to him many times over at some stage. Thanks so much for popping by and sharing your experience!

  4. Jacquie, I did enjoy this piece. The smallest kindness can mean so much. I live my life nestled in acts of kindness. These vary from friends and family who make it possible for me to live in my own home, strangers who offer me assistence when I venture out for a few message, the doctors receptionist who always gets me a glass of water, even when she is very busy (I never have to ask).
    Just last week a woman with her arms laden with bags and parcels, saw me struggling to put my messages in the car. She dumped all her things on the pavement, helped me into the car with my oxgen and handbag, then packed my messages and walker into the back of the car. I was feeling so very tired and my eyes filled with tears at her generosity of spirit. I grasped her hand, told her how grateful I was and that I hoped someone did something wonderful for her.
    As a child I experienced very little in the way of kindness, these days my life is a cornucopia of kindness. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of these acts of kindness.

    • Wow Tricia. Wonderful examples. I can appreciate that kindness must be especially meaningful when it was missing from your life in childhood. I am sorry that you didn’t experience it earlier but am glad for you that it is in abundance now. Thanks for sharing how much this all means to you.

  5. My favorite cuppa story is a more of a bowla story. We lost power at our house for 3 days in Dec.2006, and it was very cold in Seattle at the time. Our neighbor across the street and down a bit, who still had power but who we’d never met, came over and invited us for soup at her house. It was the start of a great neighborly relationship!

  6. Hello. I word for the NHS in the UK 🙂 I just read your blog and there is something in the Uk we have started working on called the 6c’s Many of the Change Day pledges in the UK have been around simple acts of kindness. A smile, a hand to hold, a cup of tea.

    I loved your blog, as I am clerical staff your story doesn’t resonate with me like is obviously have with those who have commented so far. It was more about that act of kindness.

    A number of years ago I was heartbroken crying (sobbing in fact) by the Thames in London. It was outside IBM, so, fairly busy and public. I didn’t care at that point.

    A lady noticed me crying and instead of ignoring me or walking past she went to a nearby cart that sold hot drinks and bought me a cup of tea and came over and offered it to me. I tried at first to refuse it, being hesitant about the offer of a free drink from a stranger. However I accepted and she gave me a hankie and told me a story.

    A week previously she had been walking down the street and a lady (whom she had never met before) had stopped her and given her a rose from a bouquet of roses she was carrying. The lady with the roses said that she had noticed the lady looking so happy and contented and felt compelled to give her a rose. Which was a bit random. I suppose she was surprised that another person could be so moved by her visible happiness and the rose seemed a fitting symbol of sisterhood.

    It seemed my sadness reminded her of this act of kindness she had been shown and she felt moved to assist in the best way she felt she could. Anyhow… that was my story. Hope it wasnt to random? It just popped into my head. Not sure if there is a moral!

    • Hi Kate

      Thanks so much for visiting and for sharing this wonderful experience.

      You hit the nail on the head when you identified that the post is about kindness more than the actual situation in which it occurred.

      I think your experience also says kindness matters and just being willing to see how others are responding and have the courage to do something kind is valuable and valued. The fact it comes to mind years later (as did mine) demonstrates how powerful it was. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “Thank you. That meant so much to me”?

      Thanks also for the tip about the 6Cs – just checked it out and think the 6Cs – care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment (which I found on if others want to look) – sound like a great inititiave and could be extended to every member of the healthcare team including the very important clerical staff!

      Best wishes to you Kate

  7. Reblogged this on Spaces To Create and commented:

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