Remembering Sonia March Nevis

Remembering Sonia March Nevis

I learned this morning that my teacher and friend Sonia March Nevis passed away.  I’ve been enjoying my memories of that wonderful woman, calling back the ways in which she changed my life.

A Kind Gesture Softened My Heart

Sonia was the cofounder of the Gestalt International Study Center on Cape Cod. Some years ago, I participated in a leadership program at the Gestalt Institute.

Over the course of several days, we were assigned to teams that then were given an extended, challenging task.  It didn’t take long before I found myself at odds with some of the other members of my team.  My discomfort grew through the days as I stood up in opposition to their approach to the task.

Sonia Nevis was one of the trainers for this exercise.  And just when I felt most alone and unsure of what to do, Sonia walked over to me. She didn’t say a word. She merely put her hand on my arm in a gesture that let me know that she saw what I was going through.  She didn’t give me advice. She didn’t indicate her approval. She simply let me know that she had noticed me.

And in that moment, my heart softened. Later that day, I was able to find a way to work more constructively with the team.

Sonia’s unspoken acknowledgement taught me the profound power of a small kind gesture that lets someone know that you ‘see’ them as they are.

The Power of Small Kind Gestures Persists

Fast forward through the years to yesterday morning.

As I was coming home from the park, I passed an old man hobbling along with a leg brace and a cane. He was missing teeth and his clothes were unkempt.  I have seen him before. And as always, I said “good morning” as I walked by.  

But yesterday, he stopped me.  “Miss,” he said, “you always say hello when you walk by.”  “Yes” I answered.  He smiled at me and said, “That’s beautiful.”  

I’ll bet not many people say hello to that man and that no matter how much his leg hurts, a moment of warm heartedness makes him happy…and me too.

Thanks to Sonia for teaching me the remarkable power of small gestures. 

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Reach out to someone with a kind gesture today

Even though you may not have known Sonia Nevis, you might benefit from her wisdom by reaching out to someone with a kind gesture. Don’t offer advice or approval. Simply witness what they are going through. A little “good morning” to a perfect stranger is often enough. It may soften their hearts and yours too.

Share your small kind gestures in the comments below. Or, head on over to Facebook and share your experience there.

  • Sue Kindred

    Beautiful story Andrea. Thanks for sharing. I always say good morning and often get strange looks back. But all it takes is one to land, like a butterfly, on someone who needs it. I know a good morning has on more than one occasion lightened my heart too.

  • Jennifer Naimark

    Andrea – It’s a long story, but I knew Sonia in her last days. I remember holding her hand and she would simply say “yes” to me. I felt her power. She is truly an amazing soul!

    • Andrea Kihlstedt

      Thanks for letting me know, Jennifer. She had remarkable, quiet power.