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Opinion: The small act of kindness that will always keep Alice Stewart in my thoughts

Opinion by Douglas Heye

(CNN) — After a dinner for Harvard’s Institute of Politics earlier this year, Alice Stewart suggested we have a glass of wine. Alice was a member of the senior advisory committee at the institute, but politics never came up.

Instead, we caught up on life. We talked about running, including marathons she had planned and an upcoming Spartan race I had signed up for. As we parted company, she said, “We never get to do this. Let’s do it again soon.”

I saw her several times after that, always in the CNN green room, where guests gather ahead of their scheduled appearances on air. Somehow, green room conversations are almost always positive, even with today’s toxic politics. Those encounters are also fleeting. The rush to get made up and mic’d up before running to the television studios doesn’t usually leave time for longer conversation.

I’ve been in a green room with Alice hundreds of times; the overwhelming majority were just five or 10 minutes in duration, enough time for a perfunctory “good to see you” before moving on, even if we were then going on air together. In all the times I’d seen her, even if tempers had flared on set, which can sometimes happen, Alice never lost her cool. She was always unfailingly composed and just so nice to everyone.

But she was more than that. Alice was proactively kind.

After seeing a rant of mine on Twitter (now X) complaining about a canceled flight, she emailed me to make sure that I had Thanksgiving plans and let me know that I was welcome to join the dinner she was preparing. It was a small gesture but said so much about her character.

I was stunned when I heard the devastating news Saturday about Alice’s sudden death — she was just 58, and staying healthy was always a priority for her. But my first thoughts weren’t about her accomplished career or her long history in politics and on the campaign trail — or even about the countless times we’d been on television together.

I thought about that small act of kindness and generosity, offering help to a friend potentially in need. Everyone who knew Alice — and speaking about her in the past tense is something we’re all struggling to process — undoubtedly has a similar story to mine. Ultimately, that’s what we all have lost and it’s what we will miss most.

Losing Alice so suddenly and so tragically affords us all what should be unnecessary reminders to tell our friends and loved ones that we care about them. Spend more time with them. Above all else, it’s a reminder about the importance of small gestures of kindness that will live on long after we all are gone.

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