Julia Roberts: 'I Think of My Sister When I Think of Kindness'

PEOPLE's first-ever Kindness Issue is dedicated to highlighting the ways, big and small, that kindness can make a difference and change lives

When she was just 17 years old, Julia Roberts left Smyrna, Georgia for New York City. Her sister, Lisa, who was just two years older, welcomed her with open arms when she asked to move into her apartment. Over, three decades later, the star thanks her sister Lisa Gillan for her big heart.

I have always believed kindness has many forms. Some quite obvious, some more subtle. Some are an exact shape and some kindness, I have found, is more reaching, surrounding, like an embrace.

I think of my sister Lisa often when I think of kindness, but specifically something she did when we were both teenagers. Teenagers. Those historically edgy, self center creatures, blind to all needs but their own.

Perhaps you have heard of this tribe of people.

Julia and Lisa Roberts
Courtesy Julia Roberts

When I graduated from high school at 17, she had already moved to New York City and was enrolled in theater school. Surely, with lots on her plate and mind at 19 years old, but when I asked to move in with her just days after I graduated (mainly, because I missed her!) she never blinked an eye or asked for the outline of time or ideas before saying yes.

Julia and lisa roberts
Julia and Lisa Roberts. Courtesy Julia Roberts

Her kindness was so reflexive and warm that I surely did not even recognize it as such at the time. But the feeling of it, the sense of belonging it provided me with was and is one of the great motivators of my life and my hearts compass and compassion towards others.

We shared apartments all over New York City for years and now we are grown and married and have separate apartments, but they are in the same building!

If my teenage self never said it clearly, Thank you Sister, for your endless kindness for me then and always.

PEOPLE’s first-ever Kindness Issue is dedicated to highlighting the ways, big and small, that kindness can make a difference and change lives. Click here and pick up the issue, on stands Friday, Nov. 8, for more stories on the impact of kindness from Julia Roberts, Tiffany Haddish and other stars, as well as everyday people practicing kindness in their communities.

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