Sunday, September 14, 2014


Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the blossoms,
Kind deeds are the fruits.
(19th century rhyme used in primary schools)

The vast majority of people are kind.  Yep.  I know you may disagree with this statement at first, but give it a minute.  See- now you are thinking it may be true, right?  Especially if you use yourself as a measure.  You consider yourself to  be kind, do you not?  Well, are you always demonstrably kind in all situations?  Yeah... neither am I.  This does not make us unkind in fact; only unkind in practice.  It's a shame, too, because there are countless chances for us to practice it each and every day.

~~ "Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness."  --Seneca  ~~

We all experience a good amount of kindness, and some smaller amount of unkindness in our daily lives (exact amounts may vary, see store for details).  We are ourselves guilty of dishing out both at any given time, depending upon our mood and the circumstances around us.  What we all give and receive far, far more than kindness or direct unkindness is something we don't often take the time to consider: indifference.

While it takes some amount of effort to be directly kind or directly unkind, it takes no effort at all to be indifferent.  Apathy is a huge part of the problem with our modern way of life.  Think about it: even though we know ourselves to be kind, we fail to practice it.  What does that actually mean?  It means that we are not kind, which can be as bad as being unkind.  Kindness requires action in order to go from an abstract notion of ourselves to a manifest reality.

~~ "Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible."  --Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama  ~~

Let's get right to the Golden Rule.  It feels very good when someone is kind to us; and it feels quite awful when someone is unkind to us.  We experience neither of these when someone is simply thinking kind thoughts of us.  By the way, we also don't feel very good when we perceive someone's apathy and indifference toward us.  If we can just keep this simple truth in mind, it will really and truly help us to practice kindness more often.

As a child, I realized that I had the power to make people happy by being kind to them.  All the more am I to blame, then, when I do not wield that power.  I have tried, especially in the past few years, to make a concentrated effort to insert my kindness in other people's lives whenever I can.  As you are fully aware, it feels very good to do that-- even if you do not get kindness back.  Just the knowledge that we gave something so precious to someone else (even if they do not deserve it) should be enough for any of us.

~~ "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."  --Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta  ~~

If this is starting to sound a little on the sappy side, that's okay... because it is!  That is the whole point of the exercise: to get in touch with that sappy part of us that wants to connect with our fellow human and make their day a little bit better.  I speak from experience when I say that a dark day can be made brighter by a simple (and usually, sadly, unexpected) act of kindness.  Maya Angelou said it so well by exhorting us to "be a rainbow in someone else's cloud."

There are, of course, plenty of people who conflate kindness with weakness.  This is especially true when some bleeding heart like me starts talking about giving kindness to people who don't deserve it.  To this, I will say that kindness is much like forgiveness.  Who among us really deserves either?  That is the entire point of it all.  We are flawed, imperfect beings who are in this life together.  Our number one goal should be to help one another along-- even those who are not seemingly worthy of our help.  No, especially those.

~~  "A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love."  --Saint Basil the Great  ~~

So, are you with me?  We'll start to make our own little corner of the world a bit kinder.  Forget "random" acts of kindness-- let's do "sustained" acts of kindness... then watch what happens.  Yes, I realize how naive and idealistic that may sound, but underneath that, there is a profound truth.  Our world did not become so coarse and inhuman overnight.  It took a long, slow series of "progressive" happenings to bring us to this.  The solution is not going to come from some central planning board... it is going to come from a long, slow series of acts of kindness, charity, and love.

We will fix the world this way, and only this way.  It is the ultimate antidote to the disease that is plaguing humanity: simple human decency.  A saying that goes back to Mark Twain (or even farther back) says that kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  We all know it when it happens.  We all recognize its value to the human psyche.  That's how we do it.

We will:  Smile more- and mean it.  Laugh with people more.  Buy someone a coffee.  Hold open a door.  Actually listen to someone.  Volunteer for something worthwhile.  Refuse to take the bait when someone is fishing for an argument.  Surprise someone with something good.  Etcetera!

We'll be kind to everyone, even those who are unkind and rude to us-- not because they are nice to us but because we are nice.  We won't wait for someone to be friendly to us.  Instead, we'll show them how it's done.  We'll love someone who doesn't deserve it (as we ourselves often do not deserve it).  We'll start with our circle of friends and family, and then we'll branch out to strangers and finally to those we dislike.  We have to do it now, because there really is no guarantee of tomorrow.

~~ "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson  ~~

Start keeping score on yourself.  Count how many times a day you go out of your way to be demonstrably kind to someone.  Not just when it's easy or convenient... but even when it is not.  By doing this, we lose nothing and we gain everything... including eternity.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."  -Romans, 13: 8-10

Amen and God bless y'all!


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