Three times this week kindness has been the topic of a homily I heard or a reflection I read. I’m taking this as a sign that I should write about it. Besides, the world sorely needs this virtue today. My community has created the decal pictured here to promote kindness. Aristotle defined kindness: “Helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.” The first step in being kind is to be aware of someone who needs help. For example, we see a woman burdened with packages approaching the door we just passed through. Then we can be prompted to hold it open for her. Or we notice that a friend has a troubled look. Then we can inquire, “Is something bothering you?” Or we see a car waiting to enter into a line of traffic and we let it in.
Another step is to realize how we can be of service. As I was moving into my apartment, a bookshelf was missing. One workman overhearing this, later approached me and said, “I’ll look for your shelf in the garage where things are stored.” He located the shelf and made me very happy. He also fixed the broken door on the bookcase!
An act of kindness may require little time or effort, for instance, just smiling at someone. St. Teresa of Kolkata said that a smile is a beautiful gift to give. It may brighten a person’s day. Other acts demand more from us. This week a sister who is not well drove a half-hour to pick up a prescription for another sister. It was her third trip that day.
We can say kind things like “Thank you” and “That’s a lovely sweater you’re wearing.” I’ll always remember the time I backed out of my driveway right into the neighbor’s car parked unusually across the street. His response was, “Accidents happen. I needed a new car anyway.”
One of the most difficult things is to be kind to someone who has hurt us or who rubs us the wrong way. It helps to consider that we never know what hardships that person might be enduring. Some people keep their crosses hidden.
Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s an indication that God is alive and at work in us. In the novitiate we sang a song entitled “Kindness Is Kind of a Miracle.” Jesus certainly showed the way to be kind by healing people, feeding the hungry, and forgiving those who offended him. Being kind is Christlike.
At the end of the day, we might scan the events and pinpoint acts of kindness people have shown to us as well as acts of kindness we have performed. That might stir us to find ways to be kind the next day.
I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ETIENNE DE GRELLET, Quaker missionary
Just now a friend emailed me scenes of people (and animals) being kind. I share them with you for your edification and inspiration:
- A young man gets help learning to put on his tie.
- A little girl wipes away the tears of a man on TV.
- A young boar got stuck in a fence and the whole family turned up to see him set free.
- Once a week this guy gives free haircuts to the homeless.
- A woman was embarrassed to walk around the hospital in her nightgown, so her grandson put one on too in support.
- A marine runs alongside a boy who fell behind in a marathon.
- Employees of a cleaning company put on Superhero costumes to cheer up kids in a hospital.
- People push a train to free a woman caught between it and the platform.