He was my colleague, my friend and my mentor. He guided my first steps into ministry and was a consistent support. He died just a few months ago. I miss him.
One saying he was fond of quoting was this:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
It’s a good and needed reminder. What’s not seen on the outside is very real on the inside.
Kindness seems in short supply these days. We’re much more interested in winning our own battles even at the expense of others. We overlook, ignore, or trivialize the struggles those others may be having. Whether it’s politics, religion, social issues, personal or public interactions, kindness is not a value that’s frequently practiced. Acts of violence, mass shootings, arson, detained and separated children, border walls, name calling, demonizing and indifference to the suffering of others give evidence of a society not directed by kindness.
A dictionary definition of “kindness” gives this: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
Among the synonyms offered are these: tender-heartedness, goodwill, affection, gentleness, concern, care; helpfulness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness, compassion, sympathy, understanding, neighborliness, hospitality, courteousness, public-spiritedness; patience, tolerance, charitableness, graciousness, and humaneness.
The movie Pay It Forward was based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Both the book and the movie illustrate the power one person has to make an impact with kind deeds. Although it was a work of fiction, it inspired many people. In 2000, Hyde established The Pay It Forward Foundation as a way of growing the philosophy that acts of kindness among strangers, can generate a ripple effect from one person to the next and one community to the next. Over its seventeen year history the Foundation has helped people all over the world to make the philosophy part of their lives.
Each of us has the power to “be kind.” Each of us can make a difference. Each day we can intentionally demonstrate one of those synonyms/practices/ways of being. We can open our eyes and hearts to the hurts and struggles of those around us. We can “be kind” offering a word, an act, a gesture of support and encouragement to a family member, a friend, a colleague, a co-worker, a stranger or even a person with whom we’re struggling.
In October 2011, Life Vest Inside posted a video called “Kindness Boomerang”. It shows how one act of kindness passes seamlessly from one person to the next and boomerangs back to the person who set it into motion. Orly Wahba, Founder and Director of Life Vest Inside, said that each scene was based on real life experiences she personally went through; moments of kindness that left a lasting impression on her life. Within several months after its release, Kindness Boomerang went viral; reaching over 20 million people globally. In 2013 Wahba gave a TED Talk about the power of kindness. Life Vest Inside continues to promote, support and encourage acts of kindness as a means of transforming the world.
As that wonderful philosopher Dr. Seuss put it: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot; nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Will a single act of kindness change the world? Who knows? It will change us. That’s a good start.