Kindness. The dictionary simply defines the word “kindness” as treating people with respect. Although some might say that kindness has become a rarity in everyday life, being kind has always been a goal of good people everywhere. It’s no surprise that from childhood on, most of us are taught to try to be kind to one another. We’re told to share with others, let guests go first, and look out for those who are weaker or in need. I know that when our girls were little, we read story books to them that entailed object lessons about kindness. The characters would find themselves in situations where they knew they should be kind but chose not to be. Usually the problem occurred because of impatience, greed or apathy. The characters didn’t take the time that was necessary to see the need of someone else, and then the negative consequences would be made plain.
Mom and the Elderly Woman
My mom once gave me some advice about being kind that I’ve always remembered. I was probably about 15, and my mom was driving me through a busy parking lot. Up ahead of us, a pedestrian started slowly crossing the drive in front of us. She was an elderly woman, and it was obvious to me that she was going to delay us from getting to the store. I was impatient to get where we were going because, after all, we were shopping for me that day! My mother eased on her brake and stopped slowly, leaving a long distance between our car and the woman. Mom turned to me and said that she stopped like that because she didn’t want to startle the woman or make her feel intimidated by the sight of a car coming at her quickly. Despite my impatience, I realized that my mom was being kind by respecting the woman. Instead of letting herself become impatient, my mom considered first how the woman might feel and then acted accordingly. That has always stayed with me because my mom was telling me that kindness has value. Impatience doesn’t. Kindness is about the other person. Impatience is all about me and my needs.
Jesus and Kindness
Growing up in church gave me more stories from which to learn about kindness. Jesus spent his ministry trying to teach his followers about the value of kindness. Everywhere he went, his kindness was felt by all who encountered him. He was not centered on himself, but, instead, he truly saw those around him and considered their needs and concerns. He went out of his way to address problems, allay fears, give comfort to the downtrodden, speak words of love and mercy and feed people, both with food and with hope. Had Jesus put himself first, there wouldn’t even be a Bible today. Thankfully, however, we have it, and it’s full of the stories of the many loving kindnesses of Jesus. Remember Matthew 8: 1-4 when Jesus heals the leper, and Luke 5: 17-26 when Jesus heals a paralyzed man whose friends have gone to great lengths to lower him through the hole that they cut in the ceiling. In Luke 6: 27-31, we read about the simplest and most direct admonition that we call The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” In other words, be kind.
The Needs of Others
For me, the bottom line about kindness is that it’s based on a choice. We can choose to spend our lives so focused on ourselves and our needs and wants that we never take off the blinders and see the needs of others. We keep our heads down and plow over anyone in our path. That type of life renders little real happiness and certainly doesn’t make the world a better place. Jesus tells us that the choice is clear. We are to love others as we love ourselves, truly seeing those around us and observing where and how we can help. That way of living is the true path to joy and to a life lived the way Christ would have us to live it. Just think, if we really tried to be kind like Jesus, what a world it could be!